Philip Woodhouse's current research focuses on:
- Natural resource governance and its relationship to agrarian change, with a particular focus on the commoditisation of land and water.
- The impact of technological, socio-economic and political change on agricultural productivity and other forms of land and water use.
Current and recent projects include:
An analysis of the social and economic aspects of 'farmer-led' irrigation in Africa (www.safi-research.org). This project is investigating the paradox that while formal irrigation investment in Africa has been slow and expensive, there is widespread evidence of 'informal' investment by farmers in irrigation, with the consequence that irrigated areas in sub-Saharan Africa are often greatly underestimated in official statistics. A collaborative study between irrigation engineers and social scientists in the UK, the Netherlands, Tanzania and Mozambique are investigating not only the social and economic drivers of these farmer-led irrigation developments, but also their relationship with development agencies and consequences for rural communities.
Work on water valuation systems, and in particular the emergence of non-market values of water into mainstream policy arenas has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, and forms one of a number of projects funded within the Leverhulme Centre for the Study of Value.
A long-term study on the inter-relation between institutions for water and land management has followed the implementation of reform of water legislation in the Inkomati Water Management Area, in Mpumalanga Province of South Africa. It has shown that processes of land reform and water reform have been pursued largely in parallel, with little effort at co-ordination or integration at policy level. They have nonetheless important interacting influences at local level. Further research is being conducted through empirical studies in South Africa, and in Mozambique in collaboration with the Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Económicos (IESE) (see: http://www.iese.ac.mz).
Currently, the question of 'viability' of farming at different scales lies at the heart of debates about land reform and so-called 'land-grab' acquisitions of agricultural land in developing countries by foreign investors. Research funded under the Poverty Alleviation programme of the DFID-ESRC joint funding scheme (ES/1034242/1)investigated livelihood and 'economic empowerment' implications of sugar farming at large-scale and small-scale on community-owned land in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. (See: http://www.gdi.manchester.ac.uk/research/themes/environmental-urban-and-agrarian-change/farm-scale-and-viability/