UCL Anthropology


Ruth Malleson


E-mail: r.malleson@ucl.ac.uk

1985. MSc. Agriculture and Forest Science, Oxford University

2000. PhD. Social Anthropology, University College London.

2000-2010. Honorary Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, UCL.
Independent consultant specialising in monitoring and evaluation of natural resource management and rural development projects.


General Interests

I am interested in rural livelihoods, natural resource management, poverty alleviation, well-being and rural development, particularly in the humid forest zones of West and Central Africa, Southeast Asia and the rangelands of Southern Africa.  I am also interested in household level livelihoods research and the application of participatory research methods and participatory action research in the above fields. 

My qualifications (PhD in Anthropology and a Master's degree in Agricultural and Forest Sciences) and research and work experience managing, as well as monitoring and evaluating rural livelihoods and natural resource management projects, allow me to successfully bridge the gap between the social and environmental sciences. 

As well as being a Research Associate in Human Ecology at UCL's Department of Anthropology, I work as an independent consultant carrying out consultancies in forest livelihoods research and monitoring and evaluation of natural resource management projects. I currently work as a Senior European Union Results-Oriented Monitor (ROM) and have carried out consultancies for many organisations including: World Wide Fund for Nature, evaluating integrated conservation and development projects; the Commonwealth Secretariat, evaluating the Iwokrama Project, Guyana; the UK government's Environment Agency advising on making sustainable choices of tropical timber species for marine and freshwater construction projects; and Music for Change, evaluating their World Music Matters project.

I have over 20 years' experience in sustainable forest management and rural livelihoods research and development mainly in Africa and Asia.  This has given me strong analytical insights into the realities of contemporary poverty, sustainable development and forest management, the complex development issues relating to the role of forests in poverty alleviation, the impact of natural resource conservation and development projects on forest stakeholders and the practices of development more generally.

Throughout my career, I have been deeply concerned with securing human welfare in a changing environment, enhancing the capacity of poor rural people to participate in sustainable livelihood development and committed to building the capacity of rural people, extension workers, scientists and administrators to carry out high quality research and development work. 

Current Research

Specific research interests include:

  • Social, cultural and economic significance of forest lands and forest products and how sound natural resource management can contribute to more secure livelihoods in the changing socio-economic, political and ecological climate.
  • Working with smallholder farmers, developing sustainable and improved production systems that are economically feasible, socially acceptable and environmentally sound.
  • Impacts of natural resource management and development project on the livelihoods of rural people, including projects who interventions include eco and research tourism, bio-prospecting, community based natural resource management, agroforestry, payment for ecosystem services and the development of fair trade farm products.
  • Community based natural resource management in southern Africa, through my work and research in Namibia and Botswana.
  • Open access, common lands and rights of way in the UK.
  • Waste minimisation in the UK - opportunities and constraints to home composting.

From 2007 to 2013, I worked on monitoring and evaluating rural livelihoods and natural resource management projects sub-Saharan Africa.

From 2006-2007, I designed and managed three year Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded research project assessing the impact of small-scale agricultural development and social forestry interventions on forest dwellers in Southeast Sulawesi as part of the Lambusango Forest Conservation Project.

From 2001 to 2004, I worked as socio-economic adviser on a Department for International Development's (DfID) Forest Research Programme funded project under the title 'African Rattan Research Programme'.  I was responsible for the design and management of longitudinal field research involving over 1,000 rural households over three years in 24 forest settlements in Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria to generate a socially differentiated view of the significance of forest resource use, to assess the opportunities and constraints to the commercialisation of non-timber forest products for income generation for rural poor and examine the implications of research findings for forest conservation, sustainable livelihood development and poverty alleviation.

Between 1992 and 2000, I worked on my PhD which assessed the impact of one of the first integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs) in the humid forest zone of West/Central Africa and involved detailed ethnographic studies of forest communities in Cameroon's Southwest Province.

Between 1992 and 1995, I worked as a research assistant on a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council's (ESRC) (UK) Global Environmental Change Programme under the title 'The Cultural Context of Rainforest Conservation in West Africa' with Philip Burnham, Paul Richards, Michael Rowlands and Barrie Sharpe.  I was responsible for the design and implementation of field research in Cameroon, which included investigating local perceptions, attitudes and practices relating to forest conservation; the application of forest and wildlife conservation policies and the implications of these programmes for social transformation and change.  Relevant findings were disseminated to contribute to the formulation of socially realistic conservation and poverty alleviation objectives in the context of West African political culture


From February to April 2013, I was employed as a part-time Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes's School of Social Sciences, teaching the Hunter Gatherer Ecology Module on behalf of Nancy Priston.

From September 2011 to February 2013, I was employed as a Teaching Fellow in Human Ecology, here at UCL's department of Anthropology.  I was Course Tutor for the MSc in Anthropology, Environment and Development (AED).  I taught and assessed on two core AED MSc courses: Resource Use and Impacts and Anthropological Research Methods as well as the Human Ecology components of the undergraduate biological anthropology theory and methods courses.  I also supervised and assessed AED MSc and undergraduate dissertation and provide pastoral care for students.  I also ran the UCL Department of Anthropology Africa Seminar series with Jerome Lewis.

From January to June 2011, I worked as an Associate Lecturer at Oxford Brookes' Department of Anthropology and Geography teaching the second year undergraduate Human Ecology module as well as sessions for the first year introduction to biological anthropology and second year Hunter Gatherer Ecology module. From 2007-2011, I was a part-time teaching assistant at UCL's department of Anthropology.  During this time I successfully completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (PGCLTHE) at UCL's Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching.

From 2009 to present, I am an intermittent, peripatetic Learning Outside the Classroom teacher, teaching primary and secondary school children a range of fieldwork topics including identification and measuring useful trees, ecosystems and food webs, woodland skills as well as local history and land forms, all in the beautiful landscapes of Green Park and Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire.

I also keep bees and am sometimes involved providing practical training to novice beekeepers at my local Mid Bucks Beekeeper's Association.