Katherine Snyder

About Katherine Snyder

I began my career focusing on how ideas about development shape everyday life in rural Tanzania. As Tanzania underwent the transformation from a one-party state to a multi-party democracy, I looked at how these political shifts affected social change in rural communities and in national narratives. Since that first fieldwork, I have continued research in Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, Ethiopia and Ghana and have lived on the continent for a total of 16 years. My research has focused largely on governance, the political economy of agricultural development and natural resource management, and gender and social change. I have worked in multidisciplinary teams with partners from national research institutes and have trained master's and Ph.D. students. My publications focus on institutional analysis, gender, the politics of participation and the impacts of decentralization programs. 

Areas of Study

Sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and Ghana.


Long-term Livelihood Change in Tanzania. (https://longtermlivelihoodchangeintanzania.wordpress.com/summary/

This project revisits life in my Ph.D. fieldsite to see how political and economic changes in Tanzania have had an impact on the livelihoods of rural community members. It seeks to understand how changes have affected people's decisions and choices about their lives and economic strategies. 

Improving livelihoods in landscapes in the Volta Basin through strengthening farmer-led approaches to ecosystem-based management (2014-2016) (International Center for Tropical Agriculture, University for Development Studies - Tamale, Ghana, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ACDEP (The Association of Church-based Development NGOs).

The livelihoods and agro-ecosystems on which farmers, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists in the Volta Basin depend are under considerable pressure. This multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary project uses landscape-level analysis to assess the underlying diverse drivers of ecosystem change to identify specific entry points for project interventions. This analysis, and all project activities, are done through engagement with local communities and other relevant stakeholders in government and civil society to understand local perceptions of landscape changes and livelihood priorities and to address key barriers to improved landscape management. By taking a holistic approach and working closely together with a range of stakeholders, the project aims to design strategies that are widely applicable and have a high likelihood of triggering long-term positive impacts. Our approach to landscape productivity is holistic and thus includes livestock production, non-timber forest products, soil and water management, crop production and marketing. 

AGORA: Acting Together Now for Pro-poor Strategies Against Soil and Land Degradation (2013-2016)

Over 50 years of funding and projects have been focused on solving land degradation problems across Africa. However, adoption rates often remain low. Initiatives have not engaged with land users and decision-makers in ways that promote their ownership over the interventions and have often overlooked the social, political and ecological context in which they are placed. The AGORA project addresses these problems in design and implementation, by jointly identifying SLM practices with stakeholders that are adapted to agroecological conditions and workable under the given social, economic and political conditions in two landscapes in Malawi and Tanzania. AGORA’s transdisciplinary research approach is critical for developing the transformative knowledge necessary to support and foster initiatives to restore these degraded rainfed landscapes. (International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies - Germany, Selian Agricultural Research Institute - Tanzania, Total Land Care - Malawi, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources)

Research Interests

Most of my research has been in countries in East and Southern Africa. I have led projects on political change in Tanzania, land-use change and institutional analysis in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Malawi and governance of small-scale fisheries in Ghana and Malawi. I am interested in how global development narratives shape the practice of development on the ground and have an impact on local livelihoods, gender relations and land-use strategies.

Selected Publications



The Iraqw of Tanzania: Negotiating Rural Development. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2005.

Recent Journal Articles

2016. Snyder, Katherine A., Sriyanie Miththapala, Rolf Sommer and Juliet Braslow. “The yield gap: closing the gap by widening the approach”. Experimental Agriculture.

2015. Cordingley, Justine E., Katherine A. Snyder, Judith Rosendahl, Fred Kizito and Deborah Bossio. “Thinking outside the plot: addressing low adoption of sustainable land management in sub-Saharan Africa”. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 15: 35–40.

2015. Yami, Mastewal and Katherine A. Snyder. “After all, land belongs to the state: examining the benefits of land registration for smallholders in Ethiopia”. Land Degradation & Development, DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2371.

2014.  Snyder, Katherine A and Beth Cullen. “Implications of sustainable agricultural intensification for family farming in Africa: Anthropological perspectives”. Anthropological Notebooks.

2014.  Snyder, Katherine A., Eva Ludi, Beth Cullen, Josephine Tucker, Alemayehu Belay and Alan Duncan. “Participation and performance: planning and implementation of soil and water management in Ethiopia”.  Public Administration and Development, 34(2): 83-95.

2014. Cullen, Beth, Josephine Tucker, Katherine Snyder, Zelalem Lema and Alan Duncan. “An analysis of power dynamics within innovation platforms for natural resource management”. Innovation and Development, 4(2): 259-275.

2011. Snyder, Katherine A. and Emmanuel Sulle. “Tourism in Maasai communities: a chance to improve livelihoods?” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(8): 935-952.



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Contact Information

Katherine Snyder
Associate Professor, SGD and Director, Master's Program in Development Practice
Telephone: 520-621-1585
Fax: 520-621-2889
Office: ENR2 S423


Ph.D. Anthropology, Yale University.

M.Phil. Anthropology, Yale University.

B.A. Sociology, Smith College


Courses Taught

Landscapes and Livelihoods in Africa

Culture and Development

Human Rights

Anthropological Theory

Religion, Myth and Ritual

Gender and Development

Research Methods

Introduction to Natural Resources Management