Dr. Timothy Adams


Political urbanism and sustainable spatial development

+41 31 684 88 38
Postal Address
University of Bern
Institute of Geography
Urban & Regional Planning
Hallerstrasse 12
CH-3012 Bern
Consultation Hour
by agreement

Timothy Adams researches and teaches in the interdisciplinary field of human geography and gender studies. His interest lies in the interconnections between the evolution of the global resource economy and local institutional, socioeconomic, gender and environmental impacts. He specializes in collective action strategies to resource governance, sustainability and environmental justice with a focus on market-based approaches to sustainable resource management, property rights (including customary tenure systems), institutions, markets and gender relations. His research approach is multi-disciplinary, spanning critical resource theories in economics, critical development studies, feminist political ecology, political economy, food and agrarian studies, public policy analysis, science, technology and innovation studies, and African studies from a feminist and post-colonial perspective, and anchored in field-based and comparative research across different sectors and countries.

For his PhD thesis on ‘large-scale land investments, institutional change and gender relations in Africa’, Timothy received the Barbara Lischetti Prize (2020) for excellent work in gender research.

In his Postdoc project, Timothy aims to explore how Investment-driven Formalized Arrangements of Collective Tenure (FACT) affect tenure security and the inclusion of vulnerable groups (e.g. women, youth and migrants), gender equality and sustainable land use in agriculture, agroforestry, and conservation sectors of Sub-Saharan Africa.


As a critical resource economist and human-environment geographer, Timothy Adams addresses how resource geographies are structured by economic, political, social and ecological processes. At the heart of his research work are questions of knowledge production, scarcity, inequality, governance, environmental change and sustainability, which are pertinent to human geography and gender research. He addresses these questions through mixed methods and often in combination with social anthropological field-based methodologies including ethnographic, historical, and participatory visual methods to examine these questions in the context of gender, intersectionality, development, and socio-environmental change in Africa.

He has many years of research and consultancy experience in resource governance and environmental management with a focus on institutional innovations to address resource scarcity and sustainability challenges. This has led him to participate in several comparative studies on large-scale land investments projects across the African continent. Some of the case studies include solar energy production (Morrocco); Timber production (Tanzania); Rice, Cacao, Palm oil, Pineapples and Watermelon in different regions (Ghana); Groundnuts, Cowpeas and Big-eye beans in different regions (Burkina Faso); Sugarcane, Tea, Macadamia nuts and Irish Potatoes in different regions (Malawi); and Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASM) (Ghana). In all these case studies, he has been interested in identifying and understanding how agrarian landscapes and livelihoods are altered in their interaction with local and global capitalist forces. How the production relations of these developments are structured, the dynamics of labour relations in them, the inclusiveness of their value chains, the underlying power relations structuring their distributive outcomes and their broader environmental and sustainability impacts.

Timothy has many international study experiences. Before his PhD in Geography (2020) at the University of Bern, Switzerland, he studied and worked at the University of Maastricht (2010) and the University of Twente (2012) in the Netherlands, where he researched sectoral structures and nanotechnology. Assessing applications of nanotechnologies in medicine focussing on targeted drug delivery systems for cancer. He was also at the University of St Gallen (2014), Switzerland and the University of Konstanz (2016), Germany. Through these exchange and postgraduate studies, he gained the exposer to adopt and work in different countries and educational settings.

Currently, Timothy Adams is examining the role of Blockchain technologies in land governance particularly, its potential for overcoming challenges of labour use, gender inequality, exclusion and cost and benefits distributive issues in collective tenure-based investments. He is also interested in their role in legitimizing informal land markets and the political economy of such vernacular land markets in Africa.


In his postdoc, Timothy aims to explore investment-driven Formalized Arrangements of Collective Tenure (FACT) institutions and governance innovations in the agriculture, agroforestry and conservation sectors in Africa. He hopes to uncover their potential in enhancing tenure security, gender equality and sustainability in land investments. By researching collective tenure-based investment that draws on multiple sources of institutional legitimation and is neither based on state, private or customary property alone. he hopes to uncover social innovative and workable market-based approaches to sustainable use of collective land or common-pool resources to advance collective action theory. His project will contribute to more inclusive knowledge production, democratic decision-making and active citizenship in commercial land investments and the management of collective land and related resources for better investment outcomes.

Timothy won the Barbara-Lischetti prize in 2020 for his research on large-scale land investments, institutional change and gender relations in Africa. This award is aimed at promoting research that takes serious consideration of the gender implications of development projects in Switzerland and beyond.

  • Critical development and agrarian transformation: understanding the relationship between gender, intersectionality, development, and socio-environmental change in Africa.
  • Developmental paradox and capitalist processes: understanding the persistent exclusions that arise in policy to address inequality, exclusion and sustainability challenges but end up generating the same problems it had sought to address (i.e. the developmental paradox), often reinforcing pre-existing social inequalities or marginalizing the very groups it intended to elevate.
  • Environmental knowledge, governance and justice: understanding the political, cultural, institutional and post-colonial geographies of environmental knowledge production and practices and its consequences for local adaptation strategies to climate impacts. The focus is on understanding how cultural diversity, environmental justice, human rights, and intersectionality at the local level influence how climate adaptation measures are perceived, interpreted, transformed, and implemented in practice as well as how these measures are structured by power relations, legal pluralism and local (ecological) knowledge.
  • Formalized Arrangement for Collective Tenure (FACT): understanding the role of investment-driven FACT in promoting inclusive business models for the management of agricultural, agroforestry, mineral resources in Africa. The focus is to identify sustainable, environmentally sound and community acceptable market-based approaches to the use of collective and common pool resources for commercial land investments.
  • Blockchain technologies and land governance: understanding the role of blockchain technologies in overcoming exclusionary practices (e.g. gender, labour, marginality etc.) and land conflict in collective tenure-based land investments in the global south.
  • Urban ecology and infrastructure: understanding the intersection of equity and justice in Urban planning and implementation of critical infrastructures in the global south. The focus is on analysing knowledge-power interconnections through the environmental justice frameworks to understand why some urban policies, plans and critical infrastructure interventions, which are adopted and implemented for their social, political and ecological sustainability, often end up producing adverse outcomes.

•       Agriculture, agrarian change, land and rural development
•       Gender, women and public policies
•       Environmental justice
•       Household economy, livelihoods and gender
•       Environment and society
•       Theories and practices of development
•       Anthropology in/of institutions
•       Inequality and poverty
•       Emerging economies
•       Development, cooperation and aid policies
•       Natural resources, extractive economies and commodities
•       Corporate social responsibility
•       Sustainable development
•       Environmental management
•       Land-use change
•       Resource governance

Adam, J. N., Adams, T., & Gerber, J. D. (2021). The Politics of Decentralization: Competition in Land Administration and Management in Ghana. Land, 10(9), 948. https://doi.org/10.3390/land10090948.  

Adam, N.J., Adams, T., Gerber, J-D., & Haller, T. (2021). Decentralization for Increased Sustainability in Natural Resource Management? Two Cautionary Cases from Ghana. Sustainability. 2021; 13(12):6885. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13126885. 

Boillat, S., Adams, T., Martin, A., Daniel, D., Llopis, J., Zepharovich, E., ... & Pascual, U. (2020). Why telecoupling research needs to account for environmental justice. Journal of land use science, 15(1), 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1080/1747423X.2020.1737257.

Adams, T., Gerber, J. D., & Amacker, M. (2019). Constraints and opportunities in gender relations: Sugarcane out-grower schemes in Malawi. World Development,122, 282-294. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.05.029. 

Haller, T., Adams, T., Gmür, D., Käser, F., Lanz, K., Marfurt, F., ... & Gerber, J. D. (2019). Large-Scale Land Acquisition as CommonsGrabbing: A Comparative Analysis of Six African Case Studies. pp. 125-164. In: Lozny, L. R., & McGovern, T. H. (Eds.). (2019). Global Perspectives on Long Term Community Resource Management (Vol. 11).Springer. ISSN: 1574-0501. http://www.springer.com/series/6877 

Adams, T., Gerber, J. D., Amacker, M., & Haller, T. (2018). Who gains from contract farming? Dependencies, power relations, and institutional change. The journal of peasant studies, 46(7), 1435-1457. https://doi.org/10.1080/03066150.2018.1534100.