School of Earth and Environment

John Atibila Dr John Atibila

Visiting Researcher

Email address:

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute


Dr John M. Atibila is an interdisciplinary scientist, who combines the strengths of Life and Natural Sciences with Social Science disciplines, to promote integrated socioeconomic development at the gassroots. Over the past 20 years, he has pioneered innovative, community-driven sustainable development initiatives to improve rural economic development, which has increased local people's wellbeing in West Africa . His award-winning work ranges from promoting agroforestry practices in dry-savanna ecosystems (received Ghana Best Agroforestry Award, 1992); introducing rural enterprises based on forests/trees products (received Ghana Community Forestry Prize, 1998); applying innovative ICTs for agricultural extension and marketing farm produce; training rural-island dwelling farmers in Integrated Crops and Pests Management (ICPM); and facilitating cooperation in managing and sharing international river/wetland resources in the Volta Basin of West Africa.

Working with: Prof Andy Dougill


  • PhD (Environmental Sustainability), University of Leeds, UK;
  • MSc Agroforestry (Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology, Kumasi, Ghana);
  • BSc (Hon) Biology/Graduate Diploma in Education (University of Cape Coast, Ghana)


  • Ghana National Association of Teachers;
  • Ghana National Tree Growers Association;
  • Ghana Association of Professional Foresters
  • Leeds Environment & Development Research Group;
  • Development Studies Assocation;
  • Peace & Conflicts Development Network.

Research Interests

I have applied multidisciplinary skills to facilitate sustainable development, using three approaches:

  • Applying social-ecological frameworks and models to explain outcomes of ecosystems-society interactions;
  • Applying Interdisciplinary science to promote socioeconomic develoment at the grassroots;
  • Applying ICTs to disseminate impact of science and policy on society and ecosystems.

Main Themes:

I. River Ecosystems Dynamics (links between drivers and river ecology and functions);

II. Wetlands/peats and socioeconomic development;

III. Savanna/miombo ecosystems and rural development.

IV. Eco-Theology: integrating local traditions, religion and modern science to increase understanding of biodiversity conservation and utilization. Integrated approaches are used to link science-policy-practice for sustainable development, with strong focus on environmental sustainability and international partnerships building.

Teaching Interests

I have teaching experience, and currently interested in teaching at undergraduate/postgraduate levels in the following:

  • Environmental Science;
  • Envionmental Governance (politics and policies);
  • Climate Change and Development;
  • Ecosystem Services and Economic Development;
  • Research Methods: Integrating Natural and Social Science Analytical Tools and Field Procedures;
  • Rivers/Freshwater Biology & Conservation;
  • Aquaculture & Fisheries Management.
  • Environmental Health (Epidemiology of Neglected Tropical Diseases).

Support duties

Dr Atibila has multidisciplinary work experience, from teaching in secondary schools and teacher-training colleges to managing schools as a Deputy Director of Education. He was also an Education Decentralisation Coordinator, a DFID funded position, during which he supported senior managers of education in Ghana to access funding for investment and revenue projects.

From 1997 to 2006, he was Director of Research & Partnerships at Community Welfare Foundation, where he led many participatory projects to bring science and policy to the door-steps of rural communities in Ghana and other parts of West Africa. The impacts of his interventions led to his PhD fellowship from Ford Fundation (USA); to study Environmental Science & Policy in the University of Leeds. He has used his partnership development skills to initiate innovative projects, among which are: "Transforming Ghana Land Policy for Sustainable Development", a DELPHE funded partnership between the University of Leeds, Community Welfare Foundation, and the University of Cape Coast; and "Africa Meteorology & Climate Science" academic programme between the Univesity of Leeds, Ghana Meteorology Agency, UK Meteorology Office, and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology. These projects are linking science-policy and practice for sustainable development for grassroots communities in Africa.

John is currently engaged with the African Diaspora and supporting many intiatives to improve the wellbeing of African Diaspora communities in the UK. He welcomes enquiries for development of partnerships to promote sustainable development in Africa and the UK.

Project details

Project title

My PhD thesis title was: "Participatory assessment of wetland ecosystem services in the Volta Basin"


My PhD was supervised by Prof Andy Dougill, Head of School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds. He was supported by Dr Evan D. G. Fraser, and Dr Lindsay Stringer. The thesis was examined by Dr Adrian Martin, School of International Development, University of East Anglia.


My PhD funding was obtained from Ford International Fellowship Plan (IFP) for West Africa, which is administered by the Association of African Universities (AAU) in Accra, Ghana. Supplementary funding was provided by Community Welfare Foundation (COMWELF) of Ghana. In addition, funding for the fieldwork was provided by the International Foundation of Science (IFS). While, studying I also obtained funding as a member of teams for social action/community development work from British Council/Department for International Development (BC/DFID), Department of Business, Innovations and Skills (UK), Big Lottery Fund (UK), Community Development Foundation (UK). Their support is gratefully acknowledged.