School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Professor Patricia Howard

Honorary Professor of Ethnobotany



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Patricia Howard is a Rural Sociologist, Political Ecologist and Ethnobotanist who also holds the position of Research Professor at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

She has a Masters in Urban and Regional Development Planning from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She worked for a decade in Central America on rural development, environment, poverty and gender issues in universities and research institutes and with the United Nations system; in particular she researched the relation between the expansion of cattle ranching and the world market for beef, and changes in land use, agrarian structure and political-economic crisis in the region. She assumed a position at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s headquarters in Rome in the Women in Agricultural Production and Rural Development Service, where she worked from 1990-1995 on gender mainstreaming and managed projects relating to gender and agriculture for the Latin American region. She became Professor and Chair of the Department of Gender Studies in Agriculture in the Department of Social Sciences at Wageningen University in 1995 where she set up research and educational programmes on issues related to gender, sustainable and organic agriculture and rural development, and particularly on plant biodiversity management and conservation (Biocultural Diversity Studies). When her department was dissolved in 2000 she was re-appointed as full-time Research Professor.

Current Research

Since 2000 she has dedicated her work exclusively to Biocultural Diversity Studies and Ethnobotany. One product of her work is the first edited book on the subject: Howard, P. (ed.), Women and Plants: Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management and Conservation, London & New York: Zed Press & Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. She currently supervises PhD and masters students in the field of ethnobotany and biocultural diversity studies. Research projects currently under her supervision include:

  • wild plant resource access and use and their relationship with gender and livelihoods (Ethiopia – FAO);
  • the camel as keystone species and transitions in the social ecological systems of Sahrawi refugees in Western Sahara;
  • the relationship between social structure and homegarden structure, composition and function (literature review);
  • gender and crop varietal diversity in relation to commoditization of staple food crops and to the domestic sphere (two projects, Mexico and Cameroon);
  • HIV and labour constraints in small ruminant production in Ghana;
  • the effects of out migration on natural resource management (literature review);
  • social learning and governance systems in relation to environmental and social labelling of agricultural goods.

Her theoretical interests revolve around the conceptualisation of people-environment relations considering social relations of power including gender and property relations, particularly given processes of commoditisation and transformation of peasant and indigenous societies and economies that occur with globalisation.

Professor Howard will be in residence at Kent for the forthcoming academic year.

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2007 with G. Nabanoga Are there customary rights to plants? An inquiry among the Baganda (Uganda), with special attention to gender. World Development.

2006 P. Howard and E. Smith. Leaving Two-Thirds Out of Development. Female Headed Households and Common Property Resources in the Highlands of Tigray, Ethiopia. Livelihood Support Programme (LSP) Working Paper 40, FAO, Rome.
Online at:

2006 Gender and social dynamics in swidden and home gardens in Latin America:  A literature review.  In: Kumar, B. and Nair, P. K. (eds), Tropical Homegardens. Springer Science.

2003 (ed.) Women and Plants. Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management and Conservation. London and New York: Zed Press and Palgrave-Macmillan.

2003 Women and plants: an exploration. In: Howard, P. (ed) Women and Plants. Gender Relations in Biodiversity Management and Conservation. London and New York: Zed Press and Palgrave-Macmillan, pp. 1-48.

2003 (with K. Jansen) ‘A framework for analysing the social sustainability of organic agriculture and its contributions to rural development, with special reference to the European Union,’ paper presented to the European Society for Rural Sociology 20th Biennial Conference Sligo, Ireland, 19-22 August 2003.

2002 (with W. Cuijpers). Gender and the management and conservation of plant biodiversity.  In: H.W. Doelle & E. DaSilva (eds), Biotechnology, in Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS), Oxford, UK.

2001 (with K. Jansen). Ensuring the future of sustainable agriculture. In: D. Virchow and J. von Braun (eds), Villages in the Future. Crops, Jobs and Livelihood. Springer Verslag (Germany), pp. 305-320.

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Last Updated: 29/06/2015