Jeremy Swift D58


My best memory of being at School was the ability to use free time doing what I wanted to do without supervision by masters. In my case this was bird watching. I spent all the time I could on my bicycle, with binoculars and a bird identification book I still have, in the bird-rich places especially Milford and Thursley commons and Frensham Pond. Summer was best: I got up at 5 am and put in a couple of hours before early school. Botany master Oleg Polunin, a refugee from Soviet Russia, was a keen supporter.

Between leaving School and going up to Oxford I spent five months at the Tour du Valat biological research station in the Camargue, the delta of the river Rhone in southern France, studying the behaviour of the bee-eaters and flamingos, exotic and beautiful birds which nest there. Three years later, shortly before I came down from Oxford, I was approached by Luc Hoffman, Director of the Tour du Valat, to help set up the International Waterfowl Research Bureau under his direction; this was a new international institution devoted to conserving European wetlands important for birds.

I did this for two years, then moved to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome to manage part of their new wildlife conservation programme. 

Responsible for French-speaking countries in Africa, I travelled in Africa, where I met pastoral nomads, especially Tuareg and Fulani Wodaabe in Mali and Niger. I was captivated by these people. 

After five years in Rome I left the FAO to do a Masters and then a PhD in Development Economics at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex. My dissertation was on the economics of the Tuareg nomads of the central Sahara. I have been at IDS ever since, most recently as Fellow Emeritus of the Institute. I have done fieldwork and written about nomads in the Sahara and Sahel, Kenya, Ethiopia, Oman, Iran, Mongolia and China. This work resulted in development programmes for nomads in the fields of famine early warning and management, conflict, land tenure, education and other topics and was supported by the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development, the European Union, Oxfam and others.

In retirement I spend much of my time thinking about and making a landscape garden in the Black Mountains of southern Wales.