SOAS University of London

Department of Economics

Professor Deborah Johnston

BA MSc (Cantab), PhD (London)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Expertise
  • Publications


Deborah Johnston
Legal & Governance Directorate

Pro-Director (Learning and Teaching)

Department of Economics

Professor of Development Economics

SOAS Food Studies Centre

Advisory Committee Member, SOAS Food Studies Centre

Fair Trade, Employment and Poverty Reduction Research

Research Project Member

Industrial Development and Policy

Research Cluster Member

International Financial Institutions, Neoliberalism and Knowledge

Research Cluster Member

Centre for Gender Studies


Professor Deborah Johnston
Email address:
+44(0) 20 7898 4494
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:


Professor Deborah Johnston is Pro-Director (Learning and Teaching) and Professor in Development Economics at SOAS, University of London. She leads on SOAS's Learning Teaching and Student Experience Strategy, which includes our work on the teaching excellence, inclusion and curriculum review.  Her academic work focuses on the political economy of food and nutrition, the analysis and measurement of poverty, and the interrelationship between economics, labour markets and health.  Before joining academia in 2003, she worked internationally as an economist in a number of policy roles, including in the Ministry of Finance, Lesotho, the Land and Agriculture Policy Centre, South Africa, and the Department of Trade and Industry, UK.  She has worked as a consultant with a number of organisations, including the Agency for Cooperation and Development, World Bank, IFPRI, Bank of England, UK National Institute for Economic and Social Research and DFID.


PhD Students supervised
  • Gabriel Pollen , Total Factor Productivity Growth Applications in a Developing Country: Does the case of Zambia validate or repudiate its realism? (Working Title)

Completed PhD students:

  • Anthony Booker (2014) ‘The Transformation of Traditional Asian Medical Knowledge into International Commodities – the Link between Traditional Medicines and the International Market’  Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy University College London, School of Pharmacy.  Supervisors: Prof Michael Heinrich (UCL) and Deborah Johnston.
  • Jason Moyer-Lee (2013) 'Agricultural Global Value Chains: The case of tobacco in Malawi', PhD thesis, SOAS University of London.  Supervisor: Dr Deborah Johnston.
  • Kevin Deane (2013) 'A socio-economic analysis of HIV: Exploring the relationship between population mobility and HIV risk in Tanzania', PhD thesis, SOAS University of London. Supervisors: Dr Deborah Johnston, Dr Justin Parkhurst (LSHTM).
  • Batura, Neha (2013) The determinants and impact of long-term child undernutrition: evidence from rural Tanzania. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. Supervisor: Dr Deborah Johnston.
  • Mausumi Mahapatro – (2013) An analysis of land, migration and rural differentiation : a case study in Bangladesh.  PhD thesis.  Supervisor: Dr Deborah Johnston.
  • Alexandre Abreu (2012) Migration and development in contemporary Guinea-Bissau : a political economy approach.  Supervisors: Dr Deborah Johnston and Prof Jane Harrigan.
  • Nicola Pontara (2010) A critical examination of theoretical and methodological approaches to low-income country labour markets: a case study of Mauritania.  Supervisors: Prof Christopher Cramer, Dr Deborah Johnston.
  • Erin Boyd (2009) Intra- and extra-household decisions with regard to energy consumption: the case of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  PhD thesis, SOAS University of London.  Supervisors: Dr Deborah Johnston, Dr Ben Groom.
Applied microeconomics in Africa, the development of macroeconomic theory and the relationship between growth and development.


  • Food, nutrition and agriculture
  • Rural poverty and labour markets. Land reform and development. Poverty, development and HIV/Aids.
  • Member of editorial board for Journal of Agrarian Change
  • Member of advisory board for SOAS Centre of Food Studies
  • Member of management committee for Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health
  • Co-investigator in Fair Trade, Employment and Poverty Reduction Project,, a four-year DFID funded project looking at the impact of Fairtrade on wage workers in tea, coffee and cutflower production in Uganda and Ethiopia
  • Other research projects:
    - WHO PMNCH ‘Strategy Briefs on Cross Sectoral Approaches to Women's and Children's Health: Agriculture/Food and Nutrition’, September 2013 – October 2013.  PI: Deborah Johnston.
    - DFID-funded – ‘Current and Planned Research on Agriculture for Improved Nutrition: A Mapping and a Gap Analysis’, March 2012 to July 2012. Principal Investigator: Dr. Corinna Hawkes (LCIRAH).  Co-investigators: (LCIRAH) Rachel Turner; Elaine Ferguson; Deborah Johnston; Bhavani Shankar; Jeff Waage.  University of Aberdeen: Farhana Haseen; Hilary Homans; Julia Hussein; Debbi Marais; Geraldine McNeill.
    - Foresight-funded – ‘Understanding and Improving the Relationship between Agriculture and Health’, June 2009-June 2010.  Principal Investigator: Prof Jeff Waage (LCIRAH/SOAS). Co-investigators: Alan Dangour; Sophie Hawkesworth, Deborah Johnston, Karen Lock, Nigel Poole, Jonathan Rushton, Ricardo Uauy.
    - British Academy Small Grant - 'Farmwork and food: understanding women's employment and the shift to purchased food in Ethiopia', May 2014 to Sept 2014.  PI: Deborah Johnston.
    - Danish Strategic Fund - 'Healthy and Affordable Protein for the African Middle-Class'.  WP6 April 2015-April 2017: Consumer preferences and communication of product health properties in the West African market. WP-leader: Deborah Johnston.
    - IFPRI/LCIRAH - 'Women’s time use, food consumption and nutrition - a mixed studies review'. May 2014-April 2015.  PI: Deborah Johnston.  Co-investigators: Elizabeth Hull (SOAS, LCIRAH), Suneetha Kadiyala (LCIRAH, LSHTM), Hazel Malapit (IFPRI, A4NH), Sara Stevano (LCIRAH, SOAS).


For help in contacting SOAS academics and advice on services to business and the community, please contact SOAS Enterprise on +44(0)20 7898 4837 or email
For all press and media enquiries please call +44 (0)20 7898 4135 or email

Available for
Regional Expertise
  • Africa
Country Expertise


Authored Books

Johnston, Deborah (2013) Economics and HIV: The Sickness of Economics. London: Routledge.

Johnston, Deborah (1996) Lesotho. Oxford, England; Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press.


Stevano, Sara and Johnston, Deborah and Codjoe, Emmanuel (2020) 'Better decisions for food security? Critical reflections on the economics of food choice and decision-making in development economics'. Cambridge Journal of Economics. [Forthcoming]

Stevano, Sara and Johnston, Deborah and Codjoe, Emmanuel Ashiedu (2019) 'The Urban Food Question in the Context of Inequality and Dietary Change: A Study of Schoolchildren in Accra'. Journal of Development Studies. [Forthcoming]

Waage, Jeff and Dangour, Alan and Haesler, Barbara and Shankar, Bhavani and Johnston, Deborah and Gohil, Ela and Gwan-Lim, Gek and Walls, Helen and Locke, Karen and Hull, Elizabeth and Smith, Richard and Green, Rosemary and Kadiyala, Suneetha (2019) 'Integrating agriculture and health research for development: LCIRAH as an interdisciplinary programme to address a global challenge.'. Global Challenges, (3) 4.

Walls, Helen and Johnston, Deborah and Vecchione, Elisa and Adam, Abdulfatah and Parkhurst, Justin (2019) 'The role of evidence in nutrition policymaking in Ethiopia: institutional structures and issue framing'. Development Policy Review, (37) 2, pp 293-310.

Stevano, Sara and Kadiyala, Suneetha and Johnston, Deborah and Malapit, Hazel and Hull, Elizabeth and Kalamatianou, Sofia (2019) 'Time-Use Analytics: An Improved Way of Understanding Gendered Agriculture-Nutrition Pathways'. Feminist Economics, (25) 3, pp 1-22.

Walls, Helen and Johnston, Deborah and Tak, Mehroosh and Dixon, Jane and Hanefeld, Johanna and Hull, Elizabeth and Smith, Richard D. (2018) 'The impact of agricultural input subsidies on food and nutrition security: a systematic review'. Food Security, (10) 6, pp 1425-1436.

Kelly, Christine and Crampin, Amelia and Mortimer, Kevin and Dube, Albert and Malava, Jullita and Johnston, Deborah and Unterhalter, Elaine and Glynn, Judith (2018) 'From kitchen to classroom: Assessing the impact of cleaner burning biomass-fuelled cookstoves on primary school attendance in Karonga district, northern Malawi'. PLoS ONE, (13) 4.

Deane, Kevin and Stevano, Sara and Johnston, Deborah (2018) 'Employers’ responses to the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa: Revisiting the evidence'. Development Policy Review, (37) 2, pp 245-259.

Johnston, Deborah and Stevano, Sara and Malapit, Hazel J and Hull, Elizabeth and Kadiyala, Suneetha (2018) 'Review: Time Use as an Explanation for the Agri-Nutrition Disconnect? Evidence from Rural Areas in Low and Middle Income Countries'. Food Policy, (76), pp 8-18.

Walls, Helen and Johnston, Deborah and Mazalale, Jacob and Chirwa, Ephraim (2018) 'Why we are still failing to measure the nutrition transition'. British Medical Journal Global Health, (3) e000657, pp 1-3.

Cramer, Christopher and Johnston, Deborah and Oya, Carlos and Sender, John (2017) 'Fairtrade and Labour Markets in Ethiopia and Uganda'. Journal of Development Studies, (53) 6, pp 841-856.

Tusting, Lucy S. and Rek, John and Arinaitwe, Emmanuel and Staedke, Sarah G. and Kamya, Moses R. and Cano, Jorge and Bottomley, Christian and Johnston, Deborah and Dorsey, Grant and Lindsay, Steve W. and Lines, Jo (2016) 'Why is malaria associated with poverty? Findings from a cohort study in rural Uganda'. Infectious Diseases of Poverty, (5) 1.

Johnston, Deborah and Abreu, Alexandre (2016) 'The asset debates: How (not) to use asset indices to measure well being and the middle class in Africa'. African Affairs, (115), pp 399-418.

Fine, Ben and Johnston, Deborah and Santos, Ana and Van Waeyenberge, Elisa (2016) 'Nudging or Fudging: The World Development Report 2015'. Development and Change, (47) 4, pp 640-663.

Cramer, Christopher and Johnston, Deborah and Oya, Carlos and Sender, John (2016) 'Mistakes, Crises, and Research Independence: The Perils of Fieldwork as a form of Evidence'. African Affairs, (115) 458, pp 145-160.

Booker, Anthony and Johnston, Deborah and Heinrich, Michael (2016) 'The Welfare Effects of Trade in Phytomedicines: A Multi-Disciplinary Analysis of Turmeric Production'. World Development, (77), pp 221-230.

Tusting, Lucy S. and Rek, John C. and Arinaitwe, Emmanuel and Staedke, Sarah G. and Kamya, Moses and Bottomley, Christian and Johnston, Deborah and Lines, Jo and Dorsey, Grant and Lindsay, Steve W. (2016) 'Measuring socioeconomic inequalities in relation to malaria risk: a comparison of metrics in rural Uganda'. American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. [Inpress]

Cramer, Christopher and Johnston, Deborah and Oya, Carlos and Sender, John (2015) 'Fairtrade cooperatives in Ethiopia and Uganda: uncensored'. Review of African Political Economy, (41) S1, pp S115-S127.

Jerven, Morten and Johnston, Deborah (2015) 'Statistical Tragedy in Africa? Evaluating the Data Base for African Economic Development'. Journal of Development Studies, (51) 2, pp 111-115.

Johnston, Deborah and Deane, Kevin and Rizzo, Matteo (2015) 'The political economy of HIV'. Review of African Political Economy, (42) 14, pp 335-341.

Johnston, Deborah (2015) 'Paying the price of HIV in Africa: cash transfers and the depoliticisation of HIV risk'. Review of African Political Economy, (42) 14, pp 394-413.

Cramer, Christopher and Johnston, Deborah and Mueller, Bernd and Oya, Carlos and Sender, John (2014) 'How to do (and how not to do) fieldwork on Fair Trade and rural poverty'. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, (35) 1, pp 170-185.

Turner, Rachel and Hawkes, Corinna and Waage, Jeff and Ferguson, Elaine and Haseen, Farhana and Holmans, Hiliary and Hussein, Julia and Johnston, Deborah and Marais, Debbi and McNeill, Geraldine and Shankar, Bhavani (2013) 'Agriculture for improved nutrition: the current research landscape'. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, (34) 4, pp 369-377.

Deane, Kevin and Johnston, Deborah and Parkhurst, Justin (2013) 'Migration as a Tool in Development Policy: Caution Ahead?'. Journal of Development Studies, (49) 6, pp 759-771.

Bookera, Anthony and Johnston, Deborah and Heinricha, Michael (2012) 'Value chains of herbal medicines—Research needs and key challenges in the context of ethnopharmacology'. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, (140) 3, pp 624-633.

Howe, Laura D and Galobardes, Bruna and Matijasevich, Alicia and Gordon, David and Johnston, Deborah and Onwujeke, Obinna and Patel, Rita and Webb, Elizbeth A and Lawlor, Debbie A and Hargreaves, James R (2012) 'Measuring socio-economic position for epidemiological studies in low- and Middle-income countries: a methods of measurement in epidemiology paper'. International Journal of Epidemiology.

Johnston, Deborah (2011) 'Shooting for the wrong Target?: A Reassement of the International Education Goals for Sub-Saharan Africa'. Revista de Economia Mundial 27, pp 95-116.

Deane, Kevin and Parkhurst, Justin O. and Johnston, Deborah (2010) 'Linking Migration, Mobility and HIV'. Tropical Medicine and International Health, (15) 12, pp 1458-1463.

Hawkesworth, Sophie and Dangour, Alan D. and Johnston, Deborah and Lock, Karen and Poole, Nigel and Rushton, Jonathan and Uauy, Ricardo and Waage, Jeff (2010) 'Feeding the Worlth Healthily: the Challenge of Measuring the effects of Agriculture on Health'. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, (365) 1554, pp 3083-3097.

Cramer, Christopher and Johnston, Deborah and Oya, Carlos (2009) 'Africa and the Global Credit Crunch: from crisis to opportunity?'. African Affairs, (108) 433, pp 643-654.

Johnston, Deborah (2008) 'Bias, not error: Assessments of the economic impact of HIV/AIDS from microstudies in Sub-Saharan Africa'. Feminist Economics, (14) 4, pp 87-115.

Johnston, Deborah and Wall, Martin (2008) 'Counting Heads or Counting Televisions: Can Asset-based Measures of Welfare Assist Policy-makers in Russia?'. Journal of Human Development, (9) 1, pp 131-147.

Johnston, Deborah (2007) 'Who Needs Immigrant Workers: A Case Study of Immigrant Farmworkers in South Africa'. Journal of Agrarian Change, (7) 4, pp 494-525.

Johnston, Deborah and Le Roux, H. (2007) 'Leaving the Household out of Family Labour? The Implications for the Size-Efficiency Relationship of Unreconstructed Thinking about the Households'. The European Journal of Development Research, (19) 3, pp 355-71.

Johnston, Deborah (2006) 'Lessons to be learnt? The Role of Evaluations of Active Labour Market Programmes in Evidence-based Policy Making'. Public Administration and Development, (26) 4, pp 329-337.

Johnston, Deborah and Mohiddin, A. (2006) 'HIV/AIDS mitigation strategies and the State in sub-Saharan Africa – the missing link?'. Globalization and Health, (2) 1.

Sender, John and Johnston, Deborah (2004) 'Searching for a Weapon of Mass Production in Rural Africa: Unconvincing Arguments for Land Reform'. Journal of Agrarian Change, (4) 1-2, pp 142-164.

Johnston, Deborah (1997) 'Migrant workers on Free State Farms: The relevance for South African labour policy'. South African Labour Bulletin, (21) 4.

Johnston, Deborah (1996) 'The state and development in Lesotho: an analysis of agricultural policy'. Journal of Southern African Studies, (22) 1, pp 119-137.

Johnston, Deborah and Sender, John (1996) 'Some poor and invisible women: farm labourers in South Africa'. Development Southern Africa, (13) 1, pp 3-16.

Edited Books or Journals

Jerven, Morten and Johnston, Deborah, (eds.), (2015) Statistical Tragedy in Africa? Evaluating the Database for African Economic Development. Abingdon: Routledge.

Saad Filho, Alfredo and Johnston, Deborah, (eds.), (2004) Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader. London: Pluto Press.

Book Chapters

Johnston, Deborah and Walls, Helen (2019) 'Economic Policy and Food Security in Ethiopia'. In: Cheru, Fantu and Cramer, Christopher and Oqubay, Arkebe, (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Ethiopian Economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp 383-398.

Johnston, Deborah (2016) 'Cost-cutting, co-production and cash transfers: neoliberal policy, health and gender'. Handbook on Gender and Health. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp 98-116.

Johnston, Deborah (2015) 'Disguised employment? Labour market surveys, migration and rural employment in Southern Africa.'. In: Oya, Carlos and Pontara, Nicola, (eds.), Rural Wage Employment in Developing Countries: Theory, Evidence, and Policy. Oxford; New York: Routledge, pp 128-143.

Johnston, Deborah (2012) 'Population and Migration'. In: Saad Filho, Alfredo and Fine, Ben, (eds.), The Elgar Companion to Marxist Economics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp 272-276.

Johnston, Deborah (2011) 'World Bank Research on HIV/AIDS: Praise Where It's Due?'. In: Bayliss, Kate and Fine, Ben and Van Waeyenberge, Elisa, (eds.), The Political Economy of Development: The World Bank, Neoliberalism and Development Research. London: Pluto Press.

Johnston, Deborah (2010) 'Land Reform'. In: Pons-Vignon, Nicolas, (ed.), APORDE Reader on Development Economics. APORDE. [Forthcoming]

Johnston, Deborah and Sender, John (2008) 'Confusing counts, correlates and causes: The PRSP and poverty in Lesotho'. In: Rutten, M. and Leliveld, A. and Foeken, D., (eds.), Inside Poverty and Development in Africa: Critical Reflections on Pro-Poor Policies. Leiden: Brill, pp 57-82.

Monographs and Working Papers

Johnston, Deborah and Stevano, Sara and Malapit, Hazel and Hull, Elizabeth and Kadiyala, Suneetha (2015) Agriculture, Gendered Time Use, and Nutritional Outcomes: A Systematic Review. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Cramer, Christopher and Johnston, Deborah and Oya, Carlos and Sender, John (2014) Fairtrade, Employment and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia and Uganda. London: SOAS.

Waage, Jeff and Dangour, Alan D. and Hawkesworth, Sophie and Johnston, Deborah and Lock, Karen and Poole, Nigel and Rushton, Jonathan and Uauy, Ricardo (2010) Understanding and Improving the Relationship between Agriculture and Health. London: Foresight.


This list was last generated on Monday, 6th April 2020, 17:00 Europe/London.