Catherine Allen

Principal Consultant, Rural Development & Livelihoods

Over 20 years' experience in international development

Catherine Allen is a rural development specialist with over 20 years of field-to-policy level experience across Africa, Asia and the UK, developing, managing and evaluating multi-disciplinary programmes that promote poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and stakeholder engagement.

With a background in agriculture and tropical health, Catherine’s technical expertise is focused where society and the environment interact, particularly in rural areas. She has applied her skills across a range of sectors including: food security, livelihoods, climate change mitigation and adaptation, community development, agriculture and agricultural support services, natural resources management, infrastructure development and innovation.

During her career, Catherine has worked with and for a range of stakeholders including: bilateral agencies, local and national governments, the third sector, research organisations and the private sector. With experience ranging from engaging directly with often remote, marginalised and vulnerable communities to multi-agency strategic partnerships, she is able to ‘bridge the gap’ between social institutions and public policies at a range of scales.

“Inclusive rural development is a particular passion of mine because of the unique challenges that face rural areas across the world; from UK to Sub-Saharan Africa.  Rural areas face unprecedented challenges as the rural economy transforms, the pressure on natural resources and the environment increases, and rural demographic profiles shift.  By their nature, rural areas tend to have a relatively low population density, and where agriculture and related activities usually dominate both the landscape and economy.  These are places where transport and communications (where they exist) often have to cover relatively large distances, and sometimes difficult terrain.  This can make travel and service provision difficult and costly, which limits economic opportunities, encourages rural-urban migration and contributes to increased vulnerability.  I include rural towns (as opposed to cities) as well, as they act as a cultural and economic focal point for the surrounding population – places where people can meet, exchange goods and services, and find transport to larger urban centres. Finally, rural development also includes, to some extent, peri-urban areas – the areas that lie on the fringes of the urban environment, including the edge of major cities – where many rural migrants settle, continue small-scale agricultural practices and manage to maintain links to distant households who depend on the remittances they send back. ”


  • MSc, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • BSc (Hons) Agricultural Zoology, University of Leeds
  • Alumni, ICRA, Wageningen, The Netherlands