University of St Andrews


Hebe Nicholson

Photo of Hebe Nicholson


Supervisors:  Professor Allan Findlay & Dr David McCollum


Research Title

Resettlement as a Way of Managing Flooding in Malawi: Different Actors’ Attitudes and Influence


This project is funded by the ESRC and examines the complex role of environmental change in mobility decisions and the move to govern these forms of mobility. Environmental change is happening and may potentially have an impact on mobility patterns, which have an impact on the financial wellbeing of households. There is a move by those in governing roles to manage this form of mobility to affectively harness it as a way manage environmental change. This research focuses specific on the impact of the increasing severity of flooding on mobility and the government’s attempt to manage this through resettlement. 

The project takes place in the Lower Shire region Malawi. A country heavily reliant on the physical environment, rural food systems, and that is landlocked, with food security issues and faces environmental challenges, especially increasingly severe droughts and floods.

The three research questions are: What form of mobility does flooding produce? How are knowledges on flooding mobility produced? And how is flooding mobility governed by NGOs and government?

Interviews have been conducted with three communities, and stakeholders in government and NGOs involved in these communities. These three communities were identified by those in government as having three different attitudes towards resettlement: unwilling, undecided, and resettled.     

The research hopes to deepen understanding of the increasing move to govern of environmental migration and the implications this can have.


I received my undergraduate degree BSc (HONS) from the University of St Andrews in June 2015. Where I specialised in Migration studies and the geographies of detention. My undergraduate dissertation took a foucauldian approach to detention centres in the UK to examine whether they were used as a particular government strategy. This was done through interviews with stakeholders in various relevant charities and House of Lords Peers.

I received my MRes in human geography in September 2016 as the ‘1’ part of my ‘1+3’ program. In this course I built up my repertoire of research techniques and gained a solid grounding of the epistemologies involved in population geography and context for Malawi. My MRes dissertation research focused on environmental migration in Malawi, using interviews with key stakeholders in NGOs that dealt with environmental issues within Malawi and statistical analysis of census data, to determine if and how the environment was impacting people’s mobility patterns. This led to inconclusive results, setting up the need for further research and hence my PhD studies. 

Currently I am in my 2nd year of my PhD. I have undergone my fieldwork in Malawi and am in the stage of processing my data and writing up.