Daniel Maxwell

Daniel MaxwellHenry J. Leir Professor in Food Security and Research Director
Director, Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) Program


Working with Feinstein Since: 2006
Based in: Somerville, MA

Daniel Maxwell is the Henry J. Leir Professor in Food Security at the Friedman School of Nutrition and The Fletcher School at Tufts University. He is also a research director at the Feinstein International Center. In 2016-2017, he served as the acting director of the Center. His recent research focuses on the re-emergence of famines in the 21st century and the politics of information and analysis. Dan also researches humanitarian information systems, food security, and livelihood systems under stress. He teaches courses on humanitarian action and humanitarian policy, as well as famine and food insecurity in situations of crisis and chronic vulnerability. He directs the Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance (MAHA) program at Tufts.

He is the author, with Kirsten Gelsdorf, of Understanding the Humanitarian World (Routledge, 2019). He is the author, with Nisar Majid, of Famine in Somalia: Competing Imperatives, Collective Failures (Oxford University Press, 2016). He is the co-author, with Chris Barrett of Cornell University, of Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role (Routledge, 2005).

Since 2014, Dan has been a member of the Famine Review Committee for the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification system—the formal mechanism by which contemporary famines are analyzed and declared. Prior to joining the faculty at Tufts, Dan worked for two decades for humanitarian agencies, mostly in Africa. His most recent position was Deputy Regional Director for Eastern and Central Africa for CARE International.

He holds a B.Sc. from Wilmington College, a master’s degree from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin

Research Interests:
  • Famine and acute humanitarian crises
  • Humanitarian information systems
  • Resilience, livelihoods, food security, and the measurement of food security
  • Food assistance
  • Emergency preparedness and contingency planning
  • Humanitarian action and policy
Regional Focus:
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Greater Horn of Africa
Courses Taught:
  • Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies (NUTR 229/DHP D230), Fall Term
  • Seminar in Humanitarian Issues (NUTR 223), Fall Term
  • International Humanitarian Response (NUTR 324/DHP D-213), Spring Term
  • Transnational Social Issues: Humanitarian Assistance (GMAP 215)
  • Famine, Livelihoods, and Resilience: Directed Study, Spring Term
Most Cited Books and Articles:
  • Maxwell, D. “Measuring Food Insecurity: The Frequency and Severity of ‘Coping Strategies.’” Food Policy 21, 3 (1996). 291–303.
  • Maxwell, D., Levin, C., Armar-Klemesu, M., Ruel, M., Morris, S., Ahiadeke, C. “Urban Livelihoods, Food and Nutrition Security in Greater Accra.” IFPRI Research Report 112. Washington: International Food Policy Research Institute. (2000).
  • Maxwell, D. “Alternative Food Security Strategy: A Household Analysis of Urban Agriculture in Kampala.” World Development 23, 10 (1995). 1669–1681.
  • Barrett, C. & Maxwell, D. Food Aid After Fifty Years: Recasting its Role. London: Routledge. (2005).
  • Maxwell, D. “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” World Development 27, 11 (1999). 1939–1953.
Most Recent External Publications:
  • Daniel Maxwell, Peter Hailey, Abdullahi Khalif and Francesco Checchi. 2020. “Determining Famine: A Multi-Dimensional Analysis for the 21st Century.” Food Policy. Vol. 92 (April) Article 101832. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodpol.2020.101832
  • Bapu Vaitla, Jennifer Cisse, Joanna Upton, Girmay Tesfaye, Nigussie Abadi, and Daniel Maxwell. 2020. “How the choice of food security indicators affects the assessment of resilience—an example from northern Ethiopia.” Food Security. Vol. 12(1), pp.137–150. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12571-019-00989-w
  • Daniel Maxwell and Kirsten Gelsdorf. 2019. Understanding the Humanitarian World. London: Routledge.
  • Daniel Maxwell and Peter Hailey. 2018. “The Re-emergence of Famine in the 21st Century.” Special Edition on, “La lutte contre la famine: un mythe de Sisyphe?” Politorbis. No. 66. (March). pp.13-22.

News Items

Daniel Maxwell Presents on the re-emergence of famine in the 21st century at the 10th Anniversary of the Global Food Security Cluster
November 11, 2020

On November 11th, 2020, Daniel Maxwell presented at the 10th Anniversary of the Global Food Security Cluster on the recurrence of famine in the 21st century. He discussed the factors…

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Feinstein researchers extrapolate lessons about truth in the Covid-19 crises from famine analysis
May 11, 2020

Famine, COVID-19, and the Politics of Information and Analysis by: Anne Radday, Peter Hailey, and Daniel Maxwell “In war, truth is the first casualty.” Aeschylus Greek tragic dramatist (525 BC…

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Feinstein Research Projects

Social Connectedness, Livelihoods, and Resilience in Complex Emergencies

In this partnership with Mercy Corps, the Feinstein International Center team investigates the nature of social networks and social connectedness, and explores how humanitarian assistance can strengthen these as a key aspect of resilience, recovery and relief interventions in complex humanitarian emergencies.

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Gender, Sex, and Age in Humanitarian Response

This page brings together multiple projects related to gender, sex, and age in humanitarian response.

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Feinstein Publications

2020 Hindsight? The Ecosystem of Humanitarian Diagnostics and Its Application to Anticipatory Action

The nature of humanitarian crises has changed over the past two decades. These changes demand increased anticipatory humanitarian action and improved information to guide that action. The COVID 19 pandemic…

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Classifying Acute Food Insecurity Using the Household Hunger Scale

This study employed an active case identification approach to identifying the worst affected households in communities and make recommendations for how classification could be further improved.

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