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, and Research Director at the Feinstein International Center. In 2016-2017, he served as the acting director of the Center. His recent research focuses on food security and the re-emergence of famines in the 21st century. He teaches courses on humanitarian action and humanitarian policy, as well as famine and food insecurity. 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 and the politics of information and analysis
  • Early warning and anticipatory action
  • Emergency preparedness and contingency planning
  • The “localization” of humanitarian action
  • Resilience, livelihoods, food security, and food security measurement
  • Livelihood systems under stress
  • Humanitarian action and policy
Regional Focus:
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Greater Horn of Africa
  • North Africa/Middle East
Courses Taught:
  • Humanitarian Action in Complex Emergencies (NUTR 229/DHP D230), Fall Term
  • Seminar in Humanitarian Issues (NUTR 223), Fall Term
  • Famine, Livelihoods, and Resilience (NUTR 339), Spring Term
  • International Humanitarian Response (NUTR 324/DHP D-213), Spring Term
Most Cited Books and Articles:
  • Maxwell, Daniel G. “Measuring Food Insecurity: the Frequency and Severity of ‘Coping Strategies.’” Food Policy 21, no. 3 (1996): 291–303. https://doi.org/10.1016/0306-9192(96)00005-x.
  • Maxwell, Daniel, Carol Levin, Margaret Armar-Klemesu, Marie Ruel, Saul Morris, and Clement Ahiadeke. “Urban Livelihoods and Food and Nutrition Security in Greater Accra, Ghana.” International Food Policy Research Institute 112 (2000). https://doi.org/10.2499/0896291154rr112.
  • Maxwell, Daniel G. “Alternative Food Security Strategy: A Household Analysis of Urban Agriculture in Kampala.” World Development 23, no. 10 (1995): 1669–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/0305-750x(95)00073-l.
  • Barrett, Christopher, and Daniel Maxwell. “Food Aid after Fifty Years: Recasting Its Role.” London: Routledge (2005).
  • Maxwell, Daniel. “The Political Economy of Urban Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa.” World Development 27, no. 11 (1999): 1939–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0305-750x(99)00101-1.
Most Recent External Publications:
  • Maxwell, Daniel, and Peter Hailey. 2021. “Analyzing Famine: The Politics of Information and Analysis in Food Security Crises.” Journal of Humanitarian Affairs Vol. 3 (1), pp. 16-27 http://dx.doi.org/10.7227/JHA.055.
  • Maxwell, Daniel, Abdullahi Khalif, Peter Hailey, and Francesco Checchi. “Viewpoint: Determining Famine: Multi-Dimensional Analysis for the Twenty-First Century.” Food Policy 92 (2020): 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.
  • Maxwell, Daniel, and Kirsten Heidi Gelsdorf. Understanding the Humanitarian World. (London: Routledge 2019).
  • Maxwell, Daniel, and Peter Hailey. “Foreword: The Re-Emergence of Famine in the 21st Century.” Special Edition on, “La lutte contre la famine: un mythe de Sisyphe?” Politorbis. No. 66 (2018), pp. 13-22.
  • Maxwell, Daniel and Nisar Majid. Famine in Somalia: Competing Imperatives, Collective Failures. (Oxford University Press, 2016).

News Items

Karen Jacobsen and Dan Maxwell provide insight into the war in Ukraine to TuftsNow
April 29, 2022

TuftsNow article “Why Providing Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine Is Challenging—and What to Do About It” draws on the expertise of Dan Maxwell and Karen Jacobsen to explain how aid works…

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Dan Maxwell describes how war in Ukraine is affecting global hunger in The Conversation
April 27, 2022

War in Ukraine is pushing global acute hunger to the highest level in this century Distributing flour rations and other food supplies in southern Yemen on March 29, 2022. Saleh…

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Feinstein Research Projects

Academic Alliance for Anticipatory Action

The Academic Alliance for Anticipatory Action (4A’s) is a global consortium of universities that will develop the evidence base on anticipatory action.

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Humanitarian Information Systems: Anticipating, Analyzing, and Acting in Crisis

This study seeks to understand the availability and quality of information, and the external influences on data collection and analysis for the classification of food emergencies.

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Feinstein Publications

Sharing to Survive: Investigating the Role of Social Networks During Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis
Cover of Sharing to Survive Report

After more than seven years of conflict over 20 million Yemenis—66% of the population—are in need of assistance. Nonetheless, the humanitarian response in Yemen remains severely underfunded. This study examines the ways in which Yemenis have relied on their social networks to survive.

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Localization: A “Landscape” Report
Localization Report Cover Thumbnail

This landscape study about localization examined the literature and spoke to over five dozen key informants from different perspectives, positions, and countries across the humanitarian sector.

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