Stephen was a longstanding colleague and a man of absolute integrity with whom I greatly enjoyed working. When Stephen worked at PLAAS I worked closely with him to develop and run a field-based land use and livelihoods training course. Phuhlisani subsequently worked with Stephen to develop a new draft policy on agricultural extension in South Africa - sadly, one which eventually fell foul of internal differences within the then Department of Agriculture.
Stephen has made an immense contribution in his field, always in a modest and self-effacing manner.
He will be greatly missed.
Rick de Satge
An obituary for Stephen Turner, Director of the Oxford based international consultancy Mokoro was recently published in the Guardian by his brother Leigh Turner
Thu 3 Aug 2023
My brother, Stephen Turner, who has died aged 69 of bowel cancer, was a development consultant who spent much of his career in Africa, notably in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho.
A gentle soul, Stephen had a knack for forging consensus and achieving results. He was committed to bettering the lives of the poorest people in Africa. From 1987 until 1990 he was head of the environmental division of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, calculating compensation for villagers whose lands were flooded by dams built to provide water to South Africa, and power and income to Lesotho.
In 1990 Stephen moved to the Free University of Amsterdam as a development consultant, carrying out assignments across southern Africa. From 1994, at the University of Namibia, he worked on conservation and land reform; and from 1996, at the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, on sustainable land use and agrarian reform for some of the poorest and most remote communities in South Africa.
In 2007 Stephen Turner joined the Oxford-based international development consultancy MokoroIn 2000, he returned to the Free University, carrying out nature conservation and rural development projects for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Unicef, the World Health Organization and other groups in countries including Costa Rica, Yemen, Palestine, Bangladesh, Timor Leste and many in Africa.
Stephen was born in Kaduna, Nigeria, the elder son of British parents, John Turner, a university professor, and Susan (nee Hovey), a teacher. In 1961, the family moved to Exeter in Devon. Hearing the cathedral’s great bells and the organ in the icy winter of 1962-63 left an enduring impression on him.
From 1965 to 1972 Stephen attended Waterford Kamhlaba school in Swaziland (now Eswatini) in southern Africa. Lourenço Marques Radio introduced him to pop, rock and soul. With South Africa under apartheid, Waterford drew students from across the continent.
Stephen studied geography at Cambridge, then for his geography PhD at Soas University of London, learned Sesotho and lived for a year in the village of Ha Tumahole in the Maluti mountains of Basutoland (now Lesotho). Hitchhiking from Swaziland to Lesotho in 1974, he met Monono Matsaba. They married in Manchester in 1986 and had two sons, Mothusi and Karabo.
In 2007 he went freelance, working as principal consultant and, from 2017, director of the Oxford-based international development consultancy Mokoro. Three years later, Stephen and his family returned to Manchester, close to where our parents were living. He said of his continued work in Lesotho: “This was the happiest part of the job for me … working at village level, addressing public meetings in Sesotho, driving those wild, beautiful mountain roads, breathing the high Maluti air.”
Stephen enjoyed a Maluti beer (or two) on a last visit to Lesotho in January 2023.
He is survived by Monono, Mothusi and Karabo, our mother, Susan, and me.
Professor Ben Cousins, the founding figure behind PLAAS and Stephen's close colleague wrote this tribute:
Stephen Turner was one in a million: a man of absolute integrity and uncompromising honesty, bending his insight and considerable intelligence to making the world a better place, yet always pragmatic and rooted in practical realities. Ethical imperatives – do what is right, do no harm, do unto others as you would have them do unto you - underpinned all his actions. Quiet and unassuming, hard-working but strategic, he was a wonderful colleague to have; full of creative ideas, utterly reliable, always delivering to deadline. Stephen had the ability to cut through the waffle to the very heart of the matter. He also had a wry and sometimes quirky sense of humour that could lighten the mood. At the centre of his life was his family, always his main consideration in choices about where to live and work. In recent years his battle with cancer showed us other sides: his courage, his embrace of the life-force, his fierce determination to come through. To Manono, Mothusi and Karabo, our deepest condolences for your loss: our hearts are with you.