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Susan Beckerleg (deceased)

Our friend and colleague Susan Beckerleg, who has died of breast cancer aged 56, developed a distinctive, productive career in anthropology that combined academic research with social development consultancy, splitting her time between homes in the UK and East Africa.

The daughter of Heather and George, Susan was born and grew up in Paignton, Devon, with two brothers, Geoffrey and Richard. She studied social anthropology at the London School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies, completing a PhD on Swahili medicine. She worked at the universities of Birmingham, Warwick and Oxford, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and for the Medical Research Council in the Gambia. Susan wanted an alternative to the conventional academic career and she pursued her path with vigour, originality and success.

She spent many years in Kenya with her first husband, Abudi Kibwane Sisile, whom she married while researching Swahili medicine in the 1980s. In 1995, with him and Maggie Telfer from the Bristol Drugs Project, she established the Omari Project, with support from the Big Lottery Fund and the British Council. For many years the project, a residential heroin rehabilitation centre on the Kenyan coast, was the only non-fee paying service of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa and continues to provide outpatient and outreach services. Susan's research into the lives of female heroin users led to improvements in their healthcare through training for staff and further work on drug use and policy development in the region.

Susan's first marriage ended in divorce. From 2003 she based her life and work in Uganda with Musa Almansi (whom she married in 2010, and who survives her) and conducted research on use of the drug khat. Her book Ethnic Identity and Development: Khat and Social Change in Africa (2010) is a landmark contribution to the field of substance use.

Susan published extensively from research carried out in the Middle East, the Gambia, Kenya and Uganda. She undertook many consultancies for the Department for International Development and other agencies in Africa and Asia. She recently completed an MSc on holistic science at Schumacher College, in Dartington, Devon.