Before coming to Purdue Sanders spent almost twelve years overseas doing his PhD fieldwork and working for the Ford Foundation in Brazil in a graduate education program (Fortaleza, Ceara), as the economist in the Bean Program in CIAT (Cali, Colombia) and representing Purdue in a university development program in Portugal (Evora).
Since 1983 he has been at Purdue teaching economic development and doing field research in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America. From 1983-2012 he has made over 100 trips to Sub-Saharan Africa concentrating his activities in West Africa and Ethiopia. Since 2003 along with Botorou Ouendeba they have focused on a combined technology and marketing extension project. Besides the new technologies for sorghum amd millet production they have been introducing a five point marketing plan and developing farmers' associations into functioning marketing coops.During 2011 in Mali and Senegal this pilot project activitiy had moved into scaling up activities. In 2012 they were involved in Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Mali with this project (Production-Marketing project).
Sanders specializes in the economics of technological change.With this Production-Marketing project he has moved into some analysis of marketing issues. In 1996 his work with his graduate students of 13 years in Africa was published by Johns Hopkins University Press, The Economics of Agricultural Technology in Semiarid, Sub-Saharan Africa (co-authored with Barry Shapiro and Sunder Ramaswamy). In 2012 his graduate students had finished 28 theses (MS and PhD).As of 2012 he had over 100 professional publications (journals and book chapters).