Working Papers

Published works

Elizabeth Vibert, "Gender, resilience and resistance: South Africa’s Hleketani Community Garden"

  • This article explores local struggles and social solidarity among women farmers at a small farming cooperative: Hleketani Community Garden, in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Such farmers are rarely discussed when exploring sites of resistance to neo-liberal capitalism. These women have had success in reducing poverty and increasing positive health outcomes for their families and community, in an era dominated by agricultural forms (industrial and commercial) that have generally failed to benefit small communities and farmers. The research demonstrates the potential of small-scale collaborative food farming to support personal and broader social resilience, and draws attention to the kinds of structural barriers that continue to militate against smallscale farmers – especially women – achieving a decent life. Poverty reduction, improvements in health, and community building are among the benefits delivered by this community initiative. Lack of access to resources, policy frameworks antithetical to small-scale agriculture, and worsening climate change are among the greatest challenges.

Elizabeth Vibert, "Translocal Lives: Gender and Rural Mobilities in South Africa, 1970–2020"

  • Rural spaces in South Africa remain crucially important to the material, emotional, and cultural wellbeing of many South Africans, and many ‘rural’ lives have long been highly mobile and dynamic. Women in rural areas, in particular, provide diverse maintenance work that sustains translocal households – entities that sprawl across rural, peri-urban, and urban space. This article situates South African mobilities, especially those of women, in the historical context of the past fifty years, exploring the changing nature of connections between rural and urban lives of Black South Africans through the lens of a village in a former ‘homeland’ in northeastern Limpopo Province. Whereas analyses tend to focus on migrants, often viewing rural people as immobile or out of step with modernity, the focus here is on those who remain principally rural yet maintain mobilities of diverse kinds. Rooted in the qualitative methods of oral history, social history, and gender history, the article provides a fine-grained analysis of rural households, the lives of those who remain in or return to rural areas, and rural contributions within translocal households and economies.

Astrid Pérez Piñán & Elizabeth Vibert, "The View from the Farm: Gendered Contradictions of the Measurement Imperative in Global Goals"

  • How do global development goals translate into local action? How do such goals support or undermine already existing efforts, at the local level, to build robust and sustainable communities? In this article we examine the experience of a women’s cooperative vegetable farm in rural South Africa, considering the on-the-ground consequences of high-level planning for development and, in particular, the measurement and accountability demands associated with such initiatives. We focus on the broad aims of Sustainable Development Goals 2 (to end hunger) and 5 (to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment). We explore farmers’ responses to external demands for measurement and accountability, some of which they are not well equipped to meet and others of which collide with their own priorities to support their households and wider community. We find a major problem of translation between global goals and the needs of people on the ground: far from resulting in material support for small-scale farmers, the daily burdens of the ‘audit society’ directly impede aims like ending hunger and achieving gender equality. The first section of the paper briefly canvasses recent efforts at global goal setting, considering the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and SDGs in turn. The longer second section offers the case study of the women’s farm, examining how the measurement demands related to global goals impact locally generated priorities.


Works in progress

Alejandro Agudelo Calle, "Briefing paper: Food Security Challenges in Colombia"

  • Colombia has 48,258,494 people, according to the last census in 2018. Women represent 51.2% of the country’s total and men 48.8%. The population over 65 years of age has been increasing and now represents 9.1%, while those under 5 years of age have decreased: they are 8.4%. This same downward trend is experienced by the average household size in Colombia: 3.1 persons per household. There is an important growth of the so-called unipersonal households. Women now attend higher education, which means that the age at which they have children has increased (Semana, 2019). The distribution of the population by location is concentrated in the municipal capitals (77.1%), the rest live in populated centres (7.1%) or in dispersed rural areas (15.8%) (DANE, 2019). Colombia has 102 Indigenous peoples, representing slightly more than 3% of the population.
  • With respect to food and nutritional security, Colombia, like the other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, shows discouraging figures with respect to the achievement of the goal of zero hunger. The number of undernourished people in the region has been increasing in recent years, with South America being the most affected with 21.4 million (FAO, PAHO, WFP, & UNICEF, 2018). Among the most relevant causes of hunger and malnutrition are the economic contraction, political conflicts in some Latin American and Caribbean countries, natural phenomena, growth in poverty rates and extreme poverty.
  • Added to the above is the effect of unhealthy eating patterns that have been occurring in the region for two decades, further undermining the situation among the most disadvantaged territories and populations (FAO, 2019b; FAO et al., 2018). Paradoxically, the map of malnutrition also includes data on overweight and obesity, known as “hidden hunger”. According to the FAO, 104.7 million adults in Latin America are obese, that is, almost one in four adults, and every year there are 3.6 million new obese. In Colombia, 56.6% of men and 61.2% of women are overweight (University of Manizales, 2019).

Reed Byg, "Jordan Briefing Paper"

  • Understanding food systems, their resilience capacity to the climate crisis, and the ability of vulnerable populations to feed themselves is a complex task, and should be situated in an analysis of the surrounding socio-political and natural environments. Food systems and food-related policies in Jordan present a complex case study of how vulnerable populations are to feed themselves in the current political and environmental climate. Because Jordan is a water-scarce country with minimal arable land, and is home to millions of refugees, it is necessary to understand how both Jordanians and refugee populations are to feed themselves as the climate crisis intensifies.
  • In Jordan, a mostly semi-arid to arid county, water is a key resource for the agriculture and food industries. Arable land available for farming purposes makes up a small portion of total land area in the country. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates for 2016, the agricultural area of Jordan makes up roughly 12% of total land area. The Jordan Valley is a primary site of agricultural production and agriculture in this area is dependent mainly on irrigation. Water for irrigation is sourced from both the Yarmouk River and reclaimed wastewater from the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant. Other agricultural areas are dependent on rainfall, which fluctuates annually.
  • In general, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is considered to be one of the most food insecure regions. Although Jordan, as of 2019, is considered food secure by the World Food Programme, the country is vulnerable to increasing food insecurity due to high import dependence, water scarcity, and the prevalence of pockets of extreme food insecurity at the household and individual level. Additionally, Jordan’s quickly growing population, partially due to the influx of refugees, presents questions regarding the resilience of current food systems, policies, and their relationship to the climate crisis.

Connor Williamson, "South Africa Briefing Paper"

  • Food Sovereignty in South Africa has not been as fiercely adopted in policies and legislation compared to other developing countries (Siebert, 2019). This is due to the countries’ history of oppression, dislocation of culture, and dispossession (Siebert, 2019). Issues in the food system in post-apartheid South Africa are being exacerbated by the climate crisis. This report will examine how Food Sovereignty has attempted to manifest itself in a top down, neoliberal, racialized system such as South Africa. This report will draw upon academic sources and NGO websites to produce an overview of the current state of the climate crisis and Food Sovereignty ty in post-apartheid South Africa. Dimensions of gender and government policies affecting the food system will be provided to supplement the primary research questions. The preliminary research produced through this report has found that post-apartheid South Africa maintains a highly racially divided agricultural system that supports white male farmers and neoliberal beliefs of productivity and marketization, at the expense of environmental degradation and land redistribution.

Brianna Poirier, "Briefing paper: Exploration of Indigenous Food Sovereignty and the Climate Crisis in T’Sou-ke First Nation, British Columbia"

  • T’Sou-ke First Nation is an Indigenous community located on Vancouver Island’s southern coast, home to approximately 120 residents, with memberships, on and off reserve, totalling over 300. Historically, Coast Salish communities in the Pacific Northwest, including T’Sou-ke First Nation, had some of the highest population densities on the North American continent because of the abundance of resources from the land and the water (Olson & Steager, 2015). Due to T’Sou-ke First Nation’s geographical location on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, they were one of the first Indigenous communities in Canada to have considerable contact with colonial settlers. Colonial settlement began in the 1840s, even though T’Sou-ke had not ceded their traditional lands for settlement. Under the Douglas Treaty, on May 1 1850, T’Sou-ke received forty-eight pounds, six shillings, eight pence and fifty-two blankets for all of their land, except for sixty-eight hectares, which comprise the community’s two current day reserves (Olson & Steager, 2015). This treaty not only took the majority of T’Sou-ke’s territory but also enabled settlers to hunt and fish on the community’s remaining lands (Olson & Steager, 2015). The Douglas treaty effectively destroyed the community’s ability to rely solely on the traditional resources their ancestors had depended on for many generations. These historic events are prime examples of the direct effects of environmental dispossession the community has faced, and continues to feel the effects of to this day. The community’s coerced displacement from their traditional lands, limited access to food sources, completely disrupting T’Sou-ke First Nation’s traditional food system.

Brianna Poirier, "Briefing paper: Exploration of Indigenous Food Sovereignty and the Climate Crisis in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories"

  • Arctic communities across the globe are at the forefront of climate change and are already experiencing the devastating implications of temperature and sea level rise, reduced summer sea-ice, glacial melting, coastal erosion and decreased permafrost. Climate change indicators observed by Inuit across Arctic Canada include longer summers, shorter winters and faster thawing of ice; these changes hinder traditionally accurate climate predictions and make travelling on land and ice dangerous (Bonesteel, 2006). Ecosystem upset can result in decreased climate regulation, loss of nutrient cycling, poor soil formation and reduced photosynthesis (Markkula, Turunen, & Rasmus, 2019). These environmental conditions, among others, have severe impacts on Arctic life, culture, food and infrastructure (Andrachuk & Smit, 2012). Recently, discussions around climate predictions in Northern Canada have appropriately shifted to adaptation discussions, as numerous communities are already experiencing effects of climate change in their everyday life (Furgal & Seguin, 2006). Despite living in Canada, an industrialized country, Inuit communities are disproportionately exposed and sensitive to the impacts of changing environmental conditions due to community characteristics similar to those in developing countries (Andrachuk & Smit, 2012). Inuit communities have historically persevered in extreme conditions and adapted to significant change; when looking to the future it is uncertain how these communities will navigate their relationship with the land in the face of the new challenges presented by climate change (Andrachuk & Smit, 2012). The livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples, especially Inuit communities, are rooted in cyclic, physical, and biological resources that are continuously evolving and the ability of communities to adapt to changes is ultimately restricted by social, institutional and economic resources. Due to heavy financial and sustenance reliance on hunting and fishing, the Inuit of Inuvialuit have a substantial relationship with both wildlife and weather (Andrachuk & Smit, 2012). Traditional subsistence practices, such as salmon gathering and caribou hunting, are altered when ecosystems are disrupted, ultimately resulting in decreased access to land-based traditional knowledge and language (Markkula, Turunen, & Rasmus, 2019). While financial security is necessary for Inuit families, involvement in employment, outside of hunting, restricts individuals’ time and ability to participate in traditional methods of harvesting and hunting (Kuhnlein, & Receveur, 1996; Andrachuk, & Smit, 2012)
  • Climate change is one of the most prevalent challenges facing Arctic communities, and Inuit perspective deserves recognition and inclusion in tackling this international concern. Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (IQ) collectively refers to traditional ways of knowing that are central to all aspects of Inuit livelihood and continues to help individuals navigate the changing Arctic landscape (Bonesteel, 2006). Homage to historical struggles, resilience and collective desires for healthy, sovereign futures amongst Inuit communities is crucial in developing an understanding of the current impact climate change has on Inuit life (Griffin, 2019). IQ is especially useful when discussing long-term environmental observations, patterns, cycles and changes related to climate change (Bonesteel, 2006). Changes in ecosystems alter Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with the land by disrupting traditional cultural practices and understandings attached to the physical land (Markkula, Turunen, & Rasmus, 2019). Environmental concerns related to climate change impact animal habitats and ultimately, the ability of Inuit communities to uphold traditional subsistence activities (Bonesteel, 2006). Utilizing IQ in conjunction with scientific knowledge is valuable and helps create a holistic understanding of the relationship between the environment and humans (Markkula, Turunen, & Rasmus, 2019). Invaluable information regarding natural ecosystems exists in the experience of Indigenous Peoples in Canada because dependency on the land and its resources for survival develops an intimacy with the environment that many people never experience (Carmack & Macdonald, 2008). Further, the incorporation of IQ is essential in contemporary environmental research to ensure environmental risks and directions of development are meaningful and accurate for those at the forefront of climate change (Bonesteel, 2006).
  • An exploration of the Tuktoyaktuk community context, current Indigenous Food Sovereignty (IFS) efforts in Northern Canada and in the community, the impacts of climate change on IFS as well as the community response to these challenges will enable this paper to set the stage for the research project, Four Stories About Food Sovereignty. The focus of this paper is to gain an understanding of the impacts of the climate crisis in Tuktoyaktuk and gauge the future of IFS efforts in this community.


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