Conference Program

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3.2.1: Nourishing the World: Food, Agriculture and Development
Wednesday, 02/June/2021:
12:30pm - 2:00pm

Session Chair: Larry Swatuk
Technical chair: Furqan Asif
Location: Room 1


Nourishing the nexus: A feminist analysis of gender, nutrition and agri-food development policies and practices

Siera Vercillo1, Sheila Rao2, Rosalind Ragetlie3, Jennifer Vansteenkiste4

1School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo, Canada; 2Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University; 3Department of Geography and Environment, Western University; 4School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability, University of Waterloo

Current global agri-food and nutritional development policy narratives and interventions emphasize addressing gender inequality through the commercialization of food systems for reducing poverty and promoting healthy diets. Yet, there are many questions about whether commercialization will lead to gender equality in food and nutrition security. This paper applies feminist critiques of agri-food and nutritional development policy to explore how, and to what degree these policy narratives alleviate gender inequality in food and nutrition security, especially when translated to practice. Based on the analysis presented through examples of policies, vignettes and project experiences from Benin, Ghana, Tanzania and Haiti, we find that the widespread emphasis on gender equality for food and nutritional needs in policy tend to ascribe to a particular normative gender role narrative that includes static, homogenized conceptualizations of unpaid female care work and household food provisioning. These narratives translate to interventions that instrumentalize women’s labour by funding women’s income-generating activities and care responsibilities for other benefits, such as economic growth, child health and household food security without addressing women's work burdens and intersectional vulnerabilities. We argue that policy and intervention strategies require guidance from social relations in agri-food systems, and suggest that transnational feminist analysis of agrifood and nutrition systems centered on capabilities will better address the underlying structural causes of gender inequalities.

Experience of community volunteers monitoring and mitigating food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines: A qualitative study

Shoshannah Speers1, Lincoln Lau1,2,3, Hannah Neufeld1, Danilo Servano Jr.2, Daryn Go2, Warren Dodd1

1University of Waterloo, Canada; 2International Care Ministries, Philippines; 3University of Toronto, Canada

Beginning in March 2020, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte implemented a succession of stringent community quarantines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While community quarantines were aimed at limiting virus transmission, these measures resulted in income loss and exacerbated food insecurity among individuals experiencing income poverty. To meet this emergent need, a Philippine-based NGO, International Care Ministries (ICM), activated their Rapid Emergencies and Disasters Intervention (REDI) Network and partnered with community volunteers across the country to reach families with essential supplies including fortified rice packs and seeds. This study aimed to understand the experiences of community volunteers addressing food insecurity in their communities by partnering with ICM through the REDI Network. Guided by an ethics of care theoretical orientation, this qualitative study entailed online semi-structured interviews (n=25) with community volunteers located in the province of Negros Occidental, Philippines, purposively sampled to include demographic and contextual diversity. As the pandemic made in-person ethnographic data collection unfeasible, contextual understanding was facilitated through semi-structured interviews with ICM staff members (n=5) and examination of REDI program documents. Community volunteer interview data was analyzed thematically using an inductive approach. This study showed that volunteer characteristics (e.g. age, gender) shaped participant experiences with REDI. In addition, REDI implementation required collective action as volunteers reached out to offer and elicit help and support from others to accomplish REDI tasks. Overall, despite some implementation challenges, volunteers viewed the experience with REDI favourably and anticipated future participation. As the Philippines is highly disaster-prone and community volunteers hold a unique position as concurrent community members, REDI implementers, and front-line workers, findings will enable ICM to address volunteer needs, thereby enhancing their ability to meet emergent needs among income-poor individuals during the current and subsequent crises. Further, findings will inform other community mobilization initiatives during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Global Land Rush and Agricultural Investment in Ghana: Existing Knowledge, Gaps and Future Directions

John Anku1, Nathan Andrews2, Logan Cochrane3

1University of Northern British Columbia; 2University of Northern British Columbia; 3Carleton University

The large-scale acquisition of land by foreign investors intensified following the 2007/2008 triple crises of food, energy and finance. In the years that followed, tens of millions of hectares were leased or sold for agricultural investment. This phenomenon has resulted in a growing body of scholarship that seeks to explain trends, institutional regimes, impacts, and the variety of actors involved, among other sub-topics, such as impacts on food security and livelihoods. Focusing on the case study of Ghana, this paper presents a systematic review that uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to critically assess the state of large-scale land acquisitions for agricultural development in Ghana. Our objective in this review is to provide a complete understanding of what we know about large-scale land acquisitions in Ghana while pointing to gaps and directions for future research. Contrary to the perception of large-scale land acquisitions being undertaken by foreign investors, the review shows that the largest group of investors are of Ghanaian origin - evidence that highlights the interesting roles of chiefs and other traditional authority as custodians of land and intermediaries of land transactions. Areas that are either under-studied or missing from the literature include climate change, biodiversity, food security, corporate social responsibility, gendered social differentiation and ethnicity as well as the role of different actors such as diaspora. These gaps call for future research that examines the land question from a multi-dimensional and multidisciplinary perspective.

Standards of Rebellion: CARICOM and Chilean Warning Labels as an Act of Defiance in the International Trade Regime

Hinton Lucy

University of Waterloo, Canada

This paper examines the capacity of states in the global south to protect domestic policy space for population health in the international trade regime. It takes the history of extractive colonial agriculture and the ensuing corporate food regime as its starting point (Friedmann & McMichael, 1989), taking the nutrition transition as a result of colonial and corporate patterns of food provisioning. I argue that rising rates of diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) must be linked to the historically hegemonic and evolving role of imperial trade relationships (Hawkes, 2006; Mintz, 1986). Using this as a starting point, I consider the case of a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) policy to adopt a Chilean style Front-of-Pack warning label (FOPL) to better inform consumers on processed, packaged foods.

FOPL aims to improve the food environment in an acceptably neoliberal style (Scrinis & Parker, 2016). However, CARICOM’s pragmatic decision to use the regional standard-setting process placed authority over national (and regional) domestic health policymaking directly in control of private sector actors who are primary importers and exporters of these foods. As part of the wider international trade regime (Murphy, 2015), standard-setting has long served corporate interests’ ability to limit domestic policy space for action (Clapp, 1998). A CARICOM success would increase the number of states adopting warning labels substantially and may serve a blow to corporate and imperial hegemonic interests at Codex Alimentarius, the international body responsible for labelling standards (Smythe, 2009). Movement towards these labels that intrinsically deny preference to foods from imperial and corporate hegemons, are now seen in CARICOM, Chile, and Ecuador. This paper concludes that this regional health policy represents more than an acceptable and incremental neoliberal policy for health – but may be read as an assertion of national sovereignty over health policy space, pushing back against colonial and corporate food regimes.