Funded MA: Northern Agriculture and Food

Project: Agricultural values and food sovereignty possibilities on the edge of Northern Ontario

Graduate Program: Public Issues Anthropology MA – University of Guelph
Deadline: February 1, 2017

SSHRC-supported graduate funding for students interested in issues of agriculture, food sovereignty, agricultural values and ethics, local food systems, and rural livelihoods. Seeking 1-2 MA students who are planning to begin their graduate studies in September 2017, and who will be applying to the Public Issues Anthropology MA program at the University of Guelph. The value of the funding is between $7000-$10,000 each year, for up to two years.

The application deadline for the Public Issues Anthropology MA is February 1, 2017.

If you are interested in this funding opportunity, please feel free to contact Dr. Elizabeth Finnis.

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Resources on Seasonality

Robert Chambers states that "As a dimension of poverty, seasonality is as glaringly obvious as it is still grossly neglected. Attempts to embed its recognition in professional mindsets, policy and practices have still a long way to go" (Chambers, 2012: xv; in the Forward of Devereux, Sabates-Wheeler and Longhurst, 2012). This quote comes from an edited volume on seasonality, which brings together a range of interrelated topics revolving around the topic. The book itself draws upon works presented at a conference, and is a sort of follow-on to a similar conference (1978) and book (1981) – highlighting the research gap that has emerged since an interest in seasonality in the 1980s and early 1990s. Drawing upon the 2012 book, below are some of the key resources identified by the authors, as a means to further research on seasonality and support the identification of research taking seasonality as a focal point of study (in chronological order):


Chambers, R., Longhurst, R. and Pacey, A. 1981. Seasonal Dimensions to Rural Poverty. Frances Pinter: London.

Longhurst, R. (Ed) 1986. Seasonality and Poverty. IDS Bulletin 17(3).

Sahn, D. 1989. Seasonal Variability in Third World Agriculture: The Consequences for Food Security. Johns Hopkins University Press: London.

Chen, M. A. 1991. Coping with Seasonality and Drought. Sage: New Delhi.

Gill, G. 1991. Seasonality and Agriculture in the Developing World: A Problem of the Poor and Powerless. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Ulijaszek, S. and Strickland, S. 1993. Seasonality and Human Ecology. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Devereux, S. Vaitla, B. and Hauenstein-Swan, S. 2008. Seasons of Hunger. Pluto Press: London.

Devereux, S., Sabates-Wheeler, R. and Longhurst, R. 2012. Seasonality, Rural Livelihoods and Development. Earthscan: New York.


For those interested in more reading, I suggest the 2012 edited volume Seasonality, Rural Livelihoods and Development as a key resource from which many more references can be obtained.


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People of the Plow

James McCann's People of the Plow (1995) presents the agricultural history of Ethiopia from 1800 to 1990. While historical, it is also in many ways anthropological, particularly in the parts wherein the author draws on years of fieldwork. What I found particularly interesting in the book is the broader discourse within which the book is written, more or less in response to concerns of a failing smallholder agricultural system. For example, McCann opens the book in stating: "The subject of this book is the modern history of Ethiopia's agriculture and the paradox of how the land and farming system which has sustained Africa's historically most productive agricultural system can have fallen into deep fundamental crisis" (p. 4). While Ethiopian agriculture remains framed as being in crisis, it is currently discussed within the context of fertile lands being bought by foreign investors and how farmers can maintain the rights to their land. Arguably the smallholder crisis is greater, due to continued land fragmentation since the writing of the book, but the contemporary discourse is framed quite differently.

The book is not doom and gloom. In many instances, McCann argues that the discourse of the 1990s offered too simplistic a narrative, and that "…the agricultural system and the farmers whose ideas and strategies put it into practice have, over the past millennium, evolved a distinctive technologies, social institutions, and effective solutions to environmental problems" that require far more careful study (p. 4). What this book does remarkably well is to show that while some facets of the agricultural system have remained the same, it demonstrates how dynamic the agricultural system has been and how farmers have engaged with change over time. This feeds nicely into the discourse about farmers being unwilling or resistant to change; history attests to the fact that farmers do change, what this book offers is insight into why those changes take place. For example:

  • "…the kingdom of Kaffa shifted to plow agriculture in the seventeenth century not as a producer-based response to increase overall food production, but as a result of the royal court's preference for the prestige value of teff and cereals over qocho (ensete), yams, and taro, spurring elites to require tributes in cereals. Cereals were better for tax collectors since they could be stored, divided, and moved." (p. 47)
  • "The transformation of the coffee-maize complex to a full-blown maize monoculture resulted partly from an environmental factor (CBD) but more from policies in the political arena – fixed coffee prices, land reform, and villagization – which projected state power and urban priorities onto the rural landscape." (p. 190).

For those interested in Ethiopian agriculture, this book provides an important historical context. Yet, as McCann notes throughout the book, historical references are scarce and in many instances the author extrapolates from what exists, which is sparse. While this has limitations, it is a valuable resource nonetheless. For those less interested in Ethiopian history, the book offers unique into rural development processes, particularly on how agricultural change happens (and does not happen, for example mechanization).


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Essential Reference on Food Security

For those interested in, doing research on, or teaching about food security, Mark Gibson's "The Feeding of Nations: Redefining Food Security for the 21st Century" (2012) is an essential reference to have. The book is a hardcover 640-page academic work, and unfortunately not cheap. There are a couple of ways to access the ideas if the cost is a barrier, one is via Google Books, which offers some parts, and the other is on the archive of a discussion Mark lead on the FAO's Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition on the topic of food security. I was fortunate to find a used one.

In many parts, the book is a high level review, such as its overview of nutrition and malnutrition, and is not ground breaking. But, as a reference book for important considerations related to food security, this is one of the few places that attempts to bring it all together. However, in other parts, it is quite detailed, such as the history of food security related concepts. Unique to the book, I believe, is the inclusion of a wide range of topics, often covered in topic-specific books, including linkages to: agriculture, forestry and fisheries, science and technology, socio-cultural aspects, natural resources, health and nutrition, governance and politics, etc. The author also offers thoughts on redefining food security for the future.

There is a downside to an author who has been thinking and writing about a topic over such a long period of time – the references and content can be recycled and get dated. For example, some sections are largely cited from works published in the early 2000s (2000-2004 period), and it is clear that some parts were first written some time ago, even if published in 2012 (e.g.: "it was once again recently reaffirmed at the International Scientific Symposium on Measurement and Assessment of Food Deprivation in 2002", page 16). I suppose "recently" could be a relative term. Nonetheless, a recommended reference work on food security – particularly for those seeking a key resource on the topic, or those looking for relatively condensed and readable content for undergraduate students.


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Logan Cochrane

logan.cochrane@gmail.com

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