Field Trips to Kenya and Brazil to Improve Food Sustainability and Food Systems on the Ground

Ou Senior Research Fellow Dr Adriana Bessa with women smallholders in Kenya. Ou Senior Research Fellow Dr Adriana Bessa with women smallholders in Kenya.

4 February 2019

In the context of our research project on food sustainability and food systems, our Senior Research Fellow Dr Adriana Bessa carried out fieldwork in Kenya and Brazil to discuss the implementation of transformative pilot actions (TPAs) with local rural communities.

‘On the basis of academic research and discussion with rural communities, we develop TPAs to improve food sustainability and food systems on the ground. Our role, as academics, is to bring the methodology and then support communities to decide what needs to be done and how’ explains Dr Bessa.

Kenya: Making Food Systems more Sustainable and in Tune with Human Rights Principles

In Kenya, Dr Bessa visited smallholders in the Laikipia and Meru counties and interviewed women farmers involved in different food systems in the region.

‘Our research analyzed the stage of implementation of the right to food and the ways in which food systems operating in the region could become more sustainable and in tune with human rights principles. It highlighted the need for more engagement of women farmers in law and policy making, particularly on sensitive issues related to agriculture and food production, such as rules governing access to water and the use of agrochemicals’ underlines Dr Bessa.

‘Most of the women we interviewed showed deep concern with the amount of chemicals used in food production and their potential impacts on the health of their families. There is a clear need for open discussion with local farmers and authorities on the technical aspects of the use of agrochemicals, their long-term effects on nature and potential risks to human health’ stresses Dr Bessa.

On the basis of the research and discussion with communities, two TPAs will be implemented in 2019 in Kenya, one dealing with water and the other one with milk production. The findings of the Kenya research will also be published, in 2019, as an Academy Briefing.

Right to Food Field Work in Kenya

Brazil: Improving Social and Environmental Resilience and Reducing Inequality and Poverty

Dr Bessa also travelled to Bahia, in Brazil, to discuss the implementation of TPAs with communities in the semi-arid region of Juazeiro who are famous for their production of goat meat and cheese.

‘In our discussions with local communities, we identified that some aspects of the value chains and of the community’s organization could be re-thought in order to improve the sustainability of the food system. This was particularly true for aspects related to social and environmental resilience and the reduction of inequality and poverty. We are now discussing with communities about actions to be taken in order to improve these aspects’ underlines Dr Bessa.

Right to Food Field Work in Brazil

Follow-Up Activities in 2019

Dr Bessa will return, in 2019, to Kenya and Brazil to follow-up the implementation of TPAs with communities. She will also travel to Bolivia, Zambia and Peru to discuss the implementation of other TPAs with local communities.

Right to Food Field Work Brazil and Kenya

About the Research Project

This project focuses on empirical research into the factors that influence food sustainability within and between different food systems coexisting in selected regions of Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Kenya and Zambia. The general objective is to provide evidence-based scientific knowledge for the formulation and promotion of innovative strategies and policy options that improve individual and aggregate levels of food systems’ sustainability.

As a co-coordinator of this project – along with the Centre for Development and Environment at the University of Bern, the Centre for Training and Integrated Research in Kenya and Comunidad Pluricultural Andino Amazónica para la Sustentabilidad (COMPAS) in Bolivia – the Geneva Academy supervises the legal aspects of the research in partnership with economists, political scientists, anthropologists and human geographers in Bolivia, Kenya and Switzerland. This includes the identification of treaties, laws and policies that have influenced food systems over the last 10–15 years, and their likely future impact.

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