Vegamót? Luttakandi og virkin gransking av landbúnaðarætlanum í Ghana og Føroyum
Elisabeth Skarðhamar Olsen
Giovanni Bettini, Rebecca Whittle
Stuðul úr Granskingargrunninum:
This project engages with a pressing global challenge at the intersection of environmental and developmental policy, namely the sustainability of food systems in the Anthropocene and an increasingly unequal world. The past two decades the socio-ecological impacts related to the political economic structures of the global food system have entered mainstream awareness. This has motivated those on the privileged end of the scale (consumers in the global North) to switch towards more conscious and ethical consumption habits (e.g. vegan, organic, local, fair-trade), as well as to become food producers themselves (e.g. urban farming, community gardens). Parallel to this, the idea that we need to change the way food is produced and distributed in the world is receiving mainstream attention on governmental and intergovernmental level with countries such as France taking the lead in a transition from industrial monoculture to agroecology, and the FAO encouraging other countries to follow. Yet while this tendency is increasingly the case in the global North, the situation at the commodity frontiers in the global South appears to be quite different. Here corporate agribusiness investments and development policies continue to push small-scale peasants off their lands and to degrade local environments in pursuit of economic growth, even though many of these peasants have for centuries been practising agriculture according to similar principles that are now being forwarded as ‘agroecological innovation’ in the global North.
In this PhD project I seek to make sense of the links and contradictions between agri-food political dynamics in the global North and the global South using the concept of food sovereignty; “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems” (Declaration of Nyéléni, 2007). I will do this by focussing on agri-food producers and food activists in two contexts ‘on both sides of the equator’: in the sub-Arctic archipelago of the Faroe Islands, and in the sub-Saharan West African country of Ghana. In spite of being very differently positioned in relation to global food system dynamics, it appears like there are food producers and food activists in both Ghana and in the Faroe Islands identifying with similar socio-ecological aspirations, which echo the vision and principles of food sovereignty. However, to what extent are food sovereignty advocates in the global North allies of food sovereignty advocates in the global South? For instance, do the Slow Food movements and urban gardening projects in the global North engage in the same political struggle and/or have the same socio-ecological objectives as peasant associations and food sovereignty advocates in the global South? Since little research has engaged with these types of questions before, this project aspires to address a portion of this gap, exploring the links and contradictions of how visions of food sovereignty manifest in the Faroe Islands compared to how they manifest in Ghana, and in what way they intersect with the food security agenda.
Theoretically and methodologically the project is informed by research in the fields of rural sociology, human geography, anthropology, and political ecology, which study and engage with the bottom-up politics of contemporary food activists, and the perspectives and realities of contemporary agri-food producers. The methodology employed, Participatory (Action) Research (P(A)R), is an engaged research methodology which seeks to involve research participants as informed and reflective co-researchers in the study. This means that the participants of the study will be involved in deciding the specific issues and questions that will need to be investigated in their respective local contexts. Through two such research engagements, one with agri-food producers and food activists in Ghana and the other with agri-food producers and food activists in the Faroe Islands, I aim to facilitate a stronger voice and presence of civil society in food political debates in their respective countries. The main research question guiding the project enquiry is:
How do the objectives advocated/mobilised for by Faroese agri-food producers and food activists converge and/or diverge with those advocated/mobilised for by Ghanaian agri-food producers and food activists?
The question allows for locally grounded and meaningful engagement with the research participants on their political and socio-ecological objectives in their respective contexts. This is important in terms of the P(A)R component of the research. Moreover, the fact that the governments of both Ghana and the Faroe Islands are currently drafting agri-food related policy reforms means that engaging with civil society on food political matters over the next couple of years is highly topical in both research contexts, making this project societally relevant and potentially significant in terms of research impact. At the same time the research question also enables deep intellectual analysis, reflection and theorisation on ‘translocal’ food politics and the debate related to food sovereignty in the global North and global South, as well as the schisms and synergies between the policy approaches of (global) food security and (local) food sovereignty, respectively.