1. July 13 – Following the leadership of the BC Food Systems Network Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS), the proposed Gathering of Indigenous Food Trading and Sharing (GIFTS) is being planned on July 13, 2016. GIFTS will provide the time and space for Indigenous harvesters to trade and share Indigenous foods and knowledge generated in inter-tribal trade relationships. The gathering is a traditional camp style gathering with free camping and all meals provided. We welcome contributions of Indigenous foods to contribute to the feasts.
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- Thursday September 3rd, 1:30-4:30PM: Garden volunteer session
- Wednesday September 9th, 1:30-4:30PM: Garden volunteer session
- Tuesday September 29th, 3:00-5:00PM: Tobacco Pipe Mix Making Medicine Workshop (workshop full, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to join the waitlist)
- Wednesday September 30th: Feast Bowl community meal at the UBC Longhouse
- Wednesday October 28th: Feast Bowl community meal at the UBC Longhouse
How to volunteer for garden sessions: we work in the garden rain or shine, so come dressed for the weather. We have extra rain boots, gardening tools, and gloves to share. Bring a snack and water bottle – bring friends and family (of any age) too! No experience necessary. You will find us in the Indigenous Health Garden at the UBC Farm. The most up-to-date directions to the UBC Farm can be found here. Once at the Farm, you can follow the “Aboriginal Health Gardens” signs to find our garden here.
How to volunteer for the Feast Bowl: join us at the UBC First Nations Longhouse (1985 West Mall) at or after 9:30AM to help us harvest or cook, or 12:30PM to eat lunch with us. Extra help from any age or skill level is always appreciated, especially in the kitchen. If you can only join us for lunch, we encourage you to come anyway and we look forward to sharing a delicious meal with you!
Note: if you plan to bring a large group, please let us know ahead of time at email@example.com.
The rise of Africa’s super vegetables
Long overlooked in parts of Africa, indigenous greens are now capturing attention for their nutritional and environmental benefits.
09 June 2015
When Abukutsa pursued her PhD in the 1990s, she was told that indigenous vegetables were not important enough to be the focus of a research project. Now, scientists around the world are studying their benefits and Abukutsa mentors several students working on native plants.
One lunchtime in early March, tables at Nairobi’s K’Osewe restaurant are packed. The waiting staff run back and forth from the kitchen, bringing out steaming plates of deep-green African nightshade, vibrant amaranth stew and the sautéed leaves of cowpeas. The restaurant is known as the best place to come for a helping of Kenya’s traditional leafy green vegetables, which are increasingly showing up on menus across the city.
Just a few years ago, many of those plates would have been filled with staples such as collard greens or kale — which were introduced to Africa from Europe a little over a century ago. In Nairobi, indigenous vegetables were once sold almost exclusively at hard-to-find specialized markets; and although these plants have been favoured by some rural populations in Africa, they were largely ignored by seed companies and researchers, so they lagged behind commercial crops in terms of productivity and sometimes quality.
Now, indigenous vegetables are in vogue. They fill shelves at large supermarkets even in Nairobi, and seed companies are breeding more of the traditional varieties every year. Kenyan farmers increased the area planted with such greens by 25% between 2011 and 2013. As people throughout East Africa have recognized the vegetables’ benefits, demand for the crops has boomed.
Recipes for African super vegetables
This is welcome news for agricultural researchers and nutritional experts, who argue that indigenous vegetables have a host of desirable traits: many of them are richer in protein, vitamins, iron and other nutrients than popular non-native crops such as kale, and they are better able to endure droughts and pests. This makes the traditional varieties a potent weapon against dietary deficiencies. “In Africa, malnutrition is such a problem. We want to see indigenous vegetables play a role,” says Mary Abukutsa-Onyango, a horticultural researcher at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Juja, Kenya, who is a major proponent of the crops.
Scientists in Africa and elsewhere are now ramping up studies of indigenous vegetables to tap their health benefits and improve them through breeding experiments. The hope is that such efforts can make traditional varieties even more popular with farmers and consumers. But that carries its own risk: as indigenous vegetables become more widespread, researchers seeking faster-growing crops may inadvertently breed out disease resistance or some of the other beneficial traits that made these plants so desirable in the first place.
“It is important that when we promote a specific crop, that we try to come up with different varieties,” says Andreas Ebert, gene-bank manager at the World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), an agricultural-research organization based in Shanhua, Taiwan. If the increasing popularity of these vegetables limits choices, he says, “the major benefits we are currently seeing will be lost”.
Protein from plants
For Abukutsa, indigenous vegetables bring back memories of her childhood. Cow’s milk, eggs and some fish made her ill, so doctors advised her to avoid all animal protein. Instead, the women in her family made tasty dishes out of the green vegetables that grew like weeds around her house. Her mother often cooked the teardrop-shaped leaves of African nightshade (Solanum scabrum), as well as dishes of slimy jute mallow (Corchorus olitorius) and the greens of cowpeas, known elsewhere as black-eyed peas (Vigna unguiculata). One grandmother always cooked pumpkin leaves (Cucurbita moschata) with peanut or sesame paste. Abukutsa relished them all and ate the greens with ugali, a polenta-like dish common in East Africa.
She chose to pursue a career in agriculture because she wanted to “unravel the potential hidden in African indigenous vegetables”, she says. Now, she is considered a leader across Africa, and increasingly around the world, in a robust, rapidly growing field. “She’s almost like the mother of indigenous vegetables in Kenya,” says Jane Ambuko, head of horticulture at the University of Nairobi.
Abukutsa started out in the early 1990s, surveying and collecting Kenya’s indigenous plants to investigate the viability of the seeds that farmers were using. In the decades since, she has come to focus mainly on the vegetables’ nutritional properties.
Today, she is far from alone. The AVRDC has a dedicated research and breeding programme at its office in Arusha, Tanzania, and the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization in Nairobi does similar work. Other health and agriculture organizations in both East and West Africa focus on boosting consumer use and improving the viability and yield of these crops. That fits into a global trend emphasizing bioregional foods — using crops that are well adapted for a given climate and environment, rather than foreign plants that tend to be less nutritious and require extra water or fertilizers.
Most of the indigenous vegetables being studied in East Africa are leafy greens, almost all deep green in colour and often fairly bitter. Kenyans especially love African nightshade and amaranth leaves (Amaranthus sp.). Spider plant (Cleome gynandra), one of Abukutsa’s favourites for its sour taste, grows wild in East Africa as well as South Asia. Jute mallow has a texture that people love or hate. It turns slimy when cooked — much like okra. Ebert says that moringa (Moringa oleifera) is not only one of the most healthful of the indigenous vegetables — both nutritionally and medicinally — but it is also common in many countries around the world.
Research by Abukutsa and others shows that amaranth greens, spider plant and African nightshade pack substantial amounts of protein and iron — in many cases, more than kale and cabbage1. These vegetables are generally rich in calcium and folate as well as vitamins A, C and E (ref. 2).
In recent years, Abukutsa has been studying how to maximize nutritional benefits using different cooking methods. Compared with raw vegetables, boiled and fried greens contain much more usable iron3 and could help to combat the high rates of anaemia in parts of East Africa. They can also be important sources of protein, she says. “Some people just live on vegetables, and they cannot maybe afford meat.”
Abukutsa is currently studying the antioxidant activity of indigenous vegetables, as well as how resilient they are to the effects of climate change. Most of the traditional varieties are ready for harvest much faster than non-native crops, so they could be promising options if the rainy seasons become more erratic — one of the predicted outcomes of global warming. Slenderleaf (Crotolaria sp.) is particularly hardy during drought because it quickly establishes its taproot. “If we have a short rain because of climate change, it can survive,” she says. She is working with other research partners to select vegetables with increased tolerance for variations in rainfall and temperature. Read More…
Centennial Dialogues on Critical Issues in Land and Food Systems: First Nations’ perspective on history, food, and health. (Continuing the Dialogue on Truth and Reconciliation)
Shortly after WWII, when knowledge about nutrition was still sparse, scientists in Canada took advantage of Aboriginal children in Indian Residential Schools (IRS) by using them as unknowing research subjects to investigate the effects of different diets and withholding dietary supplements. Evidence of these government-sanctioned experiments was recently published by food historian and UBC History alumnus Ian Mosby, and received widespread media attention across Canada. Now under the spotlight, attempts have been made to reconcile these past actions, provide support to survivors who were subjects in the experiments, and find ways to move toward a more civilized society for everyone in Canada.
The aftermath of these experiments still has an effect today in the lives of IRS survivors and inter-generational IRS survivors. Join us for a panel discussion about this dark era in Canadian history. Find out how UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems is working to address issues such as access to healthy food, food sovereignty, traditional food, food security for all and land stewardship.
Friday, October 17th 2014
12:30pm to 2:30pm (Program 12:30-2:00pm; Reception 2:00-2:30pm)
The reception from will be catered by the Feast Bowl (http://aboriginal.ubc.ca/2012/12/13/feast-bowl-meal-brings-together-the-ubc-community/)
UBC First Nations Longhouse
1985 West Mall
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1550960018466543/?notif_t=plan_user_invited
Due: January 15, 2014
Towards a Transformative Approach to Gender and Food Security in Low-Income Countries
John R. Parkins, University of Alberta, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jemimah Njuki, International Development Research Centre, email@example.com
Amy Kaler, University of Alberta, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gender inequity is linked to food insecurity. Research shows that women are at the heart of agricultural processes, carrying out the majority of the agricultural and agro-processing labor. For instance, in Tanzania, women account for about 50% of the total waged agricultural labor force (FAO 2011), but even this figure severely understates women’s contributions because of the unaccounted and unpaid hours women work at home producing and processing food production for their families. Constraints on women are therefore roadblocks toon food and nutrition security. When women have equal access to productive resources and assets, everyone benefits. For example, a study in Ethiopia found that women who were provided with the same level of productive resources as male farmers increased their yields by 22% (Boon, Ogato and Subramani 2009). Similarly, the Food and Agriculture Organization (2011) suggests that equal distribution of assets would increase food productivity by 20-30% and reduce the number of hungry people by close to 17%. In response to such findings, national governments and donors have directed funding to research and development programs which integrate gender into research and which set gender equity as an explicit goal of interventions.
Such interventions can address both practical and strategic gender interests (UNESCO 2005, Molyneux 1985). In practical terms, these interventions can provide women with the capacity to meet the long-term nutritional needs of their households, and to enhance their economic well-being. In strategic terms, these interventions may have the potential to enhance the transformation of gender relations towards greater equity by enabling women and men to reflect on gendered divisions of labor and resources related to food, and to reshape these divisions in ways which benefit families and communities. Research and interventions using such an approach aims to facilitate more gender-equitable relationships between men and women and address the underlying social, structural and political causes of gender inequality. Such
transformative approaches contrast with analytical approaches that simply identify barriers or tabulate numbers of men and women involved in project activities. The process of engagement with strategic gender interests is not well established, and is still emergent in the realm of agriculture.
This collection aims to document the ways that food security interventions have addressed both practical and strategic gender interests by: documenting the ways that food security and gender inequity are conceptualized within interventions, assessing the impacts and outcomes of gender-responsive programs on food security and gender equity; and extending the global conversation on gender and food security in the direction of strategic and transformative practices.
In 2009, Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada launched the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) to increase the contribution of Canadian and developing country research expertise toward solving global problems of food insecurity through applied, collaborative, results-oriented research. To date, the Fund has supported 21 large applied agriculture and nutrition research consortia in 20 countries.
The idea for this collection arose from CIFSRF’s goal to find ways to ensure that women contribute to and benefit from food security programs and interventions, and that its projects contribute to gender equity, as well as enabling communities to meet their nutritional needs. This call for abstracts is directed primarily at projects funded by IDRC, although the editors will consider contributions from other research and intervention projects.
We invite contributions which address the lessons learned from implementing food security interventions with concern for gender equity, as well as contributions which consider how agriculture and nutrition interventions might lead to transformations in gender relations.
Scope of this collection
The first part of the collection will contain conceptual and methodological papers and best practices for integrating gender considerations in agriculture, food and nutrition security. The second part will include empirical case studies which present evidence on the outcomes and impacts of food security interventions on women and men across the global south. The third part, looking towards the future, will focus on policy, research and programming implications of bringing gender transformative approaches into the mainstream of agriculture and food security research interventions.
We are seeking papers which address the following questions:
Part 1: Concepts and Strategies:
What conceptual / theoretical approaches to gender and food security can lead to changes in both practical and strategic gender interests?
How does strategic or transformative research differ from business-as-usual (or purely analytical) approaches to studying gender?
What challenges and limitations affect the integration of gender equity into agriculture and food security research programs?
What controversies or sensitivities can emerge in the context of gender-sensitive interventions?
How can we integrate strategic or transformative gender concerns into detailed empirical analysis?
Part 2: Case Studies and Practical Results
What key approaches have been used for addressing gender interests in agriculture and food security programs?
What have been the outcomes and impacts of using these approaches? What have been the changes in food and nutrition security, livelihoods and gender equity?
How are gender-sensitive research and interventions introduced and received at the grassroots?
What do specific cases tell us about the opportunities, challenges and limitations of addressing gender inequities through research and intervention in food security? What can we learn from successful and not-so-successful efforts to address gender inequities in agriculture and food security research?
Part 3: Towards the Future:
Can gender relations be transformed through research and intervention?
What would a 21st century agenda for gender equity in food security look like?
What are the limits to research and intervention in transforming communities?
How can funders, implementers, researchers and community members find common ground on gender transformation?
What kind of partnerships and capacities will be required for the implementation of a gender transformative agenda in food security research?
Guidelines for contributions
We are seeking contributions of extended abstracts (2-3 pagers) for papers that are based on practical, strategic or transformative aspects of gender and food security. For field research and practical case studies, we welcome papers that address how gender is integrated in agriculture and food security research programs and that report evidence of outcomes and impacts on gender equity, food and nutrition security and livelihoods. The papers should also have practical implications for policy, practice and research.
Papers will be reviewed based on:
Clear demonstration of relevance of the paper to food security challenges of men and women
Clear demonstration of innovativeness in methods and approaches and extent to which the paper advances knowledge or addresses knowledge gaps on gender and food security
Robustness of methodology, research design and quality of evidence
Contributions of the research to food security, gender equality and empowerment of women
Chapter abstracts are due on January 15th 2014.
Abstracts submission is open to IDRC funded food security programs and others working on gender, agriculture and food security. Preference will be given to IDRC funded programs, although manuscripts from non-IDRC funded and commissioned chapters will also be considered.
Following the abstract deadline, the editors will notify the authors of the chosen abstracts. Authors will be invited to present complete first drafts of their papers (5,000 – 7,000 words) at an international conference and a writer’s workshop sponsored by CIFSRF and the University of Alberta in May 2014. Invited authors will receive travel support to attend this conference / workshop. The editors will work with selected authors to revise their drafts towards final versions.
The editors plan to submit the collection to an academic press by the end of August 2014 with a potential publication date of March 2015.
Send abstracts to John Parkins (email@example.com)
The Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) is a program of Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD).