Food Insecurity at the Time of Climate Change: Sharing and Learning from Bottom-Up Responses in the Caribbean Region

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Law


For the Greater Caribbean states - especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS) - climate change is re-shaping the relationship between land and people. Recent storms have wiped out the entire sugar cane production of Cuba, banana plantations in Jamaica, St Lucia and Dominica, and decimated nutmeg exports from Grenada, while the decrease in rainfall has in some cases destroyed entire food crops. Furthermore, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) - a grouping of twenty countries in the region - states that over 90% of its food is imported, which makes them vulnerable to sudden economic, political, and environmental shocks, wherein their food supplies can be suspended for indeterminable periods of time, making this region food insecure.

Here, top-down interventions have typically paid little attention to the history of the interaction between people and nature, with the unintended consequence of neglecting and erasing the cultural memory and the heritage represented by centuries of collective and bottom up forms of land and maritime resource management. This is particularly problematic in cases involving indigenous communities, women, elder people and the young generations, along with minority ethnic communities with strong connections to the land, where there is the added burden of living with the legacy of colonialism and transatlantic slavery, upon which these economies are built. Indeed, the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade is on oft cited, but rarely acknowledged barrier to policy making around agricultural development in the region and the construction of resilient and sustainable food systems consistent with fostering the welfare and equitable socio-economic development for all.

In response, our partnership brings together four academic partners and grass-roots civil society organisations across 5 countries in the Greater Caribbean region: McChesney George Secondary School in Antigua and Barbuda; the Library of African and Indigenous Studies in Belize; the Raizal Youth Organisation in the Archipelago de San Andres, Colombia; the Bernard Lodge Farmer's Association in Jamaica; the Fidecomiso of the Caño Martin Peña Community Land Trust in Puerto Rico. Each partner has specific expertise, ongoing projects and a vision for their future.

The work of this multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary partnership will comprise:
1. The running of the five workshops in each of the five countries. These will be organised, led, and hosted by the local communities with support from the two local Research Assistants and the academic partners. Workshops will comprise the face-face knowledge co-production component of the partnership through the sharing of local histories and experiences of food insecurity in the face of environmental changes, as well as their locally embedded solutions. Best practices will be identified, mapped and their reproduction collectively discussed.
2. The website - regularly updated and monitored by the two RA's - serves as a tool to share data and serves as a platform for ongoing engagement by participants after the workshops, which will facilitate ongoing analysis and interpretation of insights generated.
3. Expand the network via the workshops and the website: reach out and engage more communities within the countries involved in the existing partnership, and to further communities in other Greater Caribbean countries not involved in this partnership.
4. Map the regulatory framework and policy environment of each country as the basis upon which to begin incorporating workshop data into policy relevant insights.
5. Develop policy briefs based on findings of workshops and ongoing knowledge co-production. Diffusion to relevant policy makers through direct engagement in the workshops and indirectly with the help of 'Policy Bristol' and the preparation of policy briefs.
6. Publishing academic research on both the process of the partnership's establishment and the knowledge co-produce

Planned Impact

This work has the potential to influence policy processes whereby policy actors are struggling with the identification of the most effective way of tackling the double emergency of food insecurity and climate change. The proposals will be relevant to their National Adaptation Plans and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (primarily but not exclusively SDGs: 2, 11, 14 and 15), the interaction of which requires the identification and implementation of resilient, long-term, democratic and legitimate responses to climate change that are respectful of the sea and the land, but also capable of halving hunger. At the international levels, organisations, donor countries and NGOs will be interested. For instance, the findings will be of direct concern to the UN agencies (including the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to food, migration and extreme poverty) The key agencies concerned with these SDGs are UN Women, the World Health Organisation, UNOHCR, UNODC, UNHCR and the FAO. We also anticipate that the research will impact upon UK government overseas development agenda, by enabling more realistic policy and practice of development and climate change adaptation and mitigation that are rooted in experiences, history and cultural heritage of local communities directly affected by food insecurity and climate change. In particular, the outcome of the workshops will be of particular interest to DFID and other regional and international donors that are increasingly recognising the importance of harnessing existing climate resilience knowledge, scaling up historically successful models of farming and land use in order to produce a coordinated framework for the whole Caribbean region.

Given the specific nature of the partnership and the central role of communities in creating and managing spaces of knowledge co-production, the findings relate to both the process and outputs. Impact and engagement are key objectives throughout the two years and they refer not only to concrete proposal and changes in the political framework, but also in a transformation of the ways in which communities organise and dialogue, along with the way in which academics engage with communities and are capable of constructing an equitable partnership. The partnership's members are well placed to build a scaffolding where every party feels comfortable, accepted, heard and where innovation, history, tradition, cultural diversity and difficulties are collectively harnessed in order to achieve the common objective of identifying practices, ideas and proposals that will lead to the improvement of the social and ecological resilience of the communities involved and of other communities in ODA recipient countries, including LMICs and LDCs. The academic partners have agreed to share their institutional communication channels to get ready access to media, links to other relevant organisations and research networks (e.g. Caribbean Studies Association, Institute for Global Law and Policy at Harvard Law School, the Rapoport Centre for Human Rights at University of Texas, the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol), along with policy makers and other relevant stakeholders who will learn from the experiences and the research and consequently change their practices with regards the conception and implementation of development projects related to food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation In order to strengthen the impact of our partnership and be more effective in the communication with policy makers and development organizations, we will use PolicyBristol (a virtual centre at the University of Bristol showcasing policy-relevant work to users outside the academic community), University Press Office, and other channels through the affiliation and networks of the project members to elaborate and, disseminate policy, practice and practices.


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