Citizen science in the global South: effects on participation in urban agriculture in Rio de Janeiro's informal settlements.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Reading
Department Name: Geography and Environmental Sciences


Context and rationale:
Urban agriculture systems exhibit higher levels of biodiversity than other urban green areas and provide city dwellers with positive socioeconomic, cultural and educational outcomes (Lin et al., 2015; Orisini et al., 2011). However, the connections between urban agriculture, biodiversity, health and wellbeing is predominantly focused on the Global North, while the potential of urban agriculture for sustainable development is increasingly recognized (Mougeot, 2005). Understanding how to maintain people's participation in urban agriculture, from working in community fields and gardens to looking after plant pots, is crucial to its continued environmental and social success.

In the proposed research, I ask what role citizen science might play in maintaining participation, food production and 'prosperous' communities. Citizen science is an activity predominantly undertaken in the global North during people's leisure time. Research on citizen science in marginalised communities is almost non-existent (Geoghegan et al. 2016). With the ever-increasing demands for better data and improved knowledge of the natural world to inform policy (such as the Sustainable Development Goals) and science (such as global change research), as well as the need to empower citizens, maintain food security, health and wellbeing, the ultimate aim of this research is to understand how people participate in citizen science in the global South.
The proposed research will focus on Rio de Janeiro's informal settlements (favelas), where I have conducted my MSc research. Favelas are marginalised communities (Gervais-Lambony, 2001) in an endangered environment where a number of grassroots, NGO and state-led urban agriculture projects have been promoted for environmental, educational and social empowerment purposes.

Research questions:
(1) What are people's motivations for participation in urban agriculture in informal settlements?
(2) What role can citizen science approaches play in enhancing, sustaining and advocating for participation in urban agriculture in informal settlements?
(3) How can grassroots organisations, NGOs and state-led organisations embed citizen science in their urban agriculture projects in the global South?
There are three phases to the research:
(1) Participant observation and interviews to understand the ways in which people participate in urban agriculture, and the range of existing NGO and state-led projects;
(2) The pilot implementation of a novel citizen science initiative to monitor participation in, and the multiple benefits of urban agriculture, based on the Data Collection Toolkit developed by the Design Trust for Public Space and Farming Concrete (2015);
(3) Interviews with NGOs and state-led programmes to ascertain how citizen science might be further utilised in informal settlements in the global South.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P00072X/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1937739 Studentship ES/P00072X/1 30/09/2017 29/04/2022 Jessica Goodenough