Ways of Knowing: Towards Biodiverse and Food Secure Agricultural Landscapes

June 30, 2020

The PWIAS international roundtable titled Ways of Knowing was led by Hannah Wittman, Professor at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, to create a vision of agroecosystems and food systems where farmers, citizens, consumers, scientists, and decision-makers collaborate to evaluate, understand, monitor, and manage the links between biodiversity and food security.

Our goal was to collectively envision a research/action agenda for the next 5-10 years around the intersections of agrobiodiversity and food security. Participants included academics, NGO advisors, and consultants from Canada, the U.S.A., Germany, and Brazil; along with UBC professors, postdocs, graduate students, and undergraduates. They also represented a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, sociology, agroecology, genetics, botany, socioecological systems, global change, land systems, law, and forestry.

Tu’wusht Garden, UBC Farm, Vancouver

We began with a tour of UBC Farm and Botanical Gardens to explore agricultural biodiversity on campus and a team-building tree canopy walk, followed by a reception at the Liu Institute for Global Studies. Short talks, group activities, and breakouts served to seed and cross-pollinate new ideas. Our public keynote presentation by Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), entitled “Knowledge from Agroecological Experience” was well attended.

Community-managed embung (reservoir), Kertasari District, Indonesia

The same event launched an international photo exhibit entitled “Nature & Nourishment: The Agrobiodiversity and Food Security Nexus,” showing how agrobiodiversity plays a critical role in the production of food, maintenance of human livelihoods and biocultural traditions, and is essential to protect the resilient ability of communities to sustain culturally and ecologically diverse landscapes for food sovereignty. The exhibit is on display at the UBC MacMillan Building (MCML) and online.

Colourful display in Negros Occidental province, Philippines

Our roundtable provided a valuable opportunity to explore different knowledge systems, conceptual understandings, and connect these approaches to identify key pathways towards sustainable agroecosystems and food systems.

An exciting topic on agroforestry emerged that focuses on: (1) the usefulness of agroforestry approaches for improving agrobiodiversity and food security, and (2) their potential to connect different ways of knowing and facilitate collaborative scientist- farmer research projects. This resulted in plans for an innovative agroforestry research project at the UBC Farm. Agroforestry became a major pillar of our renewed Diversified Agroecosystem Research Excellence Cluster for 2020-2021.

Report: Hannah Wittman
Images: Martin Dee (Canada), Yudi Bachri (Indonesia), Amber Heckelman (Philippines)