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Nutritious crops for health and wealth: A feminist analysis of biofortified sweet potato promotion in Tanzania

Friday, January 17, 2020
9:30 AM – 11:00 AM
Mackintosh-Corry Hall
Room: D216
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Speaker:  Dr. Sheila Rao, MITACS Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Ottawa/Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC)

This talk critically examines nutritional health objectives in agricultural development through a feminist lens. From 1991-2016, a variety of development actors promoted the integration of biofortified sweet potato into cropping systems, diets and markets across Sub-Saharan Africa. Commonly described as Orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP), it is characterized as a food-based solution to vitamin A deficiency, and more broadly to malnutrition in children; that also offers income-generation opportunities for women. My research analyzes the intended and unintended results of this strategy in Mwasongwe village, Tanzania; its relation to the everyday lives of sweet potato producers; and how experiences with OFSP mediated their own dietary health strategies. Based on nine months of ethnographic fieldwork, I show how OFSP promotion and the narrowed interpretation of nutrition, reinforced gendered norms in food-related labour and resource allocation. I argue that broadening the perception of nutritional health beyond nutrient-uptake challenges these norms. An emphasis on ‘lishe’ or nourishment, highlights the diversity and complexity of the everyday social and economic interconnections between food, health and the environment.

Barbra Lalonde
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