Monthly Archives: March 2015

Proposal for a Participatory Seaweed Garden and Reef

This post was written by Jeremy Evans, a doctoral student at the University of Brighton. It presents a summary of a proposal to develop a participatory seaweed garden and reef on a coastal site in West Sussex. You can read more about Jeremy’s interests and research here.

Proposal for a Participatory Seaweed Garden and Reef

Responding to the coastal pressures of rising sea levels, population increase, food sovereignty need and lack of access to marine nature, this project proposes to develop a participatory designed three dimensional dive garden near to Brighton. This is situated in the framework of continuous productive urban landscapes (Viljoen, 2012). Anchored by a sculpture reef, the sea garden will allow for the growth of seaweed for community food sovereignty and security (Desmariais, 2012). The evolving sculptural aspects of the reef, facilitated by natural processes, will develop biodiversity and habitats for marine life. Co design of reef aspects will allow for a sense of community ownership of the project, as well as emotionally durable design (Chapman, 2006).

The programme will explore the cultural ecosystem services of knowledge in regard to community learning systems and the seaweed habitat, mending the metabolic rift between society and nature (Schneider and McMicheal, 2011).

Additionally it aims to propagate edible species as palmara palmata and sacharina latissima, which would be seeded within ropes. These ropes would float on the surface, attached to buoys, themselves chained below to the artificial reef.

The ecological benefits would see the creation of spawning and breeding site for different species, as well as evasion spaces and feeding.

Close Community links will bring socio economic benefits, employment and healthy food. Furthermore organised in a non hierarchical cooperative fashion, the harvesting benefits will allow for the project to be self supporting long term.

Through continued interaction with the marine environment through kayaking, diving, and boat access those involved will gain benefits to a sense of wellbeing, as well as new identities as participatory dive gardeners of the benthos and the water column.


Food Waste and Brown Bananas

On Tuesday the 17th of March 2015 the student-run Foodies Society at the University of Sussex hosted a panel discussion as part of the One World Week celebrations. The discussion was on the theme of Food: Where are We Now? Where are We Going?

The panelists for the discussion were food author Colin Spencer, 5-a-day pioneer Dr Carol Williams (University of Brighton), and representatives from The Real Junk Food Project Brighton.

Discarding Edible Food

Part of the discussion focused on the amount of food which is wasted at a local and global scale. The Real Junk Food Project collects surplus food from supermarkets, and increasingly from households. The food they collect is often close to or just beyond the ‘Use By’ or ‘Best Before’ dates marked on the packaging which means supermarkets can no longer sell it to customers. This doesn’t, however, mean that the food produce is unsuitable for consumption.

The Real Junk Food Project collects this surplus food which would otherwise be wasted and sent to landfill. The food produce is prepared into delicious meals, snacks and treats and sold at cafes which employ a ‘pay as you feel’ policy whereby customers can pay whatever they consider the food they have eaten to be worth. If individuals are not able to pay anything they are still able to eat and can help out in the cafe by doing washing up or other things to help out.

The Real Junk Food Project is currently active in 35 cities internationally. In Brighton, the Project collects approximately 1.9 tonnes of surplus food in a three-week period – that’s 1.9 tonnes of edible food that would have been thrown away in one city in just three weeks, and at the moment they are only collecting food surplus from a couple of supermarkets locally.

Brown bananas - would you eat them?

Brown bananas – would you eat them?

Brown Bananas

During the discussion Carol Williams outlined the history of nutritional advice around consumption of fruit juices and fruit smoothies and her ongoing research into this. In light of the discussion about food waste the panelists spoke about fresh fruit which is discarded because it is going soft or brown. Attention turned to bananas which are going brown, how frequently they are discarded as waste, and how they can be used to make delicious smoothies.

The panel held a quick poll of those in the room to see how many people would eat a banana which is brown and gooey. Most of the people in attendance said they would eat a brown banana.

BSUFN are now extending this informal poll. We want to know whether you would eat a brown, soft, or gooey banana. Would you eat the bananas in the photo above or would you throw them away? Let us know by commenting below, tweeting us at @BSUFN using the hashtag #BSUFNbananas, or by e-mail. We will share the outcome of this poll about food waste and brown bananas in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, if you are someone who doesn’t eat a soft brown banana, before throwing them away why not turn them into a fresh fruit smoothie or bake some banana bread as a little treat?

We look forward to hearing your thoughts. Thank you!

Past tense or present perfect? Diverging accounts of endangerment, conservation and ‘heritage’ vegetables in the media.

During the BSUFN Symposium 2015: The Diversity of Food Research last month, Abigail Wincott (College of Arts and Humanities, University of Brighton) presented her research on ‘heritage’ vegetables and the media. This post outlines her discussion. You can read more about Abigail’s research interests here.

Past tense or present perfect? Diverging accounts of endangerment, conservation and ‘heritage’ vegetables in the media.

This post is based on cultural studies research into the discourse of ‘heritage’ as it extends from monumental heritage conservation to the domain of food and lifestyle. It takes a discourse theoretical approach, so involves not only an analysis of words and images in texts, such as TV series, newspaper articles and tweets, but also sees objects, spaces and activities as part of discourse. The aim of the research is to get at how those symbolic and physical resources are used in the discourse of food heritage, to negotiate positions or roles for particular interest groups, such as heritage bodies, lifestyle journalists and consumers.

They are colourful and tasty. They are discarded by agri-business and free to swap and share. For this and many other reasons, the idea of ‘heritage’ vegetables has been mobilised by diverse groups in recent years, from lifestyle journalists to anti-poverty campaign groups, to critique and re-imagine contemporary food production systems. In its extension to the domain of grow-your-own vegetables we can see heritage being drawn away from a public ‘duty to the past’ (Smith 2006: 19) to the apparently individualising arena of consumption. The repositioning is not unchallenged though, and in this paper I would like to offer one illustration of that symbolic struggle: a comparison of two different models of organising the story of heritage vegetables in a range of publications. Public bodies such as NGOs and political lobbying groups organise the narrative in a linear fashion, where the best is in the past and trouble lies ahead. In contrast, the consumerist account found in the lifestyle media barely touches on the past, fuses present and future, and appears to put forward a problem for which the solution is already in hand. These two models suggest rather different ideas about the future of these crops, and who might be fit guardians of our food heritage.

Upcoming Food-Related Events at Sussex

  • Thursday 12th March 2015

Sussex Africa Centre seminar by Prof. Tony Binns, University of Otago

Formalizing urban agriculture in Africa: Evaluating case study evidence from Sierra Leone and Zambia

15:30 – 17:00 , Global Studies Resource Centre, Arts C, University of Sussex

Event details here.


  • Thursday 12th March 2015

Sussex Think Society talk

Where have we gone wrong with meat? Factory farming: our environment and health

Talk by Dil Peeling, Director of Public Affairs, Compassion in World Farming

16:30 – 18:00, GTS Lecture Theatre, Chichester 1, University of Sussex

Event details here.


  • Friday 13th March 2015

IDS Entomophagy Project Future Foods panel discussion

Do edible insects hold the key to future food and nutrition security?

13:00 – 14;30, Convening Space, IDS, University of Sussex

The panel discussion will be followed by an edible insects tasting session from 14:30 – 15:00.

Registration is essential. Event details and registration here.


  • Tuesday 17th March 2015

Sussex Foodies Society event for One World Week

One World Week Live Cooking with SussexFood

15:00 – 16:30, Jubilee Atrium, Jubilee Building, University of Sussex

Event details here.


  • Tuesday 17th March 2015

Sussex Foodies Society panel discussion for One World Week

Food: Where are we now? Where are we going?

Panelists will be food author Colin Spencer, 5-a-day pioneer Professor Carol Williams, and The Real Junk Food Project Brighton.

17:00, Room 103, Fulton Building, University of Sussex

Event details here.


Contested Framings of ‘Agricultural Research for Development’

During the BSUFN Symposium: The Diversity of Food Research last month, Ruth Segal (SPRU, University of Sussex) presented her ongoing doctoral research. This is a summary of her presentation and research.

Contested Framings of ‘Agricultural Research for Development’

The 2007-8 global food price crisis raised fresh concerns about the resilience of the global food supply and of national and local food security. There was renewed international policy interest in the functioning of the global agri-food system, and within that, on the role, direction and effectiveness of public international agricultural research (IAR). However, conflicting models of ‘development’ and different conceptualisations of ‘food security’ suggest different desired outputs from agricultural research.

This research aims to increase understandings of how different ways of framing contributions to debates about the global agri-food system (and different conceptualisations of ‘food security’) have affected decisions on the direction of public agricultural research at the global level. It will examine whether – and how – changing pressures on, and perceptions of, the food system are leading to new framings of the debate that might challenge, or reinforce, the mainstream ‘productionist’ paradigm.

The research will examine the changing role for, and mandate of, public International Agricultural Research (IAR) institutions in the light of changing structures and processes in the functioning and governance of the global food system. It will do this through an examination of current and historical attempts to reform agricultural research institutions, specifically the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), and ask how CGIAR has responded to changing pressures and new challenges.

It will examine CGIAR’s evolving understandings of its role in the provision of International Public Goods (IPGs); and how this role has been and is understood and negotiated amongst diverse actors in IAR including public, private, civil society, philanthropic and international institutions.

It will examine influences on the CGIAR reform process, and the mechanisms by which different perspectives gain and maintain dominance in shaping the direction of change in public agricultural research. It will examine how these changing relationships are shaping choices about the priorities of public IAR, and how those priorities fit within wider dynamics of change within the global agri-food system. It will consider the implications of the reform process for CGIAR’s intended beneficiaries, and for the contribution of IAR to reducing hunger and poverty.

Farmers as Producers…of Data: Participation and Visual Ethnography

During the BSUFN Symposium: The Diversity of Food Research held on the 4th of February 2015, doctoral student Rachael Taylor (SPRU, University of Sussex) presented one of the research methods she used when working with illiterate farmers in Northern Ghana. This is a  summary of her presentation.

Farmers as Producers … of Data: Participation and Visual Ethnography

Using Participatory Research Methods

Participatory research methods are increasing in popularity within development research as they give participants ownership of part of the research process. This has highlighted ethical issues raised by participation including equality, working with marginalised groups, and the extraction of data.

A photo taken by a farmer in Upper West Region, Ghana

A photo taken by a farmer in Upper West Region, Ghana

During Doctoral fieldwork in Northern Ghana, farmer groups were given cameras as part of the participatory research methods. Through the cameras, farmers became producers of data by photographing things they considered to capture concepts of change or importance. This method was useful when working with mostly illiterate farmers during cross-cultural fieldwork as translation was not required for the production of data. It enabled farmers to document their communities and farming activities without the researcher present, thus enabling a wider variety of perspectives to be incorporated into research data.

Visual Ethnography

The resulting photographs are being used to construct a visual ethnography for data analysis. Visual ethnography will analyse the content and context of the photos, allowing the pictures to speak a thousand words. The qualitative data from a visual ethnography process is supplementary to data produced by other research methods.

A photo taken by a farmer in Upper West Region, Ghana

A photo taken by a farmer in Upper West Region, Ghana

Visual ethnography originated as a process of analysing the researcher’s own photographs. This has been extended to creating qualitative data from analysis of image more broadly. As globalisation has spread and online and digital media have become commonplace, images are used for a multitude of purposes and can be found in many settings. Visual ethnography provides a method for incorporating analysis of the content, context, and purpose of image during fieldwork.

Challenges and Benefits

While distributing the cameras it became apparent that field staff and translators had never used a film camera and were only familiar with digital cameras. This meant there were challenges in demonstrating to farmers how to use the very basic film cameras. Furthermore, it appeared that there had been what is commonly termed a ‘technology-hop’ or technology ‘leap-frogging’ in that the use of cameras in Northern Ghana only became widespread with the availability of digital cameras. This not only meant that individuals didn’t know how to use a basic film camera but also meant that there was nowhere in Northern Ghana with a dark room to develop the negatives.

A photo taken by a farmer in Upper East Region, Ghana

A photo taken by a farmer in Upper East Region, Ghana

The lack of film processing in Northern Ghana meant that the photos had to be developed once in the UK. Due to this, it has not been possible to discuss the content and/or context of the photographs with the farmers who took them. Although the farmers will receive copies of the photos they took any discussion about them will occur too late to be incorporated as data in the research.

This experience demonstrated the eagerness of the farmers to get involved in the research process and their joy and excitement at the task they had. Farmers expressed pride in the photos they had taken and were keen to know what the outcome of the research will be.

Research participants dancing and singing following invitation to engage in the research. Photo taken by a farmer in Upper West Region, Ghana

Research participants dancing and singing following invitation to engage in the research. Photo taken by a farmer in Upper West Region, Ghana