The greenhouse in Klemtu after being restored.


SFU researchers’ SSHRC funding to bolster First Nations food sovereignty

September 21, 2020

By Shradhha Sharma

SFU researchers are among recipients of $4 million in funding grants announced by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) today. The funding is aimed at facilitating research into COVID-19’s social, cultural and economic impacts.

The Partnership Engage Grants will fund research and data gathering to help steer a post-pandemic economic and social recovery across Canada.

SFU Resource and Environmental Management faculty Zafar Adeel and Tammara Soma have received year-long funding for their project entitled, “COVID-19 - Nutrition through Engagement and Agricultural Technologies (N-EAT).” They’ll work with the B.C. northern coastal community of the Kitasoo First Nation in Klemtu to develop food, water and energy resilience.

The project began in mid-2018 and also involves students from SFU Embark Sustainability, which focuses on advancing sustainability leadership among students through its grant, advocacy and student-designed programming.

“Our eventual goal is to replicate this pilot project in other B.C. First Nation communities and eventually expand it through a wider footprint across Canada,” says Adeel, executive director, SFU Pacific Water Research Centre.

The planter boxes outside the greenhouse in Klemtu.

Food security expert Soma, who is also the director and co-founder of SFU Food Systems Lab, and project co-lead, says she hopes to use her research expertise to help the community achieve Indigenous food sovereignty.

So far, the N-EAT project has helped the community restore a greenhouse and install planter boxes to enhance community knowledge about nutrition.

Students from Embark Sustainability collaborated with the community over the summer to produce guide books on how to grow and harvest food without using chemicals. They also created a recipe book—a living document—that includes recipes based on the produce the N-EAT team has helped the community grow.

Soma has also led workshops to educate community members on food security, with students playing a critical role in building a knowledge base that the community can rely on longer term.

“The community members already have a lot of expertise, so our role is also about building organisational capacity,” says Soma. “In our role as facilitators, we help community members mobilise their knowledge and expertise.”

Community members working with the N-EAT team to build planter boxes.

However, the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 have made it challenging to continue some of this work.

“Food security in Klemtu is quite tenuous and the reason is that all their food is brought on ferries once a week,” explains Adeel.

The restrictions have also shown the inherent vulnerabilities in the community’s food, energy and economic supply chains. The N-EAT team hopes to use the SSHRC funding to help build a lasting and sustainable business model.

“What we want for these communities is to achieve food, water and energy security and we want them to be at a point where when our team walks away, they should be able to sustain everything we have built together,” says Adeel.

SSHRC-PEG funding for other SFU research projects

Other faculty at SFU have also received funding from the SSHRC for research projects that will help study and gauge the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The projects include:

  • COVID-19: Mapping Canada's potential to shift to a cycling nation post-pandemic through a Canada-wide, coordinated bike count. 
    Meghan WintersHealth Sciences
  • COVID-19: Mental health needs and technological interventions for social connectedness amongst older adults.
    Theodore CoscoGerontology
    Andrew SixsmithGerontology
    Andrew WisterGerontology
    Carolyn SparreyMechatronic Systems Engineering
    Thecla SchiphorstInteractive Arts and Technology
  • Storied lives: An impact study of COVID-19 on seniors and their community support services.
    Ching-Chiu Lin
    Quincy Qingwen Wang
  • COVID-19: Shaping Public Health Norms with Government Communications
    Mark PickupPolitical Science
The N-EAT project team with the Kitasoo Band Council leadership and donors during a November 2019 workshop. (From L to R): Ralph Turfus, Andy Wright, Pablo Vimos (Master gardner, Embark Sustainability), Isaiah Robinson (Kitasoo Councillor), Chief Roxanne Robinson (Kitasoo Council), Lama Mugabo (Field Projects Manager, N-EAT), Kitasoo community member, Zafar Adeel (Executive Director, SFU PWRC), Allison Giannaros (Strategic Planner, N-EAT) Seated: Kerry Gibson (Partnerships Manager, N-EAT).