The University of Edinburgh
The SyrianFoodFutures project aimed to establish a network of diverse expertise between Syrian, Turkish & UK researchers, practitioners & decision-makers so that local cultural & technical knowledge & experience can be incorporated into socio-economic development & reconstruction programmes to ensure a successful transition away from humanitarian provision of short-term food supplies & agriculture inputs towards long-term contingency planning for food security & adequate nutrition.
Sustainable Development Goal attainment is severely compromised not only in fragile & conflict-affected countries (FCAS, such as Syria) but also in LMIC countries which host their refugee populations (such as Turkey, Jordan & Lebanon). Under conditions of protracted conflict, food production, availability, distribution & consumption is compromised with attendant effects on food insecurity & malnutrition. There is also extensive loss of local knowledge, connection & expertise as academics are displaced from high risk areas as a matter of safety & security. Syrian academics in exile in the Levant are not always included in intelligence gathering & analysis activities informing humanitarian responses to the crisis. Furthermore, certain cultures of expertise (such as the arts & humanities) are often de-prioritised by decision-makers & funding bodies in favour of investments in projects which improve physical capital (infrastructure, technology & agricultural inputs) & natural resources to address immediate humanitarian food & health security needs. As a result, relevant, context-specific intelligence & expertise may inadvertently be missing from IGO, NGO- or government-led social & development programmes.
This project has strengthened partnerships between UK researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh, Kent & Aberdeen, & Syrian academics Council for At-Risk Academics (Syria Programme) who are living in Syria & in exile in Turkey, Jordan & Lebanon. It facilitated opportunities to build trusted relationships between scientists, academics & decision-makers to promote integration of cultural & technical knowledge & expertise in international decision-making & strategy development efforts for long-term future of Syria. We used foresighting approaches (e.g. scenario planning) to create a platform for dialogue between diverse groups of stakeholders, in which we will explored a vision for the long-term future for agriculture & food production in Syria and co-construced sustainable, locally-informed strategies for research & education to meet future needs. This approach was grounded by foundation research led by Syrian academics (from the arts & humanities & agriculture & food security networks within the Cara Syria Programme) to explore the history & impact of cultural & religious practice on agriculture & food production, preparation & consumption through different disciplinary lenses – including Syrian folklore & music. This was complemented by ethnographic research about the impact of the conflict on current food environments (in Syria, Turkey, Jordan & Lebanon). The Syrian Humming Project sought to commemorate the accompanying emotional & psychological aspects of food (in)security through an interactive online soundscape developed from a collection of hums & related ethnographic narratives from displaced Syrian communities so that these collective memories, will not be forgotten in the future.
The network and knowledge developed during this project have led to two further research projects; one examining refugee labour under lockdown (https://www.onehealthfieldnetwork.org/refugee-labour-under-lockdown ) and the other looking at Syrian harvest songs (https://www.onehealthfieldnetwork.org/field-songs ) Read more about the SyrianFoodFutures project at https://www.onehealthfieldnetwork.org/syrianfoodfutures .
SyrianFoodFutures is part of The One Health FIELD Network research programme. The latter is a diverse network of researchers, practitioners and decision makers, aiming to support research projects that explore Food Security as a One Health issue in Fragile and Confict Affected Areas. Read more about the One Health FIELD Network at https://www.onehealthfieldnetwork.org/ .
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