Global Food Crisis Topic of Anthropology Journal

USF professors contribute work on various parts of the world   


 By Barbara Melendez



TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 28, 2010) – How food reaches hungry people would seem to be the primary concern of farmers, food markets and governments, but anthropologists have a contribution to make as well. Their voices are welcome particularly in light of relatively recent food riots and dire warnings about further shortages and rather few far-reaching effective solutions in practice or in sight. 


University of South Florida anthropologists recently contributed to the NAPA Bulletin, a peer-reviewed journal published by the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology, in its most recent issue, “The Global Food Crisis: New Insights into an Age-Old Problem.”  David Himmelgreen, an associate professor in USF’s Department of Anthropology is the volume editor, and co-author with USF anthropologist Nancy Romero-Daza on “Anthropological Approaches to the Global Food Crisis: Understanding and Addressing the ‘Silent Tsunami’" and “Dealing with the Global Food Crisis in Local Settings: Non-intensive Agriculture in Lesotho, Southern Africa”  with Romero-Daza, USF graduate student Charlotte A. Noble and associate professor David Turkon from Ithaca College. Another USF faculty member, Rebecca Zarger, wrote “Mosaics of Maya Livelihoods: Readjusting to Global and Local Food Crises.”


The settings for examination of the food crisis range from the United States to Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Haiti. The issues touched on range from the causes of piracy, to the uses of hunger as a weapon, the propagation of home urban gardens, the successes and problems of non-governmental agencies, and the efficacy of Famine Early Warning Systems. Overall, they reveal how global forces are realized at the local level.


“In 2008, we saw food riots and demonstrations that foreshadowed the global economic recession we’re going through right now,” said Himmelgreen. “Before, during, and since we’ve been experiencing skyrocketing food and fuel prices which has led to civil unrest in some poorer countries but the social safety net in countries like ours is showing tears as food pantries are running out of food and food assistance is being stretched too its limit. Practicing and applied anthropologists bring a particularly informed perspective to look at and understand the chronic nature of food insecurity and the big picture of global food policies and the economic restructuring that have led to what we’re going through today.”


In its 45-year history, the World Food Program (WFP) has never experienced a bigger challenge as the one posed by the increase in world food prices, which it describes as a "silent tsunami," one that threatens millions with hunger and starvation. The NAPA Bulletin takes readers to Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, and the United States to examine the food crisis. Throughout the volume, all of the authors suggest applying anthropological principles and practices to help combat the global food crisis    


With Haiti in the news, the article by John Mazzeo takes on particular relevance.  “Laviche: Haiti’s Vulnerability to the Food Crisis” explains where Haiti stood before the earthquake and how the marketplace, food prices, and dependence on imported food conspire to promote food insecurity there.


Various articles touch on rural and urban migration issues, rising food prices, increasing food production at the household level, economic changes and policies, and the need for planning in light of past and present relationships to land and water resources and the potential for conflict. Through research conducted for NGOs, the anthropologists reveal noteworthy trends and developments that can lead to a better understanding of and perhaps forestall the conditions at play between hunger and conflict.


“Anthropologists are in a unique position to focus on the relationships among those who produce, distribute, and consume food – factoring in cultural, social, economic and health factors. In sharing our findings we can help policymakers and relief organizations institute effective strategies and programs to combat food insecurity. The analyses in this volume are very useful in that regard,” Himmelgreen concluded.


For more information about this issue of the journal, please contact:  David Himmelgreen, (813) 974-1204 or


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.