Dr. Kristin Lozanski. Photo courtesy King’s University College

Canada’s food security affects Jamaica

  • March 14, 2024

There is no enigmatic reason why Dr. Kristin Lozanski has been highly successful in researching the experiences of Jamaicans participating in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) in Ontario’s Niagara region over the past decade.

The method to her fruitful results? Showing up.

“For the first two years, I just had to show that I would show up,” said Lozanski, an associate professor of sociology at King’s University College, federated with Western University in London, Ont. “I don’t think there is any quick way to build relationships. I would head up to Niagara six to eight times a year for three days a week. I would be available whenever they needed me since they have unpredictable work schedules.”

Lozanski grew up just north of Langdon, a farming area in southern Alberta. Upon arriving in Canada’s largest province to teach, she was keen to examine the differences between the grain farming she experienced during her youth and the labour-intensive fruit and vegetable farming in southern Ontario. She viewed studying these migrant-driven farms as an opportunity to marry the adventures of her youth with her academic interests in citizenship and inclusion and exclusion in Canadian society.

All of her time and effort have unearthed compelling information about the impacts of the SAWP that is outside the public consciousness. The only element about this program that many Canadians might know about is that the workers receive remittances they send to their families back home. Lozanski said there is so much more to understand.

“The food security of Canada and Jamaica are inextricably tied. Canada relies on the labour of Jamaican agricultural workers for crops for domestic consumption and export,” explained Lozanski. “While participation in the SAWP enables participants to send remittances to their families and communities, the preferential selection of farmers for the SAWP means that Jamaica is losing 9,000–10,000 of its own farmers for up to eight months each year. These workers report significant impacts of their SAWP participation on their food production in Jamaica. Jamaican farmers participating in SAWP may rely on the unpaid labour of their families and/or scale back their farms. Some even abandon their farms. This means that Canada’s food security may put Jamaica’s food security at risk.”

Lozanski will continue her research in 2024 with visits to Jamaica in April and November. Recently, she became the first King’s faculty member selected for the Faculty Mobility for Partnership Building Program (FMPBP), part of Global Affairs Canada’s International Scholarships Program. The FMPBP is designed to support Canadian postsecondary educators with their short-term research or teaching activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. The FMPBP views funding these projects as a way to foster and advance partnerships between postsecondary institutions.

During her two 10-day trips to Jamaica, Lozanski will continue building a relationship with the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Mona, a neighbourhood in the southeast Saint Andrew parish. The goal is to dialogue with local faculty about the potential for courses and experiential learning opportunities jointly taught by King’s and UWI faculty.

Lozanski will primarily spend her time furthering her scholarship. She is guided by a philosophy of “not being someone who is extracting data from research participants.” As much as possible, she endeavours to follow the workers’ lead. .

“Through my direct contacts and the contacts I have through those workers, I’m looking to meet with people to find out about the farms. ‘Can you show me the farm? Can you tell me what happened to the farm? What did your farm used to look like? What does it look like now? Can you expand your farm? Who does the work on the farm?’ ”

Lozanski said she is empowered by the support she receives from King’s. She believes King’s “has an ethos in social justice, which draws from its Catholic identity.” The work done, said Lozanski, is “critical about social inequalities and is committed to making the world a better place and ensuring that people can live their lives in dignity.”

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