McNamara, who has degrees in architecture and environmental studies from Princeton University, is interested in the spatial aspects of these farms. She says urban farming is not taken seriously by most agriculturalists because there hasn’t been an economic need for cities to embrace it. Instead, urban gardens are generally seen as a supplement for other food sources. But in post-crisis recovery, urban farming can be essential to people’s welfare. For example, New Orleans experienced a similar phenomenon
after Hurricane Katrina, McNamara says, when open space was converted to urban farms.
“I think the current food system is headed for disaster,” she observed. “We need to pay more attention to urban agriculture, not as a supplement, but as an actual food source.”
Other researchers have studied organopónicos
, but little attention has been paid to the architectural aspects of these urban gardens. McNamara is interested in whether the lessons learned in Cuba can be replicated in other places such as Haiti, another geographically-isolated, post-disaster island. “Are there elements of this we can implement preemptively?” she asked.
ccording to Deepti Chatti ’19 Ph.D., an engineer by training who employs both qualitative and quantitative research methods, people living in rural India often use three or four different cook stoves depending on the season, or for cooking a particular dish. There are also cultural reasons to use one stove over another. For example, despite the fact that most of her subjects have access to electricity, wood-burning mud stoves — which hold spiritual significance for local people — are used all year long.
International actors — NGOs, policy makers, and others — know that local people use multiple stoves, and understand the challenges in choosing one stove to replace all the others, she says. And yet, they continue to work on these projects with academic researchers. Her research seeks to understand why.
“There are so many other actors outside the household who are interested in what’s going on in the household that I feel like there’s something really interesting happening there,” she said. “And I’d miss out on the story if I just studied one or the other.”
You can follow all of the TRI fellows
through their summer blogs, which will be posted on the TRI website.