Encountering Food in the Field, Centering it in Development Studies

For the past five years, I’ve been studying agricultural development in Ghana. Lately my specific focus has been on genetically modified crops, the people who wish to commercialize them, people who are opposing them, and the people who are supposed to use them, farmers.

At the heart of my research is food. After all, as my Ghanaian friends and interlocutors often tell me, food and agriculture are deeply interconnected; you cannot talk about one without the other.

And so, one of the most rewarding parts about doing this research is the food I encounter. The food I eat alone at restaurants and stalls. The food served by a friend on a visit. The food that nourishes the body after a long, hot day of interviews. And the food that introduces your tongue to tastes you never knew.

I appreciate these moments, probably far more that I’m able to express at the time. For me, eating in the field is always a moment of exploration; even when I’m eating something I’ve eaten a hundred times or that I thought I knew well, I’m always learning something new.

I suppose that’s one reason why I get frustrated when I read reports of food and agriculture in places like Ghana that focus seemingly only deficiencies. For instance, professionals concerned with nutrition often say that Ghanaian staple crops have little nutritional value. However when I see a staple, a yam for instance, my first question is always, what is it served with? What’s in the soup or the stew that accompanies the starch? What is the name of this particular soup? How did the cook learn to make it? And what makes her soup stand out from her neighbor’s?

These questions drive my desire to continue this work not because I want to be the one answering them necessarily, but because I think they need to become more common place in our lexicon of nutrition, agricultural development and food security.

With that said, here are a few favorite food photos from around Ghana (scroll over for description):

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