Carla Johnston is a Ph.D. Candidate and a Doctoral Fellow at the Balsillie School of International Affairs. Her research explores the processes of including Indigenous knowledge and practices in food systems governance from the local to the global scale, and the connections between these scales.
More sustainable, resilient and just food systems are needed throughout the world. To transform food systems, governance from the local to the global scale will play a critical role. Yet many of our current governance systems continue to marginalize Indigenous peoples, their food systems, knowledge, and practices. This is a significant missed opportunity, as Indigenous food systems are holistically embedded in their local environments, foster biodiversity, provide robust livelihoods, and there is much to be learned from Indigenous food systems for reimagining more inclusive governance processes.
Carla’s research asks: What governance processes are needed at the local and global scale to meaningfully incorporate Indigenous knowledge and ways of being, and how can these scales be better connected? This question is grounded in Indigenous resurgence literature, which posits that Indigenous peoples can influence global scale policy by first rebuilding their way of life in their local communities. Further, counter-hegemonic and post-modern democracy theories are used to problematize the ability of current global food governance processes to meaningfully include Indigenous peoples, as well as to reimagine governance alternatives that promote co-existence among many different ways of life.
This research includes three case studies to examine Indigenous knowledge and practices in food systems governance from global to the local. Two cases use Participatory Action Research to work with Sambaa K’e First Nation (SKFN) and Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation (KTFN) in the Northwest Territories, Canada. With SKFN, Carla is co-creating a local Agroecology Plan with guiding principles based in Dene law and values. Carla and KTFN are working together to gather Indigenous knowledge on traditional edible plants to support KTFN’s vision of creating an agroforestry food forest around their community. This research builds on long-term collaborative relationships with these two First Nations, including Carla’s previous work supporting them with local climate change adaptation planning and food growing initiatives in the community.
For the third case study, Carla draws on 4 years of participant observation at the UN Committee on World Food Security and the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, as well as interviews with global advocates to explore opportunities for Indigenous peoples to engage more meaningfully in global food governance spaces. Altogether, this research provides evidence for governance alternatives that can improve the inclusion of Indigenous peoples from the local to the global scale.