Western New York native and urban planner Erin Sweeney has been awarded a Fulbright Student Scholar Research Award to plan policy frameworks that support small-scale farmers in and around Singapore.
Ms Sweeney will be based at Murdoch University’s Singapore Centre for Research in Innovation, Productivity and Technology for 10 months, where she will work with farmers and policymakers to support more resilient food supply chains in Southeast Asia.
“Although Singapore is among the most food-secure countries in the world, it imports 90 percent of its food, making it vulnerable to external shocks,” Ms Sweeney said.
“Using a mixed methods approach and through collaboration with public, private and civil society sectors, my research will explore how Singaporean policies might effectively support Southeast Asian farmers’ capacity to remain economically viable in the face of rapid demographic, environmental, and socio-political change.”
Small-scale farming system to receive boost
Ms Sweeney hopes her research will help elevate Singapore into becoming a regional leader in food systems planning, which involves a farm-to-fork approach. She will explore urban planning policy solutions that protect the economic viability of small-scale farming across the region, and hopes to contribute to the application of urban planning tools to foster resilient food systems in similar settings around the world.
Growing up in the rural, agricultural community of Geneseo, New York, her interest in food and farming began during her childhood. There she witnessed directly the importance of farming and an effective food supply chain for a region’s economic health and wellbeing.
She has worked in community settings around the world, including teaching for a year in Bogotá, Colombia. Earlier this year she conducted field research in the rural regions of Odisha in India and Clarendon in Jamaica to better understand the challenges smallholder farmers face in different contexts.
Ms Sweeney arrived in Singapore after completing her master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University at Buffalo, New York in May.
Murdoch Director Chris Vas said Ms Sweeney’s wealth of knowledge in the food futures sector represented a great acquisition for Murdoch Singapore.
“Erin will bring her sense of humility and readiness to learn to Singapore,” Dr Vas said. “As part of her research, she will interview 30 to 40 farmers to understand current obstacles for farmers in regional food supply chains and identify urban planning policy solutions.”