Rachel Bezner Kerr

Adjunct Research Professor

Research Interests

My primary research area is in international development, focusing on the region of southern and eastern Africa. Within the broad field of international development, my own areas of specialization are social and environmental inequalities and community-based, participatory research related to agriculture, health and nutrition in Malawi. My research is done in collaboration with smallholder farmers and a hospital in northern Malawi, as part of a participatory research project called ‘Soils, Food and Healthy Communities project’ based out of Ekwendeni Hospital. I have been the Research Coordinator for the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities Project in Malawi for the last five years (see www.soilandfood.org for more information). This multidisciplinary research and development project in Malawi examines the multiple social, environmental and medical aspects of child health and nutrition, involving nutritionists, agricultural scientists, farmers, medical personnel and NGO staff. My own research will focus on four main themes in the coming years:

  1. the linkages between HIV/AIDS affected families, agricultural practices, food security and health, and strategies for improving health and food security of HIV-affected families;
  2. historical and contemporary perspectives on the increased use of drought-tolerant crops such as sorghum and millet;
  3. the role of multinational corporations in shaping agricultural policy and programming in southern Africa; and
  4. participatory educational processes to improve child nutrition, food security and soil fertility.

Publications (past 7 years)

Refereed Journals

Lin, B., Chappell, M.J., Vandermeer, J., Smith, G., Quintero, E., Bezner Kerr, R., Griffith, D.M., Ketcham, S., Latta, C., McMichael, P., McGuire, K., Nigh, R., Rocheleau, D., Soluri, J. and Perfecto, I. (accepted) 'Effects of industrial agriculture on climate change and the mitigation potential of small-scale agroecological farms' CAB Reviews

Bezner Kerr, R.2012 'Lessons from the Green Revolution for Africa' Progress in Development Studies 12: 213-229

Snapp, S.S., Blackie, M.J., Gilbert, R.A., Bezner Kerr, R. and Kanyama-Phiri, G.Y. 2010 'Biodiversity can support a greener revolution in Africa' Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI:10.1073/pnas.1007199107

Mkandawire, P., Luginaah, I. and Bezner-Kerr, R. 2010 ‘Deadly Divide: Malawi's Policy Debate on HIV/AIDS and Condoms' Policy Sciences 44(1): 81-102 DOI 10.1007/s11077-010-9111-5

Bezner Kerr, R.,  Berti, P.R. and Shumba, L. 2010 'Effects of Participatory Agriculture and Nutrition project on Child Growth in Northern Malawi' Public Health Nutrition (Cambridge University Press) DOI:10.1017/S1368980010002545

Bezner Kerr, R. and Mkandawire, P. 2010 'Imaginative Geographies of Gender and HIV/AIDS: Moving Beyond Neoliberalism' Geojournal DOI: 10.1007/s10708-010-9353-y

Bezner Kerr, R. 2010 'Groundnuts as an ‘Economic Crop’ or ‘wife of the home’ in Northern Nyasaland' Journal of Historical Geography 36: 79-89

Msachi, R., Dakishoni, L. and Bezner Kerr, R. 2009 'Soils, food and healthy communities: working towards food sovereignty in Malawi' Journal of Peasant Studies 36 (3): 700-706

Satzinger, F., Bezner Kerr, R. and Shumba, L. 2009 'Farmers integrate nutrition, social issues and agriculture through knowledge exchange in northern Malawi' Ecology of Food and Nutrition 48(5): 369-382

Bezner Kerr, R., Dakishoni, L. and Shumba, L. 2008 'We Grandmothers Know Plenty: Breastfeeding, Complementary Feeding and the Multifaceted Role of Grandmothers in Malawi' Social Science and Medicine 66(5), 1095-1105

Bezner Kerr, R., Berti, P. and Chirwa, M. 2007 'Breastfeeding and Mixed Feeding Practices in Malawi: Timing, Reasons, Decision Makers, and Child Health Consequences' Food and Nutrition Bulletin 28 (1): 90-99

Bezner Kerr, R., Snapp, S., Chirwa, M., Shumba, L. and  Msachi, R. 2007 'Participatory Research on Legume Diversification with Malawian Smallholder Farmers for Improved Human Nutrition and Soil Fertility'  Experimental Agriculture 43(4): 1-17

Bezner Kerr, R. 2005 'Informal labor and social relations in northern Malawi: the theoretical challenges and implications of ganyu labor' Rural Sociology 70 (2): 167-187

Bezner Kerr, R. 2005 'Food security, entitlements and gender relations in northern Malawi' Journal of Southern African Studies 31 (1): 53-74

Chapters in Books

Bezner Kerr, R., Msachi, R., Dakishoni, L., Shumba, L., Nkhonya, Z., Berti, P.R., Bonatsos, C., Chione, E., Mithi, M., Chitaya, A., Maona, E. and Pachanya, S. 2011 'Growing Healthy Communities: Farmer Participatory Research to Improve Child Nutrition, Food Security and Soils in Ekwendeni, Malawi' in Ecohealth Research in Practice: Innovative Applications of an Ecosystem Approach to Health ed D. Charron (Springer, IDRC: Ottawa/New York)

Sikstrom, L.R., Bezner Kerr, R. and Dakishoni, L. 2011 'Crossing Boundaries: Multiple Meanings of the Ilness ‘Moto’ in Northern Malawi' in Infant Feeding Beliefs and Practices: A Cross-Cultural Perspective ed Pranee Liamputtong (Springer: New York) 211-230

Bezner Kerr, R. 2010 'Seed Sovereignty: Unearthing the Cultural and Material Struggles over Seed in Malawi' in Food Sovereignty: International Perspectives ed A. Desmarais and H. Wittman (Blackpoint: Ferndale) 134-151

Bezner Kerr, R. 2010 'The Land is Changing: Contested Agricultural Narratives in Northern Malawi" in Critical Struggles for Social Change ed. P. McMichael (Florence: Routledge Press) 98-115

Luginaah, I.N., Weis, T., Galaa, S., Nkrumah, M.K., Bezner-Kerr, R. and Bagah, D. 2009 'Environment, Migration, and Food Security in the Upper West Region of Ghana' in Environment and Health in Sub-Saharan Africa: Managing an Emerging Crisis ed I.N. Luginaah and E.K. Yanful, E. K. (Springer: Netherlands) 25-38

Bezner Kerr, R. 2008. "Gender and Agrarian Inequality at the Local Scale" in Agricultural Systems: Agroecology and Rural Innovation ed S. Snapp and B. Pound (San Diego: Elsevier Press) 279-306

Supervised Graduate Students and Theses Titles

PhD Students Year Title
D. Najjar
(co-supervised)
Current Women and Access to Land in Egypt's New Lands
H. Nyantakyi-Frimpong Current A political ecology of food security and agriculture in Upper-West Region, Ghana
I. Ajibade
(co-supervised)
2013 Climate Change and Human Rights: A Case Study of Vulnerability and Adaptation in Coastal Communities in Lagos, Nigeria
MA Students Year Title
J. Vansteenkiste 2011 Participatory action research on food security with urban women in Cap Haitien, Haiti: A feminist political ecology approach
B. Curry
(co-supervised)
2008 Geographies of Infant Feeding Decisions
L. Riley
(co-supervised)
2008 Children's Geography and the Everyday Lives of Orphans in Malawi
MSc StudentsYear Title
F. Mambulu
(co-supervsied)
Current Agricultural Interventions as a Means to Food Security: Experiences of HIV/AIDS affected Household
E. Chilanga
(co-supervised)
2013 Assessing the Impact of Nutrition Education on Gender Roles and Child Care in Northern Malawi