OIA is pleased to inform that Dr. Joanna Michel has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study The Role of Cultural Keystone Species in the Wellbeing of Displaced Women and their Families in Medellin, Colombia
Her research focuses on the intense process of internal displacement and rural-to-urban migration experienced during the past fifty years of armed conflict in Colombia. Ninety-three percent (93%) of the displaced population has been relocated to urban centers. As a result, over 70% of the Colombian population currently resides in urban areas. Adaptation to new environments is a multifaceted process and one poorly understood as it relates to culturally important plant species, also known as cultural keystone species, or CKS used for nutritional and medicinal purposes. This Fulbright sponsored research takes place in the city of Medellin; the second largest city in Colombia with a current population of over 2.5 million inhabitants. This a collaborative endeavor between the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Universidad de Antioquia. Research will occur over a four month period and will combine qualitative public health and ethnobotanical field methods to conduct interviews and focus groups with female heads of households living in some of Medellin’s poorest neighborhoods.
The overarching objectives for this research are to:
(1) Explore the role of women in internally displaced urban communities in Medellin, specifically the roles that they play in taking care of their families’ health care needs.
(2) Document and identify culturally important plants, or cultural keystone species- CKS, mentioned by women to take care of themselves and their families.
(3) Understand the effects of urban relocation on access and utilization of CKS.
(4) Evaluate the impact of urban gardens on women’s overall wellbeing and sense of place, as well as related changes to diet and plant-based medical practices .
The movement of refugees and internally displaced populations into urban areas continues to escalate across the globe. This study will contribute new information about the unique cultural beliefs and health needs of rural-to-urban displaced women and children in Colombia, and the role of culturally important plants and community gardens in improving their health and wellbeing. Such information can be used to inform public and private public health agencies about the needs of displaced populations, and promote the inclusion of female heads of households in community health programming and the formation of sustainable urban communities.
See below for a gallery of images provided by Dr. Michel.