This paper documents an exceptional research partnership developed between the Vuntut Gwitchin Government (VGG) in Old Crow, Yukon, with a group of scientists to examine northern food security and health as part of a larger, multidisciplinary International Polar Year (IPY) research program. We focus on the elements that enabled a successful community-researcher relationship. Study design. The VGG led the development of the research and acted as Principal Investigator on the IPY grant. The multidisciplinary collaboration spanned the physical, biological and health sciences, including issues related to food security.
The food security and health component of this research was carried out using a series of complementary methods, including focus groups, structured interviews, a household questionnaire, an interactive workshop, community meetings, transcript analysis and a caribou flesh exposure assessment.
Results from the food security component are informing local and regional adaptation planning. The legacy of the research collaboration includes a number of results-based outputs for a range of stakeholders, a community-based environmental monitoring program, long-term research relationships and improved community capacity.
The type of collaboration described here provides a useful model for new types of participatory health research with northern communities.
Because of a lack of transportation infrastructure, Old Crow has the highest food costs and greatest reliance on traditional food species for sustenance of any community in Canada's Yukon Territory. Environmental, cultural, and economic change are driving increased perception of food insecurity in Old Crow.
To address community concerns regarding food security and supply in Old Crow and develop adaptation strategies to ameliorate their impact on the community.
A community adaptation workshop was held on October 13, 2009, in which representatives of different stakeholders in the community discussed a variety of food security issues facing Old Crow and how they could be dealt with. Workshop data were analyzed using keyword, subject, and narrative analysis techniques to determine community priorities in food security and adaptation.
Community concern is high and favored adaptation options include agriculture, improved food storage, and conservation through increased traditional education. These results were presented to the community for review and revision, after which the Vuntut Gwitchin Government will integrate them into its ongoing adaptation planning measures.