Congratulations to our 2019 IDS Thesis Award Winners!

Astrid Galvez Ciani and Carolyn Grandy (pictured above from left to right respectively)

The Centre for Critical Development Studies is pleased to award the 2019 Best Thesis Prize to Astrid Galvez Ciani and Carolyn Grandy (pictured above from left to right respectively).

Astrid Galvez Ciani

Astrid completed her Bachelor of Arts in International Development Studies, within which she completed a 10-month placement in Costa Rica at The Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center. She also wrote an undergraduate research thesis analyzing the effects of a Payments for Environmental Services program on the socio-ecological wellbeing of smallholder coffee farmers in the three coffee-producing regions of La Brunca, Guanacaste, and Tarrazú in Costa Rica. Throughout her university career Astrid worked as a research assistant in integrative agroecology as well as rural and agricultural economics and development. Astrid aims to take her research findings back to Costa Rica to share with the policy-makers who created the program she evaluated and the coffee producers that participated in her research. She hopes to present her findings in future development conferences and to publish them in the near future.

Thesis Title:

Payments for Environmental Services (PES) in Costa Rica’s Coffee Agroforestry Landscapes: Exploring New Potential Models Through a Political Ecology Lens

Thesis Abstract:

Coffee has played a prominent Costa Rica’s development and underdevelopment. The structure of global coffee markets has tended to exacerbate inequality in the country, undermining the viability of smallholder farmers while large-scale coffee producers and corporate actors accrue most benefits due to their capacity to dominate the market and to overcome ecological challenges to production. In 2012 the Costa Rican government layered a Payments for Environmental Services (PES) program over this socio-economically stratified landscape. The program, which encourages the practice of agroecology, aims to rectify shortfalls that have plagued other PES initiatives, by re-conceptualizing payments as benefits and promoting a socio-ecological and participatory approach. Drawing upon policy documents, a focus group, and semi-structured interviews with coffee farmers, policymakers, and agricultural advisors, this paper evaluates the socio-ecological performance of Costa Rica’s PES for Established Coffee Agroforestry program (PES-AFS-COFFEE). I find that while this reconfigured PES initiative positively impacts the socio-ecological wellbeing of coffee farmers and other program goals, the impacts are constrained by pre-existing local and international political economic inequalities, prevalent funding conditionalities and the dominant discourse underpinning PES schemes, as well as administrative constraints. Analyzing an innovative PES program has implications for both international environmental policy and development practice.

Carolyn Grandy

Carolyn is a recent graduate of the IDS Co-op Specialist program.  She completed her eight-month co-op placement as a Research Intern with World Vision in Quito, Ecuador.  Carolyn conducted her thesis on the food truck industry in Quito to understand the political aspects of the industry and how it was related to Ecuador’s recession. Throughout her undergraduate degree in IDS, Carolyn became increasingly interested in transnational and international law.  To pursue this interest, she will begin studying at Osgoode Hall Law School in August 2019 in the Juris Doctor program.

Thesis Title:

Entrepreneurial Food Trucks in the North of Quito, Ecuador

Thesis Abstract:

Food truck microenterprises in Quito expanded rapidly throughout 2015 prior to any regulations existing for them.  Conflict ensued as restaurant owners and residents lobbied the municipal government to remove food trucks from operating nearby.  In 2016, Quito’s municipal government established regulated street spaces for food trucks, yet most food truck owners viewed these spaces as unconducive to business success. Through documentary research and semi-structured interviews with industry actors, this research aims to understand the political aspects of the industry, whether it emerged due to a lack of employment resulting from Ecuador’s recession, and whether it provided sustained and decent employment during the recession. I argue that Quito’s food truck industry partially emerged due to a lack of employment and was, for the most part, unsuccessful at providing sustained and decent employment for food truck owners due to a variety of factors which included the entry of too many food trucks in the market, powerful industry opponents, regulations that disfavoured the industry, high rents and concessions charged to food trucks, and the inability of food truck owners to effectively lobby or build alliances.  This research implies that Quito’s food truck industry reflects other food truck industries with regard to how the interests of restaurant owners and residents seem to be prioritized.