Fraser, Evan

Dr. Evan Fraser
Professor; Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security; Director, Arrell Food Institute; Fellow of the Trudeau Foundation; Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society
PhD, University of British Columbia, 2002
519 824-4120 ext. 53011
Hutt 123

Food security under economic globalization and climate change; land use change;  integrated socio-economic / crop / climate modelling ; farmer behaviour.

Evan started thinking about agriculture and food systems while spending summers working on his grandfather’s fruit farm in Niagara.  There, he watched his stock-broker grandmother rake in an unconscionable amount of money on commissions from her clients’ investments while the farmers around were letting their crops rot because the cost of harvesting was higher than the cost of importing from the Southern US and Mexico. He decided, however, it was easier to write and talk about farming than actually try to make a living on it so passed on inheriting the family farm, opting instead for grad school.  He did degrees in forestry, anthropology and agriculture at UBC and UofT.  Since graduating, he worked in a policy institute with the Hon. Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, and began his academic career in 2003 in the UK where he worked on farming and climate change at the University of Leeds.   He is the author of approximately 70 scientific papers or book chapters on these topics, has written for the,,, the Walrus and the Ottawa Citizen, and has two popular non-fiction books about food and food security including:  Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations that was published by Simon and Schuster and shortlisted for the James Beard Food Literature Award.  Currently, he holds the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and is a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society and is the Director of the Arrell Food Institute

Over the next two generations, the globe faces an enormous human security challenge.  We must adapt to rapid economic and climate change by creating a food system that provides adequate and appropriate nutrition for 9 billion people in a way that does not compromise vital ecosystem services including biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration.  Within the broad area of “global food security in the 21st century,” Evan has spent his professional life developing an externally funded multi-disciplinary research programme on the links between food security, landuse, and global environmental/economic change.

In this, he has five distinct strands to his work.

1. What can we learn from past food security crisis in order to understand where we might be vulnerable today?

I have used historic cases to combine work from a number of disciplines (including comparative history, development studies, landscape ecology, ecological economics, and political science) to identify food systems “vulnerable” to environmental change and published comparative work where relatively minor weather anomalies sparked major food-crises as a way of understanding how our own society may respond to similar shocks.  In particular, I have explored the Irish Potato Famine, the “Great Famines” of the early 1300s, and the Ethiopian famine of the early 1980s.

2. What are the socio-economic forces that shape our food-producing landscapes today?

In my opinion, we have adequate scientific knowledge to sustainably produce food in many parts of the world.  However, farmers are not always able to use this knowledge.   Therefore, I am interested in understanding the socio-economic factors that shape farmer decisions.  This had led me to conduct empirical work (usually involving interviews, questionnaires or focus groups discussions) in a range of settings including:  urban Thailand, rural Belize, and rural British Columbia.  I have also supervised graduate students or post-doctoral researchers to do similar work in: the uplands of the UK, rural and urban Malawi, rural Ghana, and peri-urban Bangladesh.

3. What are the implications of different types of landscapes for both food security and other ecosystem services?

Different landscapes provide different things: some provide low-cost food; some provide habitat conservation; others provide carbons sequestration; still others are resilient to climate change.  I am interested in conducting research that explores the synergies and tradeoffs implied by different types of landscape.  This work has been based on extensive collaboration with natural and social science colleagues and involved working on a range of topics in different ecological settings including: the contribution of the uplands of the UK to a range of ecosystem services, on land management in general and on the relation between crops and climate. My current work in this area is to explore trade offs between food, fibre and fuel production in different parts of the world.

4. What regions of the world are likely to be vulnerable in terms of food insecurity in the 21st century?

Current crop-climate models used to project future food insecurity only capture the relationships between different types of crop and the climate and do not include how farmers may adapt to environmental or social change.  However, farmer behaviour may  either amplify or reduce the impact that climate change has on food productivity.  As such, I have been working with large interdisciplinary teams to formally combine an understanding of farmer decision making with crop-climate models.  In one recent analysis we explored the sensitivity of Chinese rice, wheat and maize harvests to drought and in another collected data at the farm scale in a number of African settings to use as a way of better understanding crop-climate model results. We have also worked at the global scale to understand what socio-economic, governance and geographic factors make food production vulnerable to drought.

5. Raising public debases about environmental change, food and sustainability.

I am involved in a partnership with American journalist Andrew Rimas. Together, we have co-authored two non-academic books on food, sustainability and global environmental change. The first, titled Beef: the Untold Story of how Milk, Muscle and Meat Shaped the World, (William Morrow, 2008) is an exploration of the evolution of western diets through time focusing on meat and dairy. The second book is called Empires of Food: Feast, Famine and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations (to be published in the summer of 2010 in North America by The Free Press and in the UK by Random Books) and is an examination of the history of global food production and shows how large scale food systems tend to decline during periods of climate change.

The Toronto Star, The National Post and the Weather Network, Op-ed, October 2017 (All three publications carried this article).

The National Post, op-ed, July, 2017

Ottawa Citizen op-ed, April 28th, 2016

Guardian op-ed, Feb. 18th, 2016

CNN Editorial: Are more food protests around the corner?
Guardian Editorial: 10 things you need to know about the global food system:

Sample Videos: The links between climate change and food security:

Op-eds for World Food Day

Ottawa Citizen:
Globe and Mail: We can’t talk emissions without talking agriculture

Recent Videos

For a complete list go to: Feeding Nine Billion

CBC "The future of Farming in Canada is High Tech and Low Impact"




For a full list of publications, visit Evan's google scholar profile.


Popular Writing

Empires of Food

The Walrus "How to Feed Nine Billion",

CNN Blog



The hidden power of food: Finding value in what we eat

Graduate Students Supervised

Name Research
Ph.D. 2019 McInnes, Ashley An Investigation of Food Movement Strategies in the Neoliberal Era.
M.A. 2018 Duncan, Emily (MA) Exploring the Impact of Precision Agriculture on Social Relations in Ontario.
M.A. 2018 Gravely, Evan Investigating the role of supermarkets in alternative protein consumption.
M.A. 2018 Kinach, Lesia Investigating the role of Ontario's Food Donation Tax Credit for Farmers in addressing food loss and food insecurity, with a specific focus on donations of fresh produce.
M.A. 2018 Regan, Jaida Investigating Food Waste on Canadian University Campuses.
M.A. 2017 Bramberger, Lucas Understanding Labour and Production in Alternative Agriculture: Requirements, variability, and perceptions of labour on certified organic farms in Ontario.
M.Sc. 2017 Gillam, William Evaluating the Impacts of Agricultural Development on Landscape Scale Ecosystem Stability in a European Context.
M.A. 2017 Kwok, Eugenia Perceptions of gender dynamics in small-scale fisheries and conservation areas: A Case Study in the Pursat Province of Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia.
Ph.D. 2017 Rotz, Sarah Digging into Industrial Food Systems: A study of socio-ecological diversity in Ontario agriculture.
M.A. 2017 Therien, Alexandra The impact of the rise of supermarkets on household urban food security: A case study of Accra, Ghana.
M.A. 2017 Zundel, Trudi Climate-smart agriculture as a development buzzword: framework for flexible development, or greenwashing the status quo? Insights from Northern Ghana.
M.A. 2015 Armitage, Tom The Impact and Potential Roles of Community Food Centres on Local Food Distribution in the Southwestern Ontario Context.
M.A. 2015 Bond, Natachia Examining Adaptations to Changing Fish Populations of Tonlé Sap Lake in Cambodia: A Case Study of Pursat Province, Cambodia.
M.A. 2015 Hodgins, Kelly “We Are A Business, Not A Social Service Agency”: Barriers To Widening Access For Low-Income Consumers In Alternative Food Market Spaces
M.A. 2014 Johnson, Rylea Food systems and food security; evaluating the potential food produce auctions to operate as a key alternative food system.
Ph.D. 2014 Sneyd, Lauren Zoning in on food riots, wild food and food security in urban Cameroon.
Ph.D. 2013 Antwi-Agyei, Philip The vulnerability of small holder farmers to climate change in Ghana
M.A. 2013 CoDyre, Michael The Potential of urban agriculture in Guelph.
Ph.D. 2013 Khandakar, Munim The effect of salinity intrusion on food security in Bangladesh.
M.A. 2012 Hazen, Shelly The effect of globalization on farm sustainability.
Ph.D. 2011 Atibila, John Wetland livelihoods and vulnerability .
Ph.D. Abdulai, Abdul-Rahim Socio-technical transitions in food systems: The social disruptions of new agricultural technologies in Canada and Ghana.
Ph.D. Duncan, Emily Social consequences of digital agricultural technologies and the global governance of agri-food data.
M.A. Kozachenko, Chantel The social impacts of expanding agriculture into Northern Frontiers.
M.Sc. Kreher, Kevin Social, environmental, and economic changes due to precision agriculture and digital technology use in North American agriculture.
M.A. + IDS Major, Chelsea Agriculture development in Canada's north with climate change.
M.A. Marquis, Sarah Data governance issues related to Big Data and agriculture in the North American context.
Ph.D. + IDS Quarshie, Philip
Ph.D. Sethuratnam, Sri Scaling up local food initiatives in Southern Ontario.