Human Geographers in the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) are leading an interdisciplinary project called (Re)Connect the Nexus to support young people in accessing and learning about food, water and energy.

Involving leading researchers from universities in Brazil and the UK, the team put together by childhood and youth expert Professor Peter Kraftl (GEES) is working directly with young people, policy-makers and practitioners in Sao Paulo State.

Innovative ‘app’

The team at Birmingham also includes Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill and Dr Cristiana Zara. They are combining a large-scale survey of 5,000 young people with detailed, in-depth research that includes interviews and an innovative ‘app’ designed to support young people to map their access to food, water and energy in their everyday lives.

Supported by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), FAPESP (Brazil) and the Newton Fund, the pilot project focuses on the Metropolitan Regions of the Paraiba do Sul River Basin and Sao Paulo State North Shore. The region is hugely diverse, encompassing agricultural communities, tourist destinations, and municipal cities. The issues faced by young people are equally diverse – from access to environmental education and economic marginalisation, to flooding and drought.

Global importance

The project will lead to far greater and more nuanced understanding of the ways in which food, water and energy are understood in young people’s everyday lives. This knowledge will be of vital global importance since most studies of the so-called ‘food-water-energy’ nexus are large-scale and ‘top-down’, lacking sensitivity to local contexts.

Rather than impose knowledge from the UK, the project will also lead to the development of education materials from a Brazilian perspective that may be relevant to other contexts.