Texas Geography Alumna Helps Solve Food and Health Problems in Africa
Posted: November 1, 2010
Dr. Christie and Dr. Knapp at the Cactus Cafe
Maria Elisa Christie (PhD Texas Geography, 2003) visited Austin to discuss her work solving health issues associated with peanut production in Africa. In a departmental colloquium on October 20, she explained how peanuts, an important part of the East African diet, can become contaminated with toxins and create a major public health challenge. Working as a principal investigator with a large project funded by the US Agency for International Development, Dr. Christie has been able to use the methods of participatory mapping and cultural and political ecology, learned while a student in the Texas geography department, to explore how local men and women cultivate, distribute, store, process, and use peanuts at the local scale. Christie and her team helped a local community publish their own handbook of peanut production, a tool for becoming more aware of the procedures for improving the healthiness of peanuts.
This is just one of the projects that Christie has been pursuing in her role as Program Director for Women in International Development at Virginia Tech. Her work has taken her to Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Philippines, Republic of Guinea, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, and Haiti (where she survived the 2010 earthquake). Dr. Christie also works to assure that all international projects and programs at Virginia Tech have a positive effect on the most disadvantaged beneficiaries, many of whom are women. Dr. Christie also works with the faculty and staff at Virginia Tech to increase their capacity to effectively address gender issues in international research and grant proposals, and is affiliated with their academic departments of Geography and Women and Gender Studies.
Earlier in her visit Dr. Christie addressed a packed classroom of freshmen in the Department's Signature Course on Latin American Environmental History and Sustainability. She discussed her trailblazing doctoral research on the spaces of food preparation in central Mexican culture as recently published by the University of Texas Press - Kitchenspace: Women, Fiestas, and Everyday Life in Central Mexico (2009).
After her talks, Dr. Christie attended a reception at the Cactus Cafe, where she shared ideas on field research, development studies, participatory mapping, and gender studies with faculty and graduate students. She also signed copies of her new book.