A RIFA fellow researching what 'sustainable diet' means for the Global South
Ty Beal is a Geography PhD student at UC Davis and a RIFA fellow who recently completed his fellowship at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Hanoi, Vietnam. At UC Davis, Ty’s research focuses on nutrition and agricultural geography, so he was well suited to work on a CIAT project leveraging data and research insights to inform policy on improving sustainable diets in the Global South.
Ty worked closely with three other RIFA fellows, Holly Mayton from UC Riverside, Alejandra Sanchez from UC Davis and Julia Rubin from UC Berkeley, to create a conceptual framework that allows for a comprehensive and more thorough characterization of existing data sources relevant to sustainable diets in Vietnam. The group created eight ‘domains’ like food production, food access and consumption and food and water safety with metrics for each of the domains, like climate, improved agricultural practices, inputs and outputs for the ‘food production’ domain. This framework will help CIAT conceptualize ‘sustainable diets’ and compile more data to inform policy recommendations. Ty also wrote a methodological guidance document explaining the methods used to create the conceptual framework and characterize data sources.
Another important initiative undertaken by Ty and the other RIFA fellows was creating a database of over 120 stakeholders who could contribute their expertise to the project or who are collaborators who might benefit from the database. Some of the stakeholders include the Hanoi University of Public Health (HUPH), the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), World Vision and the Hanoi Female Consumer Club. The team has met with multiple ministries and departments in the Vietnamese government to discuss the potential for sharing data and collaborating to benefit stakeholders. While Ty has returned to the US, the rest of his colleagues remain in Hanoi continuing with the project.
This fellowship allowed Ty to work outside his area of expertise while learning about food and water safety and the sociopolitical context of food systems. Working together with other University of California students was also a valuable experience, and Ty believes they accomplished more together than they would have working separately. He hopes that as the project continues, Vietnamese graduate students become involved and engage in data characterization and stakeholder interviews.
While in Vietnam, Ty fully embraced the cuisine and the beautiful geography of the country. He can’t choose his favorite dish - and who could possibly choose from bún chả, phở, stone-grilled buffalo steak with sautéed garlic and crispy potatoes, chicken curry served in a coconut or fresh tropical smoothies? A trip to Sa Pa town, in Northwestern Vietnam, was also a highlight of his stay, where he trekked through hillside rice terraces and sampled the local snake wine!
Profile written by Kate Wilkins.