Ryan Isakson

Researcher Profile

I am an Assistant Professor of International Development Studies and Geography at the University of Toronto.  I have also held academic positions at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) and Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts (USA).  Trained as an economist, I am interested in the distribution of wealth (especially access to and governance over natural resources) and non-capitalist forms of social provisioning.  I am particularly interested in the political economy of food and agrarian transformation in Latin America.   

Current Research

To date, most of my research has focused upon the impacts of market development upon peasant livelihoods and the conservation of agricultural biodiversity in the Guatemalan Highlands.  While I continue to work in this area, I am also in the preliminary stages of three related projects:

  • in collaboration with Helda Morales (Agro-ecology, El Colegio de la Fronter Sur, Chiapas, Mexico), I am exploring the impacts of an agro-ecological certification program upon food sovereignty in Chiapas, Mexico;
  • in collaboration with Helda Morales and Jaime Page (Anthropology, Universidad, Nacional Autónoma de México), I am investigating how diversification in farmers’ fields and market orientation is associated with inter- and intra-household nutrition; and
  • in collaboration with Emily Taylor (Public Health, University of Toronto), I am evaluating the compatibility between customary law and formal legislation to protect indigenous knowledge and crop genetic resources in Peru.

In addition to these collaborations, I have worked with (1) the Political Economy Research Institute’s (Amherst, Massachusetts) Natural Assets Project, which documented several examples where democratic ownership of natural resources has contributed to the dual objectives of poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability; and (2) the Salvadoran Program for Research on Development and the Environment (PRISMA, San Salvador, El Salvador) and its project on the viability of pro-poor compensation for environmental services initiatives in the Americas.  Through my research I have also established contacts with several scholars and activists interested in land reform and rural development in Guatemala.

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