A New Normal: Planning for Small-holder Farmers in Kerala, India

Kerala team in Thanal with farmers.

By Joy Resor

Published September 18, 2018

Before going to India, I approached planning issues from a narrow framework. Traveling anywhere forces you to re-evaluate your own viewpoint. In my case, although I researched urban planning in India, I did not really understand how different it could look until I went there. 

My experience in India helped me to realize how different my “normal” is from someone else’s.
Joy Resor, Alum
MUP, UB School of Architecture and Planning

I traveled to Kerala, India in partnership with Plan REFUGE, a project managed by the Food Systems and Healthy Communities Lab and funded by the Community for Global Health Equity. The project seeks to understand the impacts of systemic changes like globalization and climate change on farmers’ daily living practices.

My role was to understand the connection between housing security and food security. Paradoxically,  farmers who play a crucial role in supporting agricultural industries in low- and middle-income countries, face poverty and malnourishment. Inadequate housing and storage facilities may further impact their level of food security. For, even if farmers produce a surplus of food, if they do not have adequate space to store and properly prepare the food they grow, they face potential food insecurity.

Although planning concerns are similar to those in the United States, the ways of solving problems are very different. For instance, cities such as Trivandrum, the capital of the state of Kerala, are promoting eco-friendly businesses and green roofs yet have no formal sanitation system established. Sustainability and public health are global concerns being addressed in different ways.

The field of planning takes into consideration the norms in a society. My experience in India helped me to realize how different my “normal” is from someone else’s. My everyday routine looks very different from farmers living in Kerala, India. Their lived histories, perspectives, language, and food truly influence the way they live, and in turn, how a community should plan to ensure their health and wellbeing.