Research as Instrument for Social and Environmental Justice

The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) has pioneered Community-based Participatory Research practices to create change. The research offers policymakers science-based policies and our members science-based educational tools. 

What is unique about this type of research is it involves community members, researchers, and other partners equally.  The participants contribute their expertise and share in the decision-making and ownership. The goal is to increase knowledge and understanding of a given phenomenon, for example, heat stress, and to use the research for policy or social change to benefit the community. 

The goal is to increase knowledge and understanding of a given phenomenon, for example heat stress, and to use the research for policy or social change to benefits the community.

Research overview

The start of our use of science for social and environmental justice started in 1998, when FWAF partnered with the Comite de Apoyo a Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA – Farm Workers Support Committee) to create the Farmworkers Health and Safety Institute (FHSI). The purpose was to document farmworkers’ living and working conditions. For over a decade the FHSI housed research and training initiatives.

In 2001, we published our first academic work about recruiting farmworkers to do research. Over time we did many research projects using Community-based Participatory Research. Most of them focused on pesticide perceptions and exposures, others focused on additional occupational hazards, injuries, and related issues like eye safety, heat stress, contractors, parenting, and recently COVID-19.

Current research projects

Our current projects include collaborations with Emory University studying the impact of climate change on farmworkers, particularly heat stress and kidney damage. It also includes intervention/research studies, for example, the update of the EPA’s Workers Protection Standards (WPS) with Florida State University, called PISCA (Pesticide Study that is Culturally Appropriate).

We have a long relationship with the University of Florida and currently have several projects on Social Marketing Strategies to Avoid Heat Stress, on Mental Health, and two pilot studies: one of which deals with respiratory virus infections and one with agricultural strategies to deal with climate change. 

In addition, we have current collaborations with Florida Mechanical and Agricultural University, the University of South Florida (USF), and Florida International University. Several collaborations created social change, for example, our fifteen-year-long project with USF, the Partnership for Citrus Workers Health, was adopted by the citrus companies we work with. More than twenty community-health workers we trained are now an integral part of these farming operations. And on the policy front, our work helped to improve the WPS regulation and is the base for implementing national regulation to prevent heat stress.

Contact us 

If you would like to know more or to collaborate on our research projects, please contact us. Many students have completed their undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral degrees working with our academic partners. We are very proud of them!

San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico, March 26 - Some seasonal farmers worker hard during the strawberry harvest in the San Quintin area, north of the Baja California peninsula in northwestern Mexico.

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