Berkeley Food Institute
Maywa Montenegro de Wit is a US-Dutch-Peruvian citizen who grew up in Appalachia, studied biology in the Northeast US, worked as a journalist in Manhattan, and then migrated to the left coast to pursue a PhD. As a fifth year graduate student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM), she works on the politics of access to crop diversity, focusing on in situ and ex situ strategies for conservation and renewal. She considers herself primarily a political ecologist, combining a range of methods and theoretical frameworks: science & technology studies, agrarian political economy, and rural sociology from current studies; science journalism from previous work; and molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology from once-upon-a-time. She likes art, anthropology, and history a great deal too.
Agroecology has been the subject of several of Maywa’s research and writing projects, both academic and popular. She has written on the social dimensions of diversified farming; the politics of scale in food sovereignty; seed as common genetic heritage; and how agroecology can help fix our broken food systems. Although she considers herself very much a ‘rookie’ agroecologist, Maywa brings a personal background of indigenous ancestry, smallholder farming, and the colonizing/decolonizing experiences of her family history in Northern Peru. Her work on seeds, seed sovereignty, and agrobiodiversity reflect a strong desire to explore synergies between western science and the indigenous and traditional knowledge systems they have historically devalued and marginalized. Current research looks specifically at movements to reestablish open-source commons to share and protect seed.