Enhancing Food Security in Subarctic Canada in the Context of Climate Change: The Harmonization of Indigenous Harvesting Pursuits and Agroforestry Activities to Form a Sustainable Import-Substitution Strategy

  • Leonard J. S. TsujiEmail author
  • Meaghan Wilton
  • Nicole F. Spiegelaar
  • Maren Oelbermann
  • Christine D. Barbeau
  • Andrew Solomon
  • Christopher J. D. Tsuji
  • Eric N. Liberda
  • Richard Meldrum
  • Jim D. Karagatzides


Lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens) that breed in subarctic and arctic Canada are overabundant due to a number of anthropogenic influences, including climate change. In 2011, First Nations Cree from subarctic Ontario, Canada, participated in a regional spring harvest of overabundant snow geese—these geese have caused desertification of the environment—using only steel shotshell, as part of a food security initiative. Benefits included the procurement and sharing of an uncontaminated, nutritious source of game birds, while also helping to protect the environment for future generations. However, in 2012, the spring was unusually warm which disrupted the timing and routes of waterfowl migration. Thus, we adapted our intervention to be locally focused, allowing for quick response to changes in timing and migration routes of waterfowl due to climate change. Although global warming can present a challenge to food security, the warming climate also offers opportunities for the growth of vegetables and fruits in subarctic Canada, previously beyond their distributional range. In 2012, we initiated a pilot, agroforestry intervention in subarctic Ontario, to foster adaptive capacity and resilience. Agroforestry is a stewardship practice that combines woody perennials with crops in beneficial arrangements and can increase food security. At a site that met agricultural-soil-contamination guidelines, an agroforestry plot was established between rows of willows, while a non-treed site acted as a control. Findings indicate that the agroforestry site is more productive with respect to potato and bean yields. In the present initiative, the subarctic food system is now viewed as a whole with our main objective being the harmonization of traditional harvesting and agroforestry activities into one locally, sustainable food system by utilizing by-products of the game bird harvest to nutrient enrich the soil. Adaptation to climate change and import substitution of fruits and vegetables are the end goals.


Climate change Challenges and opportunities Indigenous Canadians Subarctic Food security Agroforestry Waterfowl harvesting Import substitution 



We thank the harvesters, community-based research assistants and coordinators, elders, Chiefs and Councils, and the rest of the research team for their participation in these interventions. The pilot work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (856-2009-0003) and the interventions by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (Institute of Aboriginals Peoples’ Health, and the Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism, and Diabetes; grants AHI-105525, AHI-120536, and MOP-133395).

Ethical approval: All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, CA, and the University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, CA. All applicable institutional and Government of Canada regulations concerning the harvesting of waterfowl by Indigenous peoples were followed. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard J. S. Tsuji
    • 1
    Email author
  • Meaghan Wilton
    • 1
  • Nicole F. Spiegelaar
    • 1
  • Maren Oelbermann
    • 2
  • Christine D. Barbeau
    • 2
  • Andrew Solomon
    • 3
  • Christopher J. D. Tsuji
    • 4
  • Eric N. Liberda
    • 5
  • Richard Meldrum
    • 5
  • Jim D. Karagatzides
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Physical and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Toronto ScarboroughTorontoCanada
  2. 2.School of Environment, Resource, and SustainabilityUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada
  3. 3.Fort Albany First NationFort AlbanyCanada
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  5. 5.School of Occupational and Public HealthRyerson UniversityTorontoCanada
  6. 6.Engineering & Environmental TechnologiesGeorgian CollegeBarrieCanada

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