M. Jahi Johnson-Chappell

M. Jahi Johnson-Chappell

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Director, Center for Regional Food Systems, Professor, and W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair


Dr. M. Jahi Johnson-Chappell is a scholar, organizer, son of social workers, and grandson of Michigan farmers. From 2020-2022, he served as the Executive Director of the Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network, or SAAFON, which offers direct support and organizing for Black, sustainable farmers in the Southeastern United States and US Virgin Islands. Jahi holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, both from the University of Michigan.  

Over the past 20 years, Jahi has researched and advocated at international, national, and local levels for participatory, socially just, and ecologically sustainable agrifood systems that center the voices of farmers, laborers, and the communities they serve. Pursuing this goal has taken him across sectors and continents, including positions as Associate Professor of Agroecology at Coventry University in the United Kingdom, and as Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Justice at Washington State University Vancouver, where he also served as Associate Director of the Center for Social and Environmental Justice.  In the nonprofit sector, Jahi has previously served as the Executive Director of the 46-year-old think tank Food First, and as Senior Scientist and Director of Agroecology and Agricultural Policy at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Additionally, he was a Founding Board member of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), and is a former member of the Executive Committee of the Agroecology Fund. He is currently the Vice Chair of the Board of Thousand Currents, an international grassroots foundation.

Jahi’s first book, Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil and Beyond, was published in 2018 by the University of California Press. In it, he analyzed world-unique breakthroughs in reducing hunger and supporting small-scale farmers in southeastern Brazil. Beginning to End Hunger’s scholarly contributions were recognized by the Society of Human Ecology with their Gerald L. Young Book Award. It was also recently cited by the United Nations’ High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition as a primary source for their recommendation to add the concept of people’s sociopolitical power, or agency, as an additional pillar of the FAO’s definition of food security. 

His second book, Agroecology Now! Transformations Towards More Just and Sustainable Food Systems, co-authored with Jahi’s colleagues from the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University, was published in 2020, and is available open-access at https://bit.ly/agroeconow.