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An innovative project is using Arctic greenhouses to build food security and community well-being

Posted by in The Polar Blog on Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Grade 4 class visits the Kuujjuaq, Que. greenhouse. (Photo: Ellen Avard)


Food is expensive in the Arctic. Whether you’re gassing up your snowmobile to go seal hunting for your dinner or browsing the shelves at the grocery store — where a cabbage can cost more than $20 — feeding a family well can be challenging. Hunting and fishing are still important, but nowadays Inuit eat more “market food” than ever before. The least nutritious food is also the least expensive, and many Inuit live on low incomes. Heart disease and obesity are rising, while communities struggle with youth suicide and other social problems linked to rapid change.

Ellen Avard, a PhD candidate from Quebec City’s Laval University, is working with the Nunavik community of Kuujjuaq, in northern Quebec, on a project that simultaneously builds food security and community well-being — using greenhouses.

As part of a team of volunteers and local and regional organizations, Avard helped revitalize an existing greenhouse and community garden, and a new greenhouse was built. Using the practical knowledge they gained, she and her team are aiming to develop a new northern food system that works alongside the existing food system, producing high-quality, low-cost fruit and vegetables while teaching people to garden by tending to a variety of crops. The Kuujjuaq greenhouses can grow most vegetables common in southern Canadian community gardens, although tomatoes need to be babied (the buildings aren’t yet heated for cold-weather use).

“People have demonstrated real interest in greenhouse-based food production,” says Avard. “They see it as a way to improve the supply of fresh food — and an opportunity to learn new skills and create jobs. They also see parallels with traditional activities like berry picking.”

A community compost project, the brainchild of Avard and volunteer Marc-André Lamontagne, collects local food waste to make rich soil, which can otherwise be difficult to come by in the North. Operated by Ungava Supervised Apartments, it doubles as a social reintegration project, employing people with disabilities.

“I’m convinced that community agriculture will become part of a new northern food system that provides better, cheaper food and also contributes to socio-economic stability,” says Avard. Others agree. Inspired by Kuujjuaq’s success, the Nunavik communities of Salluit and Kangiqsujuaq are planning their own greenhouse projects.

This is the latest in a continuing blog series on polar issues and research presented by Canadian Geographic in partnership with the Canadian Polar Commission. The polar blog will appear online every two weeks at, and select blog posts will be featured in upcoming issues. For more information on the Canadian Polar Commission, visit


Un projet novateur tire profit de serres dans l’Arctique pour améliorer la sécurité alimentaire et le bien-être des collectivités

Une classe de 4e année visite la serre de Kuujjuaq, Que. (Photo: Ellen Avard)

Les aliments coûtent cher dans l’Arctique. Que les motoneigistes fassent le plein pour aller chasser le phoque pour le souper ou que l’on se procure des aliments à l’épicerie — où un chou peut coûter plus de 20 dollars —, bien nourrir une famille constitue un défi. La chasse et la pêche ont encore leur place, mais les Inuits n’ont jamais autant mangé d’aliments du commerce. Les aliments les moins nutritifs sont aussi les moins chers et beaucoup d’Inuits ont un faible revenu. La cardiopathie et l’obésité sont en hausse, et les collectivités sont aux prises avec le suicide chez les jeunes et d’autres problèmes sociaux liés au rythme effréné du changement.

Ellen Avard, doctorante à l’Université Laval (Québec), travaille avec la collectivité de Kuujjuaq, au Nunavik (Nord du Québec), à un projet singulier qui vise à améliorer la sécurité alimentaire et le bien-être des collectivités en exploitant des serres.

Membre d’une équipe composée de bénévoles, et d’organisations locales et régionales, Avard a contribué à revitaliser une serre et un jardin communautaire existants, et à construire une nouvelle serre. De concert avec son équipe, elle désire créer un nouveau système alimentaire nordique en parallèle avec le système alimentaire existant, qui permet la production de fruits et légumes de grande qualité, à moindre coût, tout en apprenant aux gens à jardiner en s’occupant de diverses cultures. Dans les serres de Kuujjuaq, on peut faire pousser la plupart des légumes que l’on retrouve habituellement dans les jardins communautaires du sud du Canada, bien qu'il faille dorloter les tomates (les bâtiments n’ont pas encore de chauffage).

« La production d’aliments en serre a suscité beaucoup d’intérêt », dit Avard. « Pour les habitants, c’est une façon d’améliorer l’approvisionnement en aliments frais et une occasion d’acquérir de nouvelles compétences et de créer des emplois. De plus, ils tirent des parallèles avec des activités traditionnelles, comme la cueillette des petits fruits. »

Un projet de compostage communautaire, œuvre d’Avard et d’un bénévole, Marc-André Lamontagne, recueille les déchets de cuisine pour enrichir le sol qui autrement est souvent pauvre dans le Nord. Exploité par Ungava Supervised Apartments, le projet œuvre aussi en réinsertion sociale et embauche des personnes handicapées.

« Je suis convaincue que l’agriculture communautaire fera partie d’un nouveau système alimentaire nordique qui fournira de meilleurs aliments à moindre coût et contribuera à la stabilité socioéconomique », explique Avard. D’autres partagent cette opinion. Inspirées par le succès de Kuujjuaq, les collectivités de Salluit et de Kangiqsujuaq (Nunavik) planifient leurs propres projets de serre.

Voici le plus récent billet d’un blogue sur les questions polaires et la recherche connexe présenté par Canadian Geographic en partenariat avec la Commission canadienne des affaires polaires. Le Blogue polaire sera affiché en ligne toutes les deux semaines à et certains billets seront publiés dans de prochains numéros du magazine. Pour de plus amples renseignements sur la CCAP, veuillez visiter

  Comments (2)

Community agriculture is a very innovative technique to bring the costs down. Its also about learning new skills and creating more jobs thus improving the socio-economic stability of the country.

Submitted by Solar Brokers Canada on Thursday, June 26, 2014

This is a good start to try and promote this all over the arctic to bring down cost in addition to all of this the federal government needs to be doing more to lower the cost of food, energy, more affordable housing, better healthcare. Perhaps one way to lower food costs is for the federal government to do a 100% freight subsidy for more healthy foods/drinks during the late fall and winter months and 50% during spring and early fall. Things have got to improve for all of the arctic as food is a basic human right. Looking at the big picture this investment is a win win situation because in the end it would save tax payers money and improve the health of people in the arctic as well as attract more people to want to live in the arctic. With too many people not being to afford basic healthy foods and drinks it leads to people not getting enough nutrition, some underweight and others overweight with more high blood pressure problems and sugar diabetes because people are looking for the cheapest foods possible and sadly that results in junk foods. The government also needs to get a national housing strategy plan to deal with the problem of not enough affordable/lower income housing. This will make for a better, stronger Canada and again not only help those that live in even in the high arctic but will also attract more people to want to live and stay there which helps protect Canadian sovereignty. The government also needs to do a better job to ensure all of Canada has clean, safe, high quality drinking water and more investment in infrastructure as well as to better train Canadians in various skills which creates more Canadian jobs.

Submitted by Michael on Sunday, December 21, 2014

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