Knowledge for a sustainable world

BSc, MSc, PhD
Dr Tania E Martinez Cruz
Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Anthropology / Public Health / Development Studies

Livelihoods and Institutions Department

Natural Resources Institute, Faculty of Engineering & Science

Tania has an interdisciplinary background; she is a water management specialist and social sciences researcher. She recently joined the Natural Resources Institute  as a post-doctoral researcher working on the project "Intercultural models to improve nutrition and health of indigenous populations through gender-sensitive agroforestry practices in Peru" led by Dr Pamela Katic.

In the early years of her career, she worked in sanitary engineering, wastewater treatment, water re-use in agriculture and irrigation technology transfer in Mexico. From 2011-2012 she worked as an irrigation specialist at the University of Arizona, Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in the United States. She studied the effect of water stress on sweet sorghum for bioethanol production as an alternative to fossil energies.

In 2012, she joined the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre in Mexico (CIMMYT) as a research assistant for the project "MasAgro Mobile" and contributed to the assessment and piloting phase of an SMS service designed to support different stakeholders in agriculture. In 2013 she was awarded a PhD fellowship from the Mexican Council of Science and Technology. During 2014-2017, Tania was a joint PhD at CIMMYT-Wageningen University (WUR) and from 2018-2020 a full-time PhD at WUR. Her PhD supervisor was Dr Conny Almekinders, an expert on Participatory Plant Breeding and politics around technology-oriented interventions. As a PhD, she contributed to different learning processes of the Sustainable Modernisation of the Traditional Agricultural Programme (MasAgro) "Take it to the farmer" in Mexico. Her PhD research aimed to understand why some technologies and pathways are promoted in mainstream research and interventions while others are disregarded, and the implication of this for social inclusion/exclusion. She used the MasAgro Programme as her case study and focussed on three technologies, e.g. Conservation Agriculture, Native Maize and ICT4D.

From 2018 to 2019 she collaborated as a consultant for Value for Women and the Overseas Development Institute. Before joining NRI , she was the community specialist of the Global Landscapes Forum, Centre for International Forestry Research, where she ran the assessment phase and started the pilot of the GLFx project aiming to mobilise and connect different groups on climate action around the world.

Her current research topics cover politics of knowledge and research in technology-driven interventions, gender and social inclusion/exclusion, climate action, nutrition and traditional food systems. She also actively collaborates with organisations to advocate for the role of indigenous knowledge as key to the biocultural diversity of indigenous peoples and to tackle global challenges. She has spoken about these issues at the Global Landscapes Forum in the United Nations Headquarters, NY, Bonn 2019 and 2020; the 1st High-Level Expert Seminar on Indigenous Food Systems at the FAO in Rome in 2018, among others.

On January 1st, 2020 Tania also received her 'Baston de Mando' (a symbolic wooden cane used to confer authority in some indigenous communities) to fulfil a year of community service as the Secretary of the Women's Office in her hometown of Tamazulapam del Espiritu Santo. During her one-year term, she will be supporting the Women's Office in issues related to the welfare of women in her community.

Tania also does advocacy work for the right to education of minority groups and women in STEM. In 2016, because of her academic trajectory and social commitment, she was awarded the National Youth Prize by the Mexican Government.

Tania's goal as a researcher is to be a broker that helps to connect different worlds, perspectives, fields and stakeholders in agricultural development. She has been working on international development for more than ten years, initially as an engineer and later as a social sciences researcher. After working on  technical issues linked to water management and technology development and transfer, she started to think more critically on why some people benefitted from technologies, interventions and policies while others did not. Thus, aiming to have a better understanding of this problem, she started a PhD in social sciences where she mainly focussed on politics of knowledge and research in technology-driven interventions. She believes that she can contribute with her interdisciplinary and intercultural background to make "A world where many other fit" (Zapatista movement, Mexico). As a practitioner in Agricultural Research and Development,  she aims to support project implementers to increase awareness of social differentiation, the need to understand the local rationales of peoples in the areas they intervene (e.g. respecting the cosmovision and the right to self-determination) and help designing more inclusive initiatives.

Tania is currently not teaching at NRI. Nevertheless, she has some experience in teaching and as a facilitator. Find below some of the courses she has taught: 

  1. Teaching at University graduate level
  • A module on gender for the course "Introduction to Technology, Agro-ecology and Development", master's in Development and Rural Innovation at Wageningen University in 2019.
  • Thesis path for master's in Development and Rural Innovation at Wageningen University in 2018 and 2019.
  • Guest lecturer for Ethnobotany (F&ES 681 01), Yale University in 2019.
  • Facilitator for 2nd Writeshop in Critical Agrarian Studies and Scholar Activism from the Journal of Peasant Studies in 2020.
  1. Designing and facilitating multi-stakeholder workshops and multicultural groups:
  • Workshops on social differentiation awareness for project implementers in Mexico and Guatemala.
  • Reflection workshops with project implementers to collate learning lessons.
  • Participatory multi-stakeholder workshops to collate lessons in agricultural projects and provide feedback at implementers level.
  • Participatory multi-stakeholder workshops to set the agenda of agricultural projects. These workshops aimed to increase the participation of the targeted groups.

In 2013, Tania Martinez was awarded a grant from the Mexican Council of Science and Technology to fund her PhD project entitled "The making of a technology-driven intervention, the making of MasAgro Project in Mexico". Her project aimed to understand the drivers causing processes of continuity and/or discontinuity and inclusion/exclusion in technology-driven interventions in Mexico. With her research, she aimed to contribute to the debates of why some pathways are reinforced or undermined in Agricultural Research and Development and how those processes cause, reinforce or change social inclusion/exclusion.

From 2011-2012, Tania Martinez was engaged on a project from the Department of Energy of the USA and the University of Arizona to explore sweet sorghum as a bioethanol crop. The research was led by Dr. Donald Slack from Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering Department at the University of Arizona. As part of Tania's work, she had to set experimental protocols for the project and led a team of six research assistants contributing to the project.

Three publications resulted from her PhD and two more papers are undergoing revision.

  • Martinez-Cruz, T. E. (2020). On continuities and discontinuities: The making of technology-driven interventions and the encounter with the MasAgro Programme in Mexico. Wageningen University.
  • Martínez-Cruz, T.E.,  Almekinders, C. J. M. & Camacho-Villa, T. C. (2019) Collaborative research on Conservation Agriculture in Bajío, Mexico: continuities and discontinuities of partnerships, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability, 17:3, 243-256, DOI: 10.1080/14735903.2019.1625593
  • Camacho-Villa, T.C., Almekinders, C. J. M., Hellin, J., Martinez-Cruz, T.E., Rendon-Medel, R., Guevara-Hernández, F., Beuchelt, T.D., & Govaerts, B. (2016) The evolution of the MasAgro hubs: responsiveness and serendipity as drivers of agricultural innovation in a dynamic and heterogeneous context, The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 22:5, 455-470, DOI: 10.1080/1389224X.2016.1227091
  • One paper resulted from Tania´s MSc. Research:
  • Martínez-Cruz, T. E., Slack, D. C., Ogden, K. L., & Ottman, M. (2015). The Water Use of Sweet Sorghum and Development of Crop Coefficients. Irrigation and Drainage64(1), 93-104.

Tania will contribute to design and implement a study, including fieldwork and mixed-method data analysis, regarding the “Intercultural models to improve nutrition and health of indigenous populations through gender-sensitive agroforestry practices in Peru” project under the Newton Programme, funded by MRC.

  • National Youth Prize awarded by the Mexican Government in 2016 for academic achievement.
  • First indigenous Fulbright Scholarship recipient for graduate studies in Mexico in 2010.
  • Reviewer for the Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine in 2020.
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