PhD award for Friedensau researcher Annette Witherspoon

20. Oct. 2022

In September 2022, Friedensau lecturer Annette Witherspoon received the doctoral award of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Georg-August University of Göttingen for her doctoral thesis.

In her doctoral thesis, Annette Witherspoon investigated the social conditions under which vanilla is produced in Madagascar. Madagascar is known for its rich nature on the one hand, but also for growing poverty in rural regions. At the same time, the country is the world's largest producer of vanilla - the third most expensive spice in the world. Thus, Madagascar would have the potential to fight poverty and protect its nature.

Based on observations, interviews and group discussions in Madagascar, Witherspoon analysed the power relations along the vanilla production chain. One focus was on how burdens and profits are shared between vanilla farmers, middlemen, wholesalers, exporters and state representatives. Using an innovative methodological approach, she was able to show the ways in which all these actors contribute to maintaining a complex power structure that disadvantages farmers in particular. She found that the unfavourable position of vanilla farmers in the production chain can be improved by transforming the existing farmer groups, which are paid by exporters, into independent production communities.

Dr Annette Witherspoon completed her doctorate with this thesis at the University of Göttingen in September 2021 and has been a junior professor of International Social Work at Friedensau Adventist University since spring 2022. We warmly congratulate her on this award.

Bild der THH Friedensau
Lecturer Dr. Annette Witherspoon (right).
Photograph: private