Participants needed for online survey about sustainable urban and peri-urban food provision!

SUPURBFOOD logo

SUPURBFOOD is an international research project carried out by a consortium of ten research and ten SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) partners, in which novel solutions to urban and peri-urban food provision have been examined in three thematic areas. These thematic areas are: (i) nutrient, water and waste cycles, (ii) short food supply chains, and (iii) multi-functional land use. While positive developments are found in all of these, additional steps are needed to make full use of the potential of these innovations. Hence, the project team formulated a set of recommendations and would like to ask relevant stakeholders (e.g. policymakers, entrepreneurs, civil society organisations) for their opinion about their effectiveness. For that purpose an online survey has been launched, which takes 10-15 minutes to complete. If you considers yourself to be a relevant stakeholder, you are kindly requested to complete the online questionnaire, which is available in seven languages: English, Dutch, German, Italian, Latvian, French and Galician.

Business models in urban agriculture – MSc thesis by Shuang Liu

Urban Agriculture (Shuang Liu)

By Shuang Liu (MSc student in Organic Agriculture)

Urban agriculture is thriving across the world along with rapid urbanization. It is usually valued as a public-good generating activity for its social and ecological benefits. Recently, however, there is a growing trend of urban farmers becoming commercial and they seem to be extremely diversified in practice. Yet, little is known about the business approaches developed by entrepreneurial urban farmers.

In this research, I took urban agriculture as a revenue generating and job creation activity by focusing on more market-oriented projects. I tried to describe individual urban agriculture business operations under the framework of the business model. An online questionnaire was distributed worldwide followed with statistical analysis. The questionnaire was designed using nine business building blocks from Business Model Canvas. Based on the reported business characteristics, a cluster analysis was performed in order to find patterns underlying the diversity of their businesses. In total 46 respondents from 18 countries across 6 continents completed the questionnaire and as sucht contributed to the results of my thesis.

Great diversity in their business operations was found among the 46 projects. Various projects produce a wide range of products and conduct activities for diverse functions. They also manage different relationship with their customers and clients. Distinctions were also found between continents and projects with different purposes. All this heterogeneity brings challenges to describe and understand urban agriculture business. Thus an exploratory cluster analysis was adopted in order to simplify the diversity.

Drawing on the business characteristics, cluster analysis has generated five types of business model: Diversification, Primary Food Production, Value Differentiation, Service Provision and Innovative Operation. For more information about the diversity encountered and for the characteristics of the five business models, please have a look at my MSc thesis

This study provides a rough picture of how initiatives across the world are operating their projects. Classification of business models could be a precursor for future studies on topics such as the relationship between business model and performances, innovation of urban agriculture business models, and economic performance of urban agriculture etc.

For more information you can also contact me: lsabab@163.com

Learning in Local Collaboration, Groningen – MSc thesis Iris Bekius

Inspiratiedag

By: Iris Bekius, MSc Leisure, Tourism and Environment.

Below a summary of my MSc thesis: Learning in Local Collaboration; A reflexive case study in Groningen, Northern Netherlands.

At the moment, the Dutch government is in a process of deregulation, commonly referred to as participation society. Throughout the country municipalities translate policies in line with this political goal, among which my hometown Groningen. For the municipality of Groningen deregulation includes calling on citizens to come up with ideas for neighbourhood initiatives, which will then be evaluated by civil servants on their potential to succeed.

One initiative that is supported by the municipality is Pad2Wijken (Path2Neighborhoods), initiated by a committee in the neighbourhood Helpman to secure a green zone: a 10 kilometre long ecological edible green walking path through the neighbourhoods Helpman and De Wijert. Since the opening of the path in May 2014 groups of residents, schools and organisations in the neighbourhoods can adopt green plots along the path. On their plot they can create a flower meadow, orchard, vegetable garden, insect hotel, or anything else green and sustainable. Continue reading

Exploring Dar es Salaam’s foodscape: spatial design meets rural sociology

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Seeing Dar” is the first of a series of publications resulting from my Foodscapes professorship at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture in which I have involved Master students in Landscape Architecture, Architecture and Urbanism in research projects of the Rural Sociology Group. This publication is the result of a 12 week design studio, which commenced with a 10 day field visit of Academy of Architecture students to Dar es Salaam, linked to Marc Wegerif’s PhD project and the work of Daniel Mbisso on markets at the School of Architecture and Design of Ardhi University. The publication is a collection of individual design projects and essays focussing on different aspects of Dar es Salaam’s foodscape: food markets, food and food-related waste, climate change adaptation, gender, public space and distribution infrastructure. For the students the 10 day exploration of Dar es Salaam’s foodscape was crucial to come up with spatial designs that aligned well with the everyday life and cultures of people living, working, travelling and eating in Dar es Salaam. For me it was an interesting experience to link spatial design to sociological research. More publications in which spatial design meets rural sociology will follow later this year and next year.

Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health

Originally posted on Food Governance:

A long awaited report from the Lancet / UCL Commission on Climate Change and Health has just been published called “Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health”

You need to register to The Lancet to access the report but registration is currently free.

There are quite a few references to food security, including this statement challenging assumptions around sustainable intensification:

Panel 4: Food security, climate change, and human health

The provision for global food demand by 2050 cannot assume improved crop yields through sustainable agricultural intensification because of the negative effects on crop growth from an increased frequency of weather extremes. Multifunctional food production systems will prove important in a warmer world. These systems are managed for benefi ts beyond yield, and provide multiple ecosystem services, support biodiversity, improve nutrition, and can enhance resilience to shocks such as crop failure or pest outbreaks (p 16).

There is also a supplementary video 

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Lunch Time Lecture Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis on ‘Big Food Corporations’ Nutritional Strategies in Response to Under- and Over- Nutrition’

NutritionismEveryone is welcome to an open lecture by Dr. Gyorgy Scrinis.

Monday June 29, 2015
12:30 – 13:30
Room C71   (Leeuwenborch)
Bring your lunch

The world’s largest food and beverage manufacturing corporations (i.e. Big Food) have responded to recent health concerns associated with their processed foods by developing and marketing a range of ‘healthy’ or ‘healthier’ products. In this lecture, Dr Gyorgy Scrinis identifies three nutritional strategies that define these corporations’ nutritional engineering and marketing strategies:

  • the micronutrient fortification of foods to address nutrient deficiencies, particularly targeted at developing countries;
  • the reformulation of products to reduce harmful food components; and
  • the ‘functionalisation’ of foods marketed as providing optimal nutrition through addition of functional nutrients.

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Urban agriculture does not always result in better neighbourhoods

Esther Veen - Community gardens in urban areasWhile urban agriculture is often used as a tool for increasing social cohesion in neighbourhoods, Esther Veen believes that it does not always lead to better relationships between residents. This is the subject of her doctoral thesis, which she successfully  defended at Wageningen University on Monday 15 June 2015.

For her doctoral research, Esther Veen observed various community gardens where people from the same neighbourhood came together. She noted that not everyone participates in these gardens and how there is a tendency for groups to form.

“It is often assumed that community gardens benefit the neighbourhood, but the gardens are also a ‘real world’ in which issues arise,” Veen explains. “Municipalities, initiators of urban agriculture projects and other stakeholders should adjust their often high expectations. A neighbourhood community garden does not break through existing social structures just like that, and it is hard to bring people from different socio-economic backgrounds into contact with each other.” Veen’s research does show that neighbourhood community gardens allow people to get to know each other better and ask each other for help more easily.

Interchangeable conversations

In addition to studying neighbourhood community gardens, Veen also observed community gardens where residents are mainly interested in growing fruits and vegetables but do not necessarily come from the same area. It showed that people like chatting to each other in a community garden, but that these contacts are easily exchangeable for conversations with others. Moreover, these chats rarely lead to contacts or friendships outside the community garden.

Not against ‘the system’

Scientific literature often assumes that people who actively use community gardens have a certain resistance against the current food system, and that for them the community garden functions as an alternative food network. Veen’s studies showed that these assumptions were erroneous in the community gardens she researched. People mainly like to garden because they enjoy the act of gardening, not because they want to change the world or oppose the conventional food system. Veen: “Food from neighbourhood community gardens may fit into a lifestyle in which organic or local products play a major role for some people, but this is a personal consideration to them. They don’t see themselves as part of an alternative food network.”

Participative observation

By means of interviews and surveys, Veen studied seven community gardens in Almere (two), Amsterdam, Assen, Leeuwarden, Rotterdam and Zutphen. She also observed four of the seven community gardens via ‘participative observation’ – taking part and helping in activities organised by the community gardens, such as an Easter brunch and a harvest market. “This method allowed me to experience personally what it’s like in the community garden,” she says. “Interviewing people helped me learn much more about the social relationships that develop.”

This blog is a copy of a Wageningen UR press release and a follow-up of a previous blog announcing the public defence.

Culture in, for and as sustainability

picture culture blog

Is culture truly a ‘fourth’ pillar of sustainability alongside ecology, society and economy? Or is it more  central, more fundamental, more essential? How does culture act as a catalyst for ecological  sustainability, human well-being and economic viability? What would our futures look like if  sustainability was embedded within culture in all of its multiple dimensions, including different  worldviews and values, ways of life, and other forms of cultural expression? A cultural transition that embeds sustainability in the cultural understandings and daily practices of society has the power to shift humanity’s currently unsustainable trajectory.

Culture plays many roles in (un)sustainability, but the scientific, policy-making and societal spheres  have lacked understanding of the essence of culture in sustainability. During a four-year period  (2011-2015) European research network Investigating Cultural Sustainability  (www.culturalsustainability.eu) has sought out state of the art and radical research across Europe and beyond. The network has highlighted this research in order to provide researchers and policymakers with instruments for integrating culture as a key element of sustainable development.
The main results of the work are:
• A final report: “Culture in, for and as Sustainable Development” summarizing the conclusions of the work and introducing three roles of culture in sustainable development: www.culturalsustainability.eu/outputs/conclusions.pdf
• a new book series, Routledge Studies in Culture and Sustainability and its first three volumes draw directly from the Action’s work, focusing on culture and sustainability in European cities, heritage and regional development: http://www.routledgementalhealth.com/books/series/RSCSD/
• an international transdisciplinary conference Culture(s) in Sustainable Futures: theories, policies, practices in Helsinki 6-8 May, 2015 at which the results of the Action were discussed by almost 300 scholars and practitioners. On the website you can find an overview of the sessions and streamed registrations of the plenary sessions, student’ reflections, the list of abstracts and the list of participants: http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/helsinki2015/programme.  Lummina Horlings of the RSO group organised a session on Values in Place and gave a presentation during the plenary session on Culture in Sustainable Futures (starting at minute 36): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jItM_Hd_SAg&feature=youtu.be

Altogether 100 researchers from 25 countries within the EU with additional participants from  Israel, Albania, New Zealand, and Australia contributed to the work in different ways. The network  incorporated a wide variety of disciplines and fields of research, ranging from cultural, humanistic  and social sciences, through political and natural sciences, to planning. The profiles and research interests of the members are introduced in the publication,  Investigating Cultural Sustainability: Experts and Multidisciplinary Approaches: www.culturalsustainability.eu.  The work was co-ordinated by the University of Jyväskylä and supported by the European COST Association (Cooperation in Science and Technology), which is funded within the European Commission’s research programme Horizon 2020.

Call for abstracts: “Future solutions for a food secure world”

Originally posted on Food Governance:

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Deadline for abstracts 31 July 2015

More details here

Future solutions for a food secure world

The challenges ahead to feed 9 billion people by 2050 are well articulated (and contested), but innovative solutions remain elusive and time is of the essence. One possible reason that solutions are slow to surface is the generally homogenous pool of ideas from which to draw inspiration: neoliberal and patriarchal ideologies continue to dominate the discourse on global solutions. A platform for diverse perspectives on these problems and for proposals of solutions, can identify potential solution pathways that are key to operationalizing timely strategies for a just and sustainable food future.

In this Special Issue of Solutions, young thinkers (under 40 years of age) from around the globe are invited to propose innovative solutions for a food secure world. The Special Issue will provide a platform for emerging scholars to contribute to solutions…

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Community gardens in urban areas – critical reflection on social cohesion & alternative food provisioning – PhD thesis by Esther Veen

Esther Veen - Community gardens in urban areasJune 15, 2015 at 1.30 pm Esther Veen will publicly defend her PhD-thesis ‘Community gardens in urban areas: A critical reflection on the extent to which they strengthen social cohesion and provide alternative food‘ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The defence ceremony will be streamed live by WURTV but can be viewed later as well. A hard copy of the thesis can be ordered by sending an email to esther.veen@wur.nl or a pdf can be downloaded from Wageningen Library (see link above).

This thesis shows that the different organisational set-ups of community gardens reflect gardeners’ different motivations for being involved in these gardens. The gardens studied in this thesis can be defined as either place-based or interest-based; gardens in the first category are focused on the social benefits of gardening, whereas gardens in the second category are focused on gardening and vegetables. Nevertheless, social effects occur in both types of gardens; in all of the gardens studied, participants meet and get to know others and value these contacts. Based on this finding, I conclude that community gardens do indeed enhance social cohesion.

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