Visiting scholar Claire Baker – how global transformations affected a small rural community in Australia

Claire Paradise 2

Claire Baker visiting the social care farm ‘t Paradijs:

By Claire Baker, PhD-student from the University of New England in Australia.

Working title of my PhD-project: ‘Experiencing change in a globalising agricultural economy: An Australian ethnographic case study 1945-2015′.

I have been very fortunate to have spent some time with the dynamic Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University as a Visiting Scholar over the last couple of weeks. This has been an intensive period of discussion and reading during which I have further refined the theoretical and methodological framework for my research project. Continue reading

Multifunctional Agriculture in Madagascar

By Marc Wegerif. PhD Candidate, Rural Sociology Group Wageningen University, carrying out research on food provisioning in Dar es Salaam. Contact:

Mila Soa multifunctional farm: Livestock, Tourism, Relaxation, Sport, Training

I immediately thought of Wageningen and multifunctional agriculture when I visited the Mila Soa farm ( ) in Madagascar. Richard Rabetrano was showing me around. He is a local farmer and farmer organiser who is part of the leadership of the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers Forum (ESAFF – Richard had asked if I wanted to see a farm with pigs, dairy cows and fish.

When we arrivFish ponds at Mila Soaed we parked next to an events hall that is used for weddings and other functions. The pigs and chickens are in sheds built on the hillside opposite the main part of the farm, I suppose they do not make the best accompaniment in sound or smell for your special day, whether it be saying I do or graduating from university. Most of the fish are tilapia and the farm is experimenting with new methods of hatching the fish eggs and different feeding regimes as well as adding more fish ponds. Continue reading

Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition – account of symposium hosted by the FAO

Maria Alicia MendoncaBy Maria Alice Mendonça, PhD-student Rural Development at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS, Brazil) and guest PhD at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University

During the days 18 and 19th of September, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations) hosted the International Symposium of Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition, in Rome, Italy. See the FAO webpage for more information on participants, presentations, poster, videos and so on.

The conference was attended by over 400 people. Amongst them were academics and representatives from government and social movements from all over the world. The aim was to discuss agroecology in the context of global debates and strategies related to: food security, sustainable agriculture and local food systems. The symposium was divided in three parts. The first was a plenary session with presentations by experts at the forefront of scientific research and bystate officials involved in the construction and implementation of innovative policies on Agroecology and Food Security. This was followed by parallel sessions where social movements, such as La Via Campesina and the Articulation in Brazilian Semiarid – ASA, as well as academics and government representatives shared on the ground experiences with Agroecology in diverse countries. At the closing session, State’s ministries of France, Nigeria, Japan, Senegal, Costa Rica, Brazil (video message), the Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Union (video message) and the FAO’s general director, José Graziano da Silva made their statements and commitments to Agroecology and Food Security. Continue reading

Regulation of Participatory Guarantee Systems in Brazil: Achievements and Challenges

Maria Alicia MendoncaBy  Maria Alice F. C. Mendonça, Ph.D. student in Rural Development at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul/Brazil and Wageningen University/The Netherlands

Below my contribution to the IFOAM Global newsletter on Participatory Guarantee Systems published bimonthly. See the IFOAM PGS webpage for more information. Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems that certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.

The Brazilian regulation for organic and agroecological production was introduced in the 1990’s in response to international restrictions on Brazilian organic products. Nevertheless, the agroecological movement stayed prominent and actively participated in discussions and negotiations with the government. As a result of this interaction between government and the agroecological movement, a series of laws, decrees and federal regulatory instructions for organic and agroecological production was enacted, e.g. the Organic Law and its respective regulatory instructions. Moreover, the National Policy on Organic Production and Agroecology (Política Nacional de Agroecologia e Produção Orgânica) and the National Action Plan for Organic Production and Agroecology (Plano Nacional de Agroecologia e Produção Orgânica) were released in 2012 and 2013 respectively. They settle the strategies for government investments in the expansion of agroecological production.

Currently, Brazilian farmers have three options to ensure the organic and agroecological quality of their produce: 1) Third-party certification; 2) Participatory Assessment Bodies; and 3) Social Control Organizations. These last two are systems operate at a local level and rely on the active participation of stakeholders. However, only the Participatory Assessment Bodies are considered as Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) in the legal sense and authorized for the use of the national organic label, which is required for non-direct sales of organic products. In contrast, the Social Control system does not grant the right to use the national label and allows only the direct sale from small-scale family famers to the final consumers.

Continue reading

Benefits and constraints for certification of agro-ecological farmers – MSc-thesis possibility

I am Maria Alice Mendonça, a PhD-student from the Univerity of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). I’m interested in the markteting and certification of agroecological food products. I’m staying at the Rural Sociology Group to study the certification of origin and organic food products in the Netherlands.

Certification can play an important role in the transition towards more sustainable food and agriculture. Yet, at the same time, rigid standards may constrain farmer innovation. To many small scale farmers certification is moreover a large financial burden. I want to investigate two or three different major certification schemes in the Netherlands. Interviews will be conducted with agroecological farmers to find the various benefits and constraints faced for different certification schemes.

I’m now looking for a MSc-is student with an interest in the topic that can assist from May 2014 onwards. Seen the interviews, preference is given to a Dutch speaking MSc student studying for example Organic Agriculture, Rural Development and Innovation, International Development Studies or Management, Economics and Consumer Studies.

If you are interested contact me: or Dirk Roep:

Symbiotic chicken supplies – food provisioning in Dar es Salaam

By Marc Wegerif. PhD Candidate, Rural Sociology Group Wageningen University. Marc Wegerif is carrying out research on food provisioning in Dar es Salaam.

Diagrams made by Jerryt Krombeen, a freelance designer and advisor working with own company ( on: design, urbanism, landscape architecture, and public space. Jerryt is completing his Masters at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture ( ) and joined a group of students in a project on planning for food markets in Dar es Salaam.

By Jerryt Krombeen  (

By Jerryt Krombeen

It is 5am, still dark, I am at the Shikilango people’s market in Dar es Salaam, a variety of vehicles are arriving and stopping in the street next to the market, the clucking of chickens fills the air. Motorbikes with two large woven baskets on the back, tied on top of each other, park. The baskets carrying up to 50 chickens each are arranged on the ground. Small Suzuki pick-up trucks and other vehicles with wood and wire frames on the back arrive with hundreds of chickens, the various buyers crowding around them as the morning business picks up and the sun begins to light the sky. Some customers are buying directly from the vans and motorbikes. Some of the butchers, identifiable in their white overalls and boots, are also buying direct from the vehicles to fill orders they already have. I watch the scene while sitting on a large rock on the edge of the road. The man sitting next to me on the rock is selling plastic bags of different sizes and cigarettes to customers and traders. Most of the people with the vans and motorbikes also have a stall in the market or cooperate with someone who does. The chickens not sold directly in the morning are transferred to the market and sold there through the rest of the day.

Under a high roof that covers a raised concrete platform there are thousands of chickens in lines of cages four levels high. The alley ways left between the cages are busy with people selling and buying chickens, negotiating or just talking. There is an alley at a lower level between the platform and six white tiled chicken slaughtering and cleaning areas that run along two sides of the platform.

Continue reading

Meat: the good, the bad and the complicated

By Birgit Boogard, former RSO-staff member, now Post-doctoral fellow at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) currently working on the imGoats project that has the objective to:  ‘increase incomes and food security in a sustainable manner by enhancing pro-poor small ruminant value chains in India and Mozambique’. (

Meat: the good, the bad and the complcicated (IFPRI Infographic)

Meat: the good, the bad and the complcicated (IFPRI Infographic)

The International Food Policy Institute recently published an interesting info-graphic on meat production and consumption in the world entitled ‘Meat: the good, the bad and the complicated . The debate about meat production and consumption is a very interesting one in many ways. I don’t need to remind us of the recent discussion at Wageningen UR on ‘the good’ of intensified animal production ‘to feed the world’. In response to such arguments, ‘the bad’ are brought into the debate (see for example earlier blog by Petra), which are subsequently answered by the animal production sector with defensive responses. Continue reading

Resistance and Autonomy in Western Mexico – local actors creating a place of their own

 By Peter R.W. Gerritsen, Department of Ecology and Natural Resources, South Coast University Centre, University of Guadalajara, Av. Independencia Nacional 151, 48900, Autlán, Jal., Mexico. Email:

 The local effects of global processes in the Mexican countryside are well documented; describing problems related to the quality of rural producers’ life, identity and traditional practices, as well as their resource management practices. Alike initiatives all over the world,  also in western Mexico local actors joined forces to counter these problems and created ‘a place of their own’ in a globalised world, a place for their own wellbeing.

RASA - Peter Gerritsen

In the state of Jalisco, located in western Mexico, 20 groups of peasants and indigenous farmers, supported by professionals from non-governmental organizations and local universities, joined forces in 1999 and created the Red de Alternativas Sustentables Agropecuarias (RASA: the Network for Sustainable Agricultural Alternatives). As such, the RASA can be considered an umbrella organization for many local organized producer groups.

The RASA is also a social organization with characteristics of the so-called new social movements. New social movements have emerged since the late 1970s in the Mexican countryside, due to the problems created by global processes. The struggles that have led to their emergence originate from the demand to defend local structures and to remain control over the different domains of daily life. As such, these movements stress the need for endogenous development approaches. Closely related to the issue of specific life styles is the defense of the territory, being the place of local identity formation. It is also here, where innovative forms of resource management have emerged.

RASA 2 PGThe RASA´s main objective is strengthening a development model that aims to mitigate the local impacts of global processes and that permits the transition towards sustainable local development. In practice, the RASA organizes workshops on organic agriculture and fair trade, and organizes farmer-to-farmer meetings for sharing experiences (including political discussions on the countryside). These activities take place in the rural and peri-urban areas of Jalisco. The RASA also designs and implements new fair trade-channels, mainly in the metropolitan area of the Jalisco state capital Guadalajara. As such, the RASA´s actions are also directed at urban consumers. Finally, articulation with other social movements is actively sought for. Thus, the RASA seeks to create new room for maneuver by establishing strategic alliances with different societal actors.

The creation of local transition paths towards sustainable development, such as promoted by the RASA, is related to the issues of agency and power. These, in turn, are (often) related to resistance and autonomy. Both elements are also recognizable in the RASA experience.

To start with, the RASA has created its own socio-political space in the Jalisco countryside, which has permitted to resist to and counter the dominant rural development model in Mexico and in Jalisco that follows global tendencies. However, the RASA´s efforts must be understood as heterogeneous in nature; not all groups are involved in fair trade, but only those with a production surplus. Moreover, some groups focus more on basic grain production, while others cultivate horticultural crops. Furthermore, the RASA emerged outside the realm of governmental intervention in rural areas. In fact, it has been systematically neglected by formal institutions, as the RASA has been considered a threat to the established formal – historically-determined – political spaces in the rural arenas. Moreover, within the rural communities the RASA-members are perceived as outsiders. In this sense, the RASA conceptual approach has permitted strengthening their self-consciousness and self-organization, as well as improving their position in their communities. It has also led to the dimension of autonomy in the sustainable development model, as designed and implemented by the RASA.

Rural Development in Brazil: interfaces between public policy and social actors

From the 10th till the 28th of February Prof. Sergio Schneider of the Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil is visiting Wageningen under the agreement CAPES-Wageningen University. Sergio is Professor of Rural Sociology and Coordinator of the Post-Graduate Programme in Rural Development (PGDR). In his contribution to the Rural Sociology Weblog he briefly introduces his research domain. He will also present this at a research seminar of the Rural Sociology Group on Thursday 19 February at 16.00 hrs in room C70 of the Leeuwenborch building.

Sergio SchneiderBy Sergio Schneider – Since the 1990’s discussions on rural development in Brazil are no longer associated with policies to combat poverty. From these times onwards discussions on rural development have been related to themes like environmental sustainability, land reform, policies to support small family farming and more recently, the issue of food security. The discussion on rural development in Brazil has gained strong momentum … Continue reading