About Han Wiskerke

Chair and Professor of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University (The Netherlands) Research domains: rural and regional development, agro-food studies

MSc course Sociology of Food Provisioning and Place-based Development

On the 16th of March 2015 the MSc course ‘Sociology of Food Provisioning and Place-based Development’ (RSO-31806) starts. Students that want to participate in this course can contact the course coordinator Han Wiskerke (han.wiskerke@wur.nl) as the deadline for online registration has passed.

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The course aims to provide a theoretical, empirical and methodological understanding of place-based development processes, with an emphasis on food provisioning and rural and territorial dynamics in urbanizing societies. The course is based upon recently completed and ongoing research activities within two of the main research domains of the Rural Sociology Group:

  1. The sociology of food provisioning;
  2. The sociology of place-based development.

Being based on recently completed and ongoing research projects implies that this course provides an up-to-date  insight into current theoretical debates and research findings. These are mainly derived from international collaborative research programmes (see ‘our projects’), carried out by multi-disciplinary research teams in different countries inside and outside Europe. Within and linked to these programmes the Rural Sociology Group has approximately 30 ongoing PhD projects. Some of these projects will also feature during this course.

The course is divided into four main themes: Continue reading

Global dynamics and empowerment of the local street food network: a case study on the Ghana Traditional Caterers Association

By Hilde-Marije Dorresteijn, MSc International Development Studies at Wageningen University

For my MSc thesis within the RSO chair group I did research on street food in Ghana. During the master programme I became more and more interested in food issues and its possibilities for local development. These possibilities are beautifully illustrated by the following quotation with which I started my thesis:

“Food provides an answer. Our landscapes and cities were shaped by food. Our daily routine revolves around it, our politics and economies are driven by it, our identities are inseparable from it, and our survival depends on it. What better tool, then, with which to shape the world.” (Steel, 2012 in Viljoen & Wiskerke, 2012:36).

HM Dorresteijn blog picture 1

Despite its importance I found little scientific research on street food, a phenomenon that is particularly relevant in developing countries. Street food can be defined as: ‘ready to eat food or beverages prepared and/or sold in the street and other public places for immediate consumption or at a later time without further processing or preparation’ (FAO, 2012). I decided to look into this topic within the context of Ghana’s capital Accra. An estimated 85% of the urban population in Ghana patronize it, cutting across socio-economic boundaries and thus also designating the important cultural role of street food In Accra, from early morning till late at night all sorts of food are being sold on the streets. Also, there is a great variety in the professionalism of microenterprises. There are many hawkers walking around trying to sell their products, well established enterprises that have fixed stands and seating facilities, and the informal eating houses called ‘chop bars’. Street food make an essential contribution to nutrition of the urban population by providing easily accessible and affordable food, as well as they provide a good livelihood strategy by creating employment and increasing incomes for a large number of urban dwellers. Hereby street food thus makes a great contribution to the local economy. This informal sector requires low start-up capital and low levels of education are needed, making it a good business opportunity for especially women.

The cheapest way to make money, is to cook food. You are a secretary, or you have a shop, and the shop collapses. You can buy a pot, buy silver, cooking utensils, buy water, the pepper, yam and you cook and you’ll get people to buy. Very, very cheap. So day in day out people have been coming into the system. That is why they are plenty. And automatically when you cook, you will get people to buy.” (Mr. Ansong, PRO GTCA, 13 Jan. 2014) Continue reading

Call for abstracts Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society Conference

The programme committee of the Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society Conference, which will take place in Rome (Italy) from 14-17 September 2015, has opened the call for abstracts. Abstracts can be submitted through the conference system EasyChair until 31 March 2015 for one of the following 23 working groups (click on the working group for description and convenors or download pdf (500 KB)):

  1. WG1 – Connecting local and global food systems and reducing footprint in food provisioning and use
  2. WG2 – Short food supply chains (regional products; farmers’ markets; collective farmers’ marketing initiatives; alternative food networks; CSA)
  3. WG3 – Economic impact at the farm level
  4. WG4 – New business models for multiple value creation
  5. WG5 – Entrepreneurial skills and competences, knowledge and innovation systems and new learning arrangements
  6. WG6 – Transition approaches
  7. WG7 – Regional branding and local agrifood systems: strategies, governance, and impacts
  8. WG8 – Food systems and spatial planning. Towards a reconnection?
  9. WG9 – Land-use transformations
  10. WG10 – Urban agriculture I. Urban agriculture and Urban Food Strategies: Processes, Planning, Policies and Potential to Reconnect Society and Food
  11. WG11 – Urban agriculture II. Grass-root initiatives and community gardens
  12. WG12 – Urban agriculture III: Effects of UA. Urban agriculture: a potential tool for local and global food security, economic, social and environmental resilience, and community health and wellness
  13. WG13 – Care Farming/Social Farming in more resilient societies
  14. WG14 – Rural tourism (agri-tourism) and changing urban demands
  15. WG15 – Local arrangements for agricultural ecosystem services: connecting urban populations to their peri-urban landscapes through the ecosystem services of agriculture
  16. WG16 – Gender aspects of multifunctional agriculture
  17. WG17 – Civic agriculture for an urbanizing society: production models, consumption practices and forms of governance
  18. WG18 – Society Oriented Farming – working on the balance between market and societal demands
  19. WG19 – Food Security: Meanings, Practices and Policies
  20. WG20 – Revolutionary solutions for local food systems
  21. WG21 – Urban forestry, Green infrastructure
  22. WG22 – Food System Transitions: Cities and the Strategic Management of Food Practices
  23. WG23 – Conceptualising and Assessing City Region Food Systems

After a positive evaluation of the abstract the author will be asked to upload a paper of max 10 pages which will be published online on the website of the conference. There will also be the possibility to submit a short paper of max 2 pages enabling the authors to still publish their results in peer reviewed journals after the conference. Short papers will be published in a book of proceedings. The procedures for the papers will be published on the conference website soon.

Job opportunity – Senior Research Fellow at the Countryside and Community Research Institute (Gloucester, UK)

The Countryside and Community Research Institute (www.ccri.ac.uk), established over 25 years ago, is an internationally-recognised and respected leader in applied rural research in the UK and Europe with a broad portfolio of projects approaching £1m p.a. in value. CCRI staff are drawn from a range of social and political science, economics and applied science backgrounds, and participate in a variety of national and international research collaborations.

The CCRI is seeking to appoint a senior researcher to develop its capacity and reputation in the area of sustainable agriculture and food and nutrition security, with a strong preference to recruit someone with excellent quantitative and statistical analytical skills. Initially, about 60% of the post-holder’s time will be dedicated to a new Horizon 2020 research project entitled ‘Sustainable finance for sustainable agriculture and fisheries’ (SUFISA), which will run from 1st May 2015 to April 2019. A key role for the post holder will be to lead the design and analysis of a large farm survey across European agricultural regions, including econometric and multivariate analysis.

The Post-holder would also be expected to secure, manage and contribute to other UK and EU funded applied rural research, to undertake supervision and teaching, to maintain an active publications portfolio and to be of suitable quality to enter into future assessments of research excellence.

For more information see http://resources.glos.ac.uk/jobs/index.cfm?jobRef=A843

Exploring business models in Urban Agriculture

Despite the growing attention and support for urban agriculture (UA) and the increase in urban farming businesses, little is known about the business aspects of UA. This is not only an omission in UA research, but it could also constrain the development of UA businesses in the future.

We are therefore undertaking research to understand business approaches in UA. This may help to classify UA business models and could serve as a first step to explore UA through a business approach. For this purpose we have designed an online questionnaire that takes 10 – 15 minutes to complete

Hence, we are looking UA entrepreneurs willing to answer the questions in this questionnaire. In return, a written report of the research results will be shared with you through email (please leave your email address at the end of the questionnaire if you are interested).

We will also be very thankful if you can forward the link to this questionnaire (https://wur.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_bQ0RmTT67JPiXn7) to (other) urban agriculture entrepreneurs you know.

We sincerely appreciate your precious time and kind help!

Shuang Liu (MSc student in Organic Agriculture, Wageningen University)
Han Wiskerke (Professor of Rural Sociology, Wageningen University)

Summerschool Thinking City – Amsterdam

In the past two weeks a very international group of Master and PhD students, academics, policymakers, designers, teachers and activists have been participating in the Summer School Thinking City. They have been working on a range of challenges Amsterdam is dealing with. On Friday evening 18 July the different teams will present their findings and recommendations in the Stadsschouwburg of Amsterdam. This final evening of the Summer School will start at 19.30 with a lecture (via Skype) by Prof. Richard Sennett (Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics) about his book-in-progress ‘How to build better cities’. From 21.00 to 22.30 the six Summer School teams will present their work. Entrance to this final event is for free, so anyone interested in the topic of the Summer School is cordially invited to attend this.

New journal announcement: SITOPOLIS – Journal of Urban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems

SITOPOLIS – The Journal of Urban Agriculture and Regional Food Systems is a multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed and open access journal focussing on urban and peri-urban agriculture and systems of urban and regional food provisioning in developing, transition and advanced economies.

The journal intends to be a platform for cutting edge research on urban and peri-urban agricultural production for food and non-food (e.g. flowers, medicine, cosmetics) uses and for social, environmental and health services (e.g. tourism, water storage, care, education, waste recycling, urban greening). It aims to explore, analyse and critically reflect upon urban and regional food production, processing, transport, trade, marketing and consumption and the social, economic, environmental, health and spatial contexts, relations and impacts of these food provisioning activities.

The journal addresses one of the contemporary grand societal challenges: how to secure the availability, affordability and access to culturally appropriate, nutritious and safe food for a growing and rapidly urbanizing world population in times of increasing resource scarcity, diet-related ill-health and climate change. This contemporary grand societal challenge requires a multi-disciplinary approach and hence SITOPOLIS welcomes contributions from a wide variety of disciplines, such as sociology, economics, marketing and consumer studies, gender studies, human and economic geography, urban and regional planning, architecture, urbanism, landscape architecture, political science, agronomy, soil science, water management, and public health studies. The journal publishes original research as well as critical reviews.

The journal is published by Baltzer Science Publishers in collaboration with ACSESS, the Alliance of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Societies in the USA and with the RUAF Foundation. Editor-in-Chief is Prof.dr. Han Wiskerke, supported by an international and multi-disciplinary editorial board.

Student-assistenten gezocht voor de Dag van de Stadslandbouw

Op donderdag 15 mei vind in De Fabrique in Utrecht de Dag van de Stadslandbouw plaats, dit jaar in samenwerking georganiseerd met het PUREFOOD netwerk dat op 14 en 15 mei haar eindcongres houdt. Voor de Dag van de Stadslandbouw zijn de organisatoren nog op zoek naar een paar studenten die hand- en spandiensten kunnen verrichten op 15 mei (o.a. bij de ontvangst van de deelnemers en bij de start van de workshop sessies). Heb je belangstelling om te helpen, meld je dan aan bij Marco Lipsius van B2B Productions (marco.lipsius (at) b2bproductions.nl).

PUREFOOD conference teaser – The many benefits of local food

On May 14 and 15 2014 the PUREFOOD conference entitled “Take action? Collaborative action for more sustainable food systems” will take place in Utrecht (The Netherlands). The morning of the first day (Wednesday May 14) will take place in the Central Museum of Utrecht and consists of three inspirational presentations followed by a reflection by keynote listener Professor Tim Lang and discussions in workshops. In the afternoon there will be three excursions to urban and peri-urban agriculture and food initiatives in and around Utrecht.

The second day of the conference (Thursday May 15) will take place in DeFabrique in Utrecht. This second day is a joint event of PUREFOOD and the Day of Urban Farming, with a keynote speech by Claus Meyer (founder of the New Nordic Cuisine movement and co-owner of restaurant Noma in Copenhagen, which is considered to be the world’s best restaurant) and a wide variety of parallel workshops. For more information see the conference program.

As a teaser for the PUREFOOD conference Creative Beards has made a short animation movie addressing the main issues that have been studied in PUREFOOD.

Theoretical approaches to the ecologisation of agrifood systems – European Society of Rural Sociology 2014 Summerschool

Transitions towards more sustainable agrifood systems and rural landscapes are at the core of societal demands, technological but also social innovations and renewed public policies at various scales. In rural sociology they are addressed through different theoretical frameworks and the main objective of the ESRS PhD Summer School this year, is to discuss these competing and sometimes articulated frameworks and thereby to help the PhD students to clarify their own theoretical choices and to position them in relation to other theoretical frameworks that are used in rural sociology. For students who are rather at the beginning of their PhD, the aim will be to help them organize their state of the art and clarify their problematisation, while for students who are more advanced, it would rather be a discussion of their results in the light of existing literature and/or possibly the preparation of a future article. All the participants should have an interest in the theoretical frameworks that will be structuring the discussion, i.e. mainly Socio-Ecological Systems/Resilience theories, Food Regime Theory, Transition Theories, Actor Network Theory, and Social Studies of Science and Knowledge. Continue reading