Thesis Opportunities “Circular economy for agri-food systems”

Thesis Opportunities “Circular economy for agri-food systems”

The following thesis opportunities are co-supervised by Dr. Vivian Valencia (Farming Systems Ecology) and Dr. Oona Morrow (Rural Sociology Group)

The circular economy is a hot topic these days, with innovations coming from the grassroots, public, and private sector. But the governance of the circular economy is lagging behind, and we lack a systemic and regional view that bridges the gap between innovation and policy, rural and urban, and the social, economic, and environmental. Taking a systems view can help us to identify where policy interventions would make the most impact, by for example focusing on producers instead of consumer waste streams. We advertise three interlinked projects on the circular economy, that will feed into a multi-stage four year project.

Our approach to the circular economy that takes a food systems perspective to map all of the flows, benefits, and burdens of our current agri-food and waste system in the Amsterdam city-region, as well as the governance structures and policy levers that keep this system in place, and have the potential to change it. Importantly, our approach proposes to capture not only environmental and economic impacts, but also social impacts in the AMA city-region, including for example quality of life, social inclusion, food security, and transitions potential.

We take a geographic, sectoral, and sustainability perspective on circularity, to ensure that not only are materials reused – but that they find their highest and best use in the local food economy. For example, surplus food is redistributed to people rather than bio-digesters, organic waste is composted or converted to animal feed rather being burned for home heating or converted to jet fuel. These re-generative loops are depicted in the diagram below by Feedback Global.  

feedback global

Furthermore, we take seriously the role of urban design in reproducing or disrupting our current agri-food-waste system through the (re)design of green space, logistics, waste, and waste water infrastructure. Approaching urban design and infrastructure as vital components of agri-food systems offers opportunities for crafting shorter and more regenerative loops at every stage in the agri-food system, including the “end of pipe” recovery of nutrients.

If you wish to pursue this as a thesis opportunity you will receive supervision in the development of a research proposal on the governance of the circular economy.  The following topics are possible:

  1. Mapping Circular Economy Innovations in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area

We seek a motivated student to conduct a scoping study and stakeholder mapping of circular food innovations in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We take a broad view of circularity, to include traditional and emerging innovations, and social, economic, and environmental impacts.

2. Governing the Circular Economy

We week a motivated student to conduct a scoping study, media analysis, and literature review on the governance of circular urban and regional governance for the circular economy practices that are being tested and developed in city-regions across the globe, while focusing in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We seek to learn from inspiring examples, best practices, as well as failures.

3. Methods for Visioning the Circular Economy in Place

You will research visioning and futuring methods that are well suited for stimulating creative out of the box thinking on the governance of the circular economy, develop a workshop design, and test your methods. There are already many existing participatory methodologies for visioning the future and co-creating transformation pathways for the future. Which may work best when it comes to transitioning to a circular economy?

Questions: contact oona.morrow@wur.nl

 

 

Energy and labour use on farms: case studies from the Netherlands and China – PhD-thesis Tian Yu

November 20, 2019 at 4.00 pm Tian Yu will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Energy and Labour use on farms: case studies from the Netherlands and China‘. See the Abstract below.

The full thesis will be available after the defence ceremony. The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but can be viewed later as well. Tian Yu is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University.

Abstract

As one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emission, agricultural production is responsible for climate change. In the most industrial countries, agricultural production has built a great dependency on fossil energy consumption by replacing most human labour with agro-technologies on the farm. This is unsustainable in the context of climate change and resource depletion. Therefore, in order to mitigate climate change, the transition to sustainable food production is necessary and urgent. Rising in the 1970s, organic agriculture is believed to be a sustainable approach for agricultural production. It has been proved to use less fossil energy due to a commitment not to use any synthetic substances, but at the same time it uses more labour. When labour and fossil energy are regarded as two basic resource inputs on a farm, it seems that organic farms use more labour to compensate for the reduced fossil energy consumption. However, it is still unknown how the input balance of fossil energy and labour on organic farms is different from that on conventional farms, and how the different input balance would influence the sustainability of agricultural production. It is valuable to explore these questions against the backdrop of climate change. As the issue of fossil energy and labour input balance on farms has not been studied thoroughly, this thesis is written based on an exploratory research. The main objective is to explore the balance of fossil energy and labour input at farm level by comparing conventional and organic farming systems, and to explore the possibility to optimise sustainability of resource use in agricultural production.

By conducting comparative case studies in both the Netherlands and China, this thesis first calculated the energy and labour input balance separately in the two countries, and it concluded organic farming uses less energy and more labour compared with conventional farming in both countries, but there is great variation among all the farms in the size and farming activity of this gap. When comparing the results from the two countries, the thesis concluded that Dutch farms use more energy while Chinese farms use more labour due to their different resource endowments. However, the situation is changing in both countries, and the changes show that the so-called industrial agriculture – which consumes much more energy – is not the only nor the best trajectory for agricultural development. Requiring more labour use on-farm, how organic farming can deal with the labour constrains is then answered: organic farmers should be encouraged to explore their diverse local solutions to increase the resilience of their farm when dealing with the constraints. In further, using the theory of farming mode and farming style, this thesis discussed farmers’ input strategies by clarifying the heterogeneity within organic farms, and highlighting the trend of conventionalisation in the development of organic agriculture, and it supports the hypothesis that organic agriculture with peasant qualities shows better potential in applying organic principles to optimise the sustainability of an organic farm. At last, the thesis discussed the theoretical concept of organic peasant agriculture and tries to distinguish it from conventional agriculture and conventionalised organic agriculture. It concludes that organic peasant agriculture is valuable in the transition to sustainable food production.

Third @voedselanders (Food Otherwise) Conference 2020 – call for participation

The third national Voedsel Anders (Food Otherwise) conference in Wageningen will take place in February 2020. The conference organization team calls all those interested to participate and make the third edition again successful. Some general information below. See Voedsel Anders conference 2020 for more detailed information.

Voedsel Anders is a movement of people in the Netherlands and Belgium working towards just and sustainable food systems. A lot has happened since the first conference and the drafting of our manifesto. Political as well as societal attention for the challenges and opportunities of the agri-food system have grown significantly and the urgency to ignite a transition is bigger than ever.

During the Voedsel Anders Conference 2020, we will identify and reflect on wins, barriers and solutions in our joined quest to an alternative food system. We will touch upon questions such as: What have we already achieved and what were the factors of success? How can we identify and deal with barriers? What possibilities and opportunities lie ahead? Can we strengthen the food movement whilst making it more inclusive and diverse?

If you have further question, want to organize a workshop or sponsor the conference, you can send an email to info@voedselanders.nl

De weg naar duurzame pachtafspraken tussen boer en gemeente: uitkomst ACT-opdracht

Image

Door Amarins Bouman, Jurrian Veldhuizen, Henry Abbink, Robin Kampert, Ester Klein Hesselink en Floor Sluijter. Studenten van Wageningen Universiteit die als onderdeel van hun Master opleiding een Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) opdracht hebben uitgevoerd.

De afgelopen twee maanden hebben wij onderzoek gedaan in het kader van het Wetenschapswinkel project ‘Boeren zonder land: hoe is dat mogelijk?’ in opdracht van Vereniging Toekomstboeren. Met 6 studenten van verschillende achtergronden (consumentenwetenschappen, bos-en natuurbeheer, international development & biologische landbouw) zijn wij aan de slag gegaan met het onderzoeken van alternatieve pachtconstructies. Binnen dit onderzoek is er gekozen voor de gemeente als landeigenaar, waarna er 3 verschillende boeren & gemeenten zijn geïnterviewd. Het onderzoek richtte zich op de sterke en zwakke punten van de pacht- en huurovereenkomsten en hoe deze de (on)zekerheid van duurzame boeren beïnvloeden. Dit is visueel weergegeven in bovenstaande figuur.

Boeren worden in de overeenkomsten met de gemeente vaak geconfronteerd met onzekerheden die verband houden met de duur van hun overeenkomsten en de duurzaamheidsaspecten. Er is vaak geen visie en/of beleid vanuit de gemeente op het gebied van het faciliteren van (duurzame) landbouw. Dit leidt tot de onzekerheidsproblematiek zoals korte contracten en beperkte mogelijkheden tot investeringen voor de lange termijn, zoals die in een goede bodem. Echter blijken de gemeenten en duurzame boeren elkaar te vinden in de waarde die de onderlinge afspraken kunnen hebben voor de lokale gemeenschap. Naast de agrarische functie kan een boerderij in de stad ook van grote maatschappelijke waarde zijn.

Op basis van onze bevindingen moedigen we boeren en gemeenten aan om meer te weten te komen over elkaars behoeften en hoe de pachtovereenkomst in ieders voordeel kan werken. Zie de Infosheet hieronder. In ons rapport kunt u hier meer over lezen.

Infosheet: ‘De weg naar een duurzame pachtovereenkomst tussen boer en gemeente’.

 

 

 

Honourable Distinction for RSO PhD candidate Lucie Sovová

On Tuesday the 29th of October, Lucie Sovová, PhD student at the Rural Sociology Group, won an honourable distinction from the Storm-van der Chijs Fund. The objective of this fund is to encourage and support Wageningen University female PhD students to pursue their study and career in science. 

The RSO chair group nominated Lucie, and soon found out that she was awarded the honourable distinction. As head of the jury Prof dr ir Arnold Bregt stated that Lucie bridges urban gardening and alternative food networks. In her work on Central and Eastern Europe, she questions framing informal food economies as remnants of the socialist era. She shows how they are not necessarily “inferior” to, but merely coexisting and interacting with their market-based counterparts. Next to her academic work she is in many ways involved and contributing to NGOs in this field.” 

The honourable distinction comes with 500 euros, which Lucie plans on spending by visiting a conference in Manchester.

Click here and here for more information. IMG-20191029-WA0000 (002)

Food Self Sufficiency in a Community: Dream or Reality? A documentary by MSc-student László Bartha

Food Self Sufficiency in a Community: Dream or Reality? a documentary by László Bartha, MSc-student Organic Agriculture of Wageningen University.

During his internship at the Wageningen student organization Otherwise, László Bartha made a documentary of his MSC thesis research for the ecovillage The Vlierhof. It has been hard work, but it has become a very nice, and respectful documentary of a decision-making process regarding the future development of the ecovillage. “The Vlierhof” approved the creation and online publication of the documentary. Below a brief introduction to the documentary. 

Intentional communities and ecovillages are present in almost every country in the world. People decide to live in these places because they want to explore and experiment with new organizational forms and alternative livelihoods. “The Vlierhof” is one of these communities with the vision “to promote awareness and peace on earth. We want to make a contribution to the social and environmental problems faced by society today, living as self-sufficiently as possible.” According to this vision, they also grow part of their food. But is the amount of food that they produce enough to sustain themselves? In this short documentary, we can learn about the community, its members and find answers to this question. The film has been created from the recorded materials of an action research project. Among the audio-visual research methods interviewing was the main data collection method. The purpose of the research was to explore social dynamics in the community and follow a decision-making process regarding the future of the community garden.

Introducing RSO’s new Assistant Professor!

Well, the last four months has been a whirlwind of moving houses, living out of suitcases, new climates, new friends, stroopwafel, bicycles and mind-blowing public transport (for an Australian, anyway). Having finally set up some photos on my desk, and unpacked all my boxes, I thought it was time to introduce myself to all you past, present and future RSO blog readers out there.

G’day, I’m Mark, RSO’s new assistant professor, and yes that is an Australian accent you hear.

Moving to the Netherlands to join WUR has been a mix of the old and the new for me. It’s been a great thrill to reconnect with friends and colleagues from around the world who have also found their way to Wageningen, including some fellow survivors from my PhD days in the Geography school at the University of Sydney.

A little bit about me then…Coming from an environmental science/development studies background, it was in Sydney that I discovered my love for the discipline of Geography (how does a geographer end up in a sociology group you may ask? More on that later). There, I pursued a PhD thesis project working with small farmers in Maharashtra, India who were being enrolled in potato contract farming schemes by agribusiness firms.

It was through this work that I developed my ongoing interest in what is known as ‘the Agrarian Question’, which connects to old debates about agrarian change and rural development going all the way back to Karl Marx himself, implicating Lenin, Karl Kautsky, and Alexander Chayanov along the way, before being renewed and applied to current agrarian and rural development problems by my contemporary intellectual heroes including Henry Bernstein, Harriet Friedmann, Michael Watts and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg. My time in India also triggered a life-long love affair with the country (not to mention the humble potato…).

That interest has since taking me to Indonesia (working with smallholder coffee farmers engaged in global value chains), Myanmar (working on a large-scale rural poverty, food and nutrition security, and livelihoods project), and back to India (studying the links between land and livelihoods). My own take on rural development in South and Southeast Asia is that we need approaches that bridge the structural insights of agrarian political economy with a ‘people-first’ approach that explicitly acknowledges the agency of rural people.

My ongoing task then has been to break down unhelpful dualisms by attempting to construct a political economy of everyday livelihoods in South and Southeast Asia. If you’re interested, you can find a list of my publications here. I’d love to hear from any students interested in pursuing a thesis on any of these topics!

Back to the new about moving to WUR. Well, while I’ve always looked to Wageningen as a place I’d love to work, I never quite saw myself joining a sociology group! Of course, there is a lot of overlap between geography and sociology, and you can find us geographers infiltrating all sorts of university departments all over the world.

One challenge I’m looking forward to is learning about the different frameworks and conceptual approaches that my colleagues at WUR apply to these common themes of sustainability, justice, equity and transformation in global food systems, while also getting my head around the teaching program! This academic year, you’ll be able to find me teaching into RSO34806 (Transforming Food Systems), RSO21806 (Origin Food), and RSO20806 (Agricultural and Rural Development). I’m excited to meet all the students studying these courses!

Finally, with my lovely partner, Katharine (who is actually a sociologist, and an amazing one at that!), we have a project investigating social, organisational and technological change in the global hops industry. I have to say, this involves the most enjoyable fieldwork I’ve been a part of. If you are interested in craft beer, the sociology of agricultural, and talking with hop farmers we are currently looking for one or two thesis students to work on this topic.

As winter approaches, I am starting to miss the sun and surf of Sydney a little bit. However, the cosy houses, the numerous Wageningen pubs, day trips to Den Haag, my clumsy attempts at learning Dutch, and my wonderful new colleagues more than make up for it. Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome so far, and I’m looking forward to all that is ahead in RSO!

Internship or Thesis Opportunity: Allotment and Community Gardens in Warsaw and Berlin

 

person wearing black lace up sneakers standing on green grass with fallen leaves

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Are you interested in the politics and governance of community and allotment gardening ? How these gardens can become more inclusive? And what lessons gardeners in Berlin and Warsaw can exchange?

The research project “Integration von Kleingärten und Gemeinschaftsgärten in Warschau und Berlin” seeks a German speaking research assistant.

We are looking for a person with:

– German language (spoken and written).

– Research interest in the topic of urban gardening;

– Training and experience with qualitative research methods

– Knowledge about Berlin allotment and community gardens’ and/or administrative situation and structure;

 
Project duration December 2019 – March 2021
  • November/December 2019 – Kick off. Interviewing gardeners, the city administration, city dwellers and other persons related to the topic – in Berlin (December and January)
  • May 2020 – Focus Groups in Warsaw and Berlin, a visit of Berliners to Warsaw
  • September 2020 – VISIS workshops on challenges and opportunities of this integration.
  • March 2021 – final meeting in Warsaw

The rest of the time is for research, reading, meeting with the project team, writing and meetings in gardens (action research).

The project is a cooperation with Humboldt University and Łódź University in Poland. With funding from the Deutsch Polnische Wissenschaft Stiftung.

Deadline: Please send expressions of interest to oona.morrow@wur.nl  by October 14

RSO supervisor: Oona Morrow oona.morrow@wur.nl

Field Research supervisors: Agnieszka Dragon and Anna Dańkowska

Thesis opportunity: Brewing Social, Economic and Ecological Change in the Global Hops Industry

With the rapid expansion of the craft beer sector globally, the organization of hop production is changing in producing countries. We seek one or two MSc students to conduct a primarily qualitative study on how interrelated social, economic and ecological dynamics shape sustainability outcomes (broadly conceived) in a rapidly expanding and changing industry. Potential topics of focus include the role of plant breeding and new varieties, trade-offs between cooperative vs competitive relationships, and how changing beer markets are influencing how people produce, sell and use hops. Potential frameworks include STS, Assemblage Theory, Global Value Chain Analysis and Political Economy. Students may choose to complete fieldwork and data collection in one of the target countries of New Zealand, UK, Belgium, US, and Germany.

low angle photo of green leaves

Photo by ELEVATE on Pexels.com

Pre-requisites:

  • You have some training in qualitative methods and critical social theory
  • You have a keen interest in the sociology of agriculture, food systems, sustainability, food politics and/or foodscapes
  • You are willing to develop fieldwork-based methodologies
  • You have completed at least two social sciences courses, preferably with RSO
  • You are eligible to do your thesis with RSO

Questions? More information? Email mark.vicol@wur.nl

Thesis of stage project: Versterken Vernieuwende Landbouw Beweging

Er is een forse toename in het aantal netwerken en pioniers op gebied van innovatieve agri-food systemen. Ze ontstaan vanuit de agrarische produktiekant en ook vanuit de consumentenkant en willen een alternatief bieden voor de dominante voedsel- en landbouwpraktijk. Ze richten zich vaak op de lokale context, werken integraal met aandacht voor biodiversiteit, koolstof vastlegging, betrekken van burgers en een gezonde leefomgeving.  Voorbeelden zijn Heerenboeren, Community Supported Agriculture, Food Forests, Agro-ecological agriculture,  bodemboeren en toekomstboeren. Bij veel van dit soort innovatieve agri-food systemen wordt uitgegaan van agro-ecologische principes.

De verschillende initiatieven ontwikkelen zich tot grotere netwerken die de ambitie hebben om te komen tot een gezamenlijke beweging. Wellicht met een gezamenlijk loket en/of steunpunt om zo aanspreekpunt te kunnen zijn voor beleid, onderzoek en andere partijen.

Om een goede strategie en aanpak te ontwikkelen voor het creëren van een sterke beweging met impact is het van belang de verschillende initiatieven en hun onderliggende waarden en principes goed in beeld te brengen.

We zoeken studenten die interesse hebben mee te werken aan deze ontwikkeling van de vernieuwende landbouwbeweging.

Onderwerpen van een thesis of stage project kunnen zijn:

  • In beeld brengen van de initiatieven en netwerken
  • In beeld brengen van de onderliggende visie/principes van de verschillende initiatieven en initiatiefnemers
  • In beeld brengen aan welke maatschappelijke uitdagingen initiatiefnemers een bijdrage willen leveren.
  • Strategie en aanpak ontwikkelen om de impact van deze vernieuwende initiatieven meer bekend te maken en breder ingang te laten vinden en bruggen te slaan met meer reguliere vormen van landbouw produktie.

 

 

Meer informatie:

 

Jan Hassink

Wageningen Plant Research

Agrosysteemkunde

Jan.hassink@wur.nl

0317480576