Understanding Sustainable Food System Transitions: Practice, Assessment and Governance

Food Governance

SoRo Sustainable Food Transitions

I am very pleased to share that a new special issue of Sociologia Ruralis edited by Damian Maye and me is now online: Understanding Sustainable Food System Transitions: Practice, Assessment and Governance.

The Special Issue provides theoretical insights and advancements into sustainability transitions through empirically grounded and informed investigations of food system practices. The papers confirm, following Hinrichs (2014, p. 143), that ‘numerous opportunities exist to forge more productive links between work on food systems change and the broad and growing sustainability transitions field’.

The Special Issue brings together 8 articles grouped together around two themes:

  1.  Examining relations between AFN practices and transition;
  2. Opening up measures and assessment practices for sustainability transitions.

Taken as a whole, the Special Issue advances discussions and thinking on alternative food practices and sustainability, opening up the debate not only on how to identify and analyse ‘alternative food practices’ in Europe, and beyond…

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Vacancy Assistant Professor in Food Sociology – Join us!

The Rural Sociology Group is looking for an Assistant Professor in Food Sociology. More information regarding this tenure track position is published at the WUR Vacancies website: Assistant Professor in Food Sociology. The vacancy is open for application. We most warmly welcome your application.

Sustaining Dairy – PhD thesis by Georgina Villarreal Herrera

On Monday 26 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Georgina Villarreal Herrera will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘Sustaining Dairy’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

 

 

 

Summary of the PhD thesis

Dairy in Europe has undergone many changes in the last few years—the abolition of milk production quotas being a fundamental one. This study explores these changes in relation to the sustained social and environmental viability of the sector and how dairy processors’ sustainability programs are a part of that.

This study traces the evolution of the dairy sectors in the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom since the post-war era, outlining the dominant logic that has guided their development. The analysis shows that the post-war logic based on the increase of scale and intensification of dairying has continued to shape the development of the sector through today. While the visible impacts of intensive dairy have led to adaptations to the dominant rules and practices, these changes have not been fundamental in nature. The analysis of dairy processors and their sustainability programs revealed that these programs can be an additional tool for compliance to legal standards and the alleviation of pressing societal concerns. However, processors address social and environmentally relevant dairy-related challenges when an effective link to profit can be established. These programs have been unable to ensure that the dairy sector operates within established environmental limits and societal expectations, while providing a stable livelihood for farmers.

Feeding Dar es Salaam: a symbiotic food system perspective

On Thursday 22 June 2017 at 11.00 hrs Marc Wegerif will defend his PhD thesis entitled ‘Feeding Dar es Salaam: a Symbiotic Food System Perspective’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

Marc is currently Land Rights Policy Lead for Oxfam and based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Before that he was in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) as Food and Land Rights Advisor for Oxfam with a focus on Horn, East and Central Africa. During that time he also undertook the fieldwork for his PhD thesis.

His thesis is based on qualitative research that explored the food system which feeds most of the over 4.6 million residents of the fast-growing city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Marc followed key foods (maize, rice, potatoes, green vegetables, eggs and milk) from the urban eaters to the retailers, processors and primary producers.

What has been found is a “symbiotic food system” made up of multitudes of small-scale and interdependent actors that together produce the food and get it to urban eaters at a city feeding scale. They do this without any vertically – or horizontally – integrated corporate structures.

The symbiotic food system that feeds Dar es Salaam is not perfect, but it is working and worthy of further research and interventions to create a more enabling environment for such foods systems to flourish in Tanzania and elsewhere.

What if the Trucks Stop Coming? – PhD thesis by Cheron Constance

On Wednesday 21 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Cheron Constance will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘What if the trucks stop coming? Exploring the framing of local food by cooperative food retailers in New Mexico’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

 

Summary of the thesis

Proponents of local food cite a variety of economic and environmental advantages of short food supply chains. Consumer interest in local food has also offered a point of differentiation for many players in the food industry, including restaurants and grocery stores. Engaging with local food has significant challenges, however, and many production and distribution systems engender and support more diffuse food provisioning, not less. Though food can travel thousands of miles from its point of origin to consumption, many cooperative (co-op) grocery stores have long sold locally-produced food and have deep ties to their supplier communities. This thesis offers case studies of two co-ops in the natural and organic food sector and examines how they think about and work with local food. The theories of embeddedness (after Polanyi) and diverse economies (from Gibson-Graham) undergird the analyses of these co-ops’ involvement with local food and how the cooperative business model relates to it.

International conference New Extractivism, Peasantries and Social Dynamics: call for papers

The BRICS Initiative in Critical Agrarian Studies will have its fourth conference entitled ‘New Extractivism, Peasantries and Social Dynamics: Critical Perspectives and Debates’, this time in Moscow, 13-16 October 2017.

Deadline for submission of abstracts is June 15. Selected Abstracts will be invited to submit full papers. All papers will be published online as BICAS working paper and will be uploaded on to the conference website and might be selected for a Special Issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies.

 

Masterclass prof. Katherine Gibson – Performative Practices for Diverse Economies

katherine_gibson_2015Join us! For a unique masterclass with prof. Katherine Gibson (Western Sydney University), internationally known for her research on rethinking economies as sites of ethical action.

When: Tuesday June 27, 2017 from 9.30 – 12.30 (CET)
Where: Wageningen University and Research, exact location to be announced

The masterclass is organised in conjunction with the CSPS Conference ‘The Value of Life’.

Description
Over the last decades neoliberal solutions for societal problems have received a wide range of critique, ranging from the off-shoring of wealth and power, ecological degradation, and more in particular, for its underlying morality. Several author have argued that we need to move from a critique and a position of  ‘opposition’  to the development of alternatives by making visible what has been rendered invisible as a result of the neoliberal gaze. This is what Katherine Gibson and Julie Graham refer to as performative practices for diverse economies. On the one hand, they argue, the diverse economy is around us, but we have been de-skilled and therefore are unable to recognize these practices as relevant and important . On the other hand, critical social research can contribute to the furthering of these practices.

In this masterclass we will firstly discuss the idea of performative practices and the need to go beyond critique, and secondly the methodological question of how to make visible what is invisible?

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The iceberg image, showing diverse economies practices as submerged under the surface. Retrieved from: http://www.communityeconomies.org/home/key-ideas

 

For who?
This masterclass  is intended for MSc students, PhD candidates, postdocs and staff members, across the social and environmental sciences, who (intend to) engage in research on diverse economic practices and are interested in exploring methodological issues, such as:

  • How to make ‘invisible’ practices visible?
  • How to get beyond a capitalocentric discourse and construct a language of economic diversity?
  • What are techniques for performing diverse economies and how can we as academics contribute to what’s happening ‘on the ground’?

Participants are expected to read and prepare their thoughts on readings in advance of the master class. A reading list will be shared with the participants after registration.

Registration
To register, please send an email to Anke de Vrieze, anke.devrieze@wur.nl or Joost Jongerden, joost.jongerden@wur.nl.

Course participants are to submit a short statement of interest( max. 1 A4)  by June 20. The statement of interest must 1) introduce who you are in terms of disciplinary background and education; 2) motivate why you want to participate in this masterclass; and 3) include questions or issues you would like to discuss during the master class.

The maximum number of participants is 20. The masterclass is free of charge, but registration is obligatory.

Kick-off Horizon 2020 project ROBUST

Recently a Horizon 2020 grant of € 6 million was awarded for a project entitled ‘Rural-Urban Outlooks: Unlocking Synergies’ (ROBUST). ROBUST has started on the 1st of June 2017 and is coordinated by Han Wiskerke of the Rural Sociology Group.

The overall goal of ROBUST is to a) advance our understanding of the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and b) identify and promote policies, governance models and practices that foster mutually beneficial relations.

The project focusses on five domains of urban-rural relations & interdependencies: 1) New businesses and labour markets; 2) Public infrastructures and social services; 3) Sustainable food systems, 4) Cultural connections, and 5) Ecosystem services. These domains will be studied in 11 place-based living labs: Ede (Netherlands), Tukums (Latvia), Helsinki (Finland), Mid-Wales (UK), Gloucestershire (UK), Frankfurt-Rhein-Main metropole (Germany), Ljubljana Urban Region (Slovenia), Styria (Austria), Valencia (Spain), Province of Lucca (Italy) and Lisbon and Tagus Valley Region (Portugal). Each Living Labs will focus on three domains of urban-rural relations. Domain-specific lessons and experiences will be shared across Living Labs in thematic Communities of Practice (five in total, each covering one of the aforementioned domains of urban-rural relations).

In each Living Lab a research organisation (university, research institute or consultancy firm) will collaborate with a local or regional authority. For the Dutch case the Rural Sociology Group will collaborate with Ede Municipality. In total the ROBUST consortium consists of 24 partners: 11 research organisations, 11 local or regional authorities and two umbrella organisations: the Peri-Urban Regions Platform Europe (PURPLE) and the European Secretariat of the International Network of Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI Europe).

The kick-off meeting will take place on 7, 8 and 9 June in the Akoesticum in Ede. The website of the project is expected to be ready by September 2017. For more information about ROBUST, please contact one of the members of the RSO ROBUST team: Han Wiskerke, Henk Oostindie, Rudolf van Broekhuizen, Jessica Duncan and Bettina Bock.

“Global Food Security Governance” at Kyoto University

By Joëlla van de Griend

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In-class debate on trade and food security

 

Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Economics, as part of the Asian Platform for Global Sustainability & Transcultural Studies (AGST), aims to contribute to sustainable development in Asia and throughout the world. Wageningen University’s Rural Sociology Group is a key partner in this platform. As a part of this partnership, Dr. Jessica Duncan has come to Kyoto University to teach a course on Global Food Security Governance.

Taking a sociological approach, the course covers a variety of angles to think about global food security governance. The course is attended by graduate students, PhD candidates and faculty members, which has contributed to rich discussions. Furthermore, amongst the participants there is a large variety of backgrounds and fields of expertise such as law, economics, development studies, business management, political science, and agricultural science with attendants coming from Asia, Europe and Africa.

One of the students attending the class is Wurihan. She decided to follow the course because of a growing interest in policy regarding food security. Before attending Kyoto University as a research student, she went to an agricultural university in China where she studied geographical information systems:

“I used to think that to ensure food security we should increase efficiency in production. But after I did some fieldwork I found it was more about policy and how this can sometimes turn out differently than policy makers intend.”

That is why she wants to learn more about food governance in order to understand how we can contribute to solutions of problems like the distribution of food and obesity.

As one of the objectives of the course is to explore the complexity of the thinking about food security, many theories and approaches are discussed and explored in class while using “framing” as a method to understand the different (often competing) perspectives.

Continue reading

Muddy paddies and peace

By  Joëlla van de Griend

‘Mountains covered with woods’ is used to describe the green area of Keihoku, just outside of Kyoto City. As part of the AGST program, students and faculty members visited a farming event organized by the Shinfujin Kyoto (the new Japan Women’s Association) and the Nouminren Kyoto (Japan Family Farmers Movement).

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Participants transplanting rice: Our academic hosts were not afraid to get their hands and feet dirty!

This event tries to make the connection between farmers and consumers and is visited by a lot of families. We can look at it as a celebration of what the earth has given to both farmers and consumers, illustrated by the waving flags showing the text: ‘Hug the Mother Earth’. For example, one of the farmers I met told me about how he grows his rice in the village at the foot of the mountain without making use of chemicals.

One of the organizations responsible for the event, Shinfujin, is a women’s organization that aims to promote environmental protection and emancipation but is also a movement to oppose the comeback of militarism in Japan. Many of the members of this organization are young mothers who are concerned with a variety of crises that could become a threat to their children’s future. This farming event however was more a celebration than a protest, with a vibrant temporary market with products and food stalls, activities, and the possibility to experience transplanting rice plants into the rice paddies. Continue reading