On behalf of Merel Heijke: second year student Master of International Development Studies at Wageningen University.
Thursday the eight of October I took part in the mini-conference: ‘Dynamics and Robustness of Multifunctional Agriculture: Lessons from abroad’ organized by Wageningen University’s Rural Sociology Group. I participated in the conference because since I came to Wageningen to study International Development Studies (I did my bachelor in interdisciplinary social science at the University of Utrecht), I really got interested in the way life is approached by people in the countryside. The topic multifunctional agriculture however, was quite new to me. Some considerations:
This conference opened my eyes about the difficulties people can face with certain top-down rural policies. The Norwegian guest Katrina Rønningen argued that too much attention and pressure is directed towards rural actors active in multifunctional agriculture. People that do not have sufficient knowhow and capacities to adjust their business to this way of life, fail and get into a lot of stress. This might be a consequence of a second point of view that struck me that afternoon, namely: policies implemented by the (national and/or local) government may not be relevant or can even hinder the development of new ideas. From a sustainable point of view: if we, as the global society, want to sustain the luxurious life we have, we need to adapt. Export versus quality, economical versus sustainable, short-term incomes against long-term investments – the choices are hard to make when governmental policies do not really support new initiatives (even the cheap ones) or the advertisement to the big public. An interesting topic to study…
I am very curious what the future will bring us… How will our food be produced in twenty years? What does our relationship with the countryside look like? How is our land going to be used? Let’s have an other conference about this subject in five years! This international exchange of information was really interesting and asking for new thoughts to develop. I am hungry for more!