About FoodGovernance

Jessica Duncan is Associate Professor in Rural Sociology at Wageningen University (the Netherlands). She holds a PhD in Food Policy from City University London (2014). Jessica’s main research focus concerns the practices and politics of participation in food policy processes, particularly the relationships (formal and non-formal) between governance organizations, systems of food provisioning, the environment, and the actors engaged in and across these spaces. More specifically, she maps the diverse ways that actors participate in policy-making processes, analysing how the resulting policies are shaped, implemented, challenged, and resisted, and she theorizes about what this means for socio-ecological transformation. Participation and engagement is at the core of her approach. In turn, she is active in a broad range of local, national and international initiatives with the aim of better understanding participation processes with a view towards transitioning to just and sustainable food systems. She is involved in several research projects including ROBUST, HortEco & SHEALTHY. Jessica is published regularly in academic journals. She recently co-edited the Handbook on Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems (2020). Her other books include Food Security Governance: Civil society participation in the Committee on World Food Security (2015) and an edited volume called Sustainable food futures: Multidisciplinary solutions (2017). Jessica has received several awards for her teaching and in 2017 she was awarded Teacher of the Year for Wageningen University (shortlisted again in 2018 and 2019, longlisted in 2020). With the funds she has received for these awards she launched a story-telling workshop for students and faculty, with storytelling trainer, Emma Holmes. Jessica is on the Editorial Board of the journal Sociologia Ruralis and is an advisor to the Traditional Cultures Project (USA). She is a member of the Wageningen Young Academy and sits on the Sustainability Board of Experts at Wageningen University.

Engaged scholarship: Why the UN Food System Summit has failed to engaged civil society

The majority of this blog post, written by Jessica Duncan and Priscilla Claeys, was originally posted on the Agroecology Now! Blog as Failure to Engage: Civil Society Marginalized in UN Food Summit

If sociology can be broadly defined as the study of social life, social change and consequences, it should not be surprising that many sociologists have played, and continue to play, an active role in processes dedicated to social change.

There are indeed threads of advocacy and social change that weave their way through RSO’s history up to the present. Some work is explicitly radical, aligned with movements and working to support alternative visions of the world. Others engage in more subtle ways, seeking to promote change ‘from within,’ using their research and credentials to push for more just and sustainable futures. Others still research and engage in micro and/or individual actions with a view towards existing otherwise.

These dynamics correspond to a long history of engaged scholarship that has been, and continues to be, appreciated by academics, practitioners, civil society and movement actors, as well as our students.

It is in this spirit that we share this blog reflecting on the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit and explain why so many civil society organizations and academics are boycotting it. The implications are significant for rural people around the world and the event itself demands critical sociological analysis.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly agreed to a 15 year action plan for sustainable development. The result was a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The second sustainable development goal related to zero hunger. In 2020, to accelerate action around the goals, the UN launched a decade of action. However, the world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. And instead of seeing reductions in hunger, we have seen increases, even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recognizing the urgent need for food system change and action, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that the UN will convene a Food Systems Summit in 2021 as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development.

The Summit claims it will launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems, noting that we can build a just and resilient world where no one is left behind.

However, many concerns have been raised about the approach the Summit has taken. Issues have been raised about high-level of corporate influence; lack of grounding in human rights; the lack of  a truly transformative vision. Another major concern relates to the undermining of democratic institutions and inclusive multilateralism. This is reinforced by a failure of the FSS to build on the legacy of past World Food Summits.

Source: CSM4CFS twitter

Why this matters: participation and historical context

The UN Food Systems Summit has sought to develop a participatory process involving global, national and individual dialogues, but the process has lacked transparency, while bypassing existing processes and ignoring power relations.

It is widely recognized that to address the complexity of our food system challenges, those most affected and those already implementing solutions need to be central actors throughout the entire process. Over the last three decades, the UN has opened spaces for participatory engagement. The UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is a functioning example of a multi-level, highly inclusive participatory process that has been developing comprehensive policy outputs to support food systems change over the last 10 years. It brings together states, civil society, the private sector, philanthropic donors, researchers and other UN agencies and is supported by an independent panel of experts.

But the CFS was initially not even invited to the table. It was only added to the Summit’s Advisory Committee only in November 2020.

Ignored history of engagement – CSM as a solution

When it comes to the CFS, there is an explicit commitment to prioritize the voices of those most affected by food insecurity. One way this is done is through the inclusion of civil society actors as full participants. BUT, how does civil society engage in CFS debates in practice?

The answer comes from a long history of trial, error and struggle that led to the establishment of the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSM). The CSM is self-organized and autonomous, and has developed sophisticated governance mechanisms that ensure and facilitate grassroots participation. It is made up of participating organizations from 11 constituencies: smallholder farmers, pastoralists, fisherfolks, indigenous peoples, agricultural and food workers, landless, women, youth, consumers, urban food insecure and NGOs. Each constituency represents people who share a collective identity. At the same time, the CSM facilitates the participation of organizations from 17 sub-regions, to capture regional differences.

How does the CSM work?

Through its unique mechanisms and processes, the CSM manages to respect, foster, and give voice to this diversity of identities and experiences.  At the same time, it helps the CSM constituencies articulate joint positions, so as to have more weight in CFS negotiations. This is quite an achievement considering that participating organizations, particularly those who organize small-scale food producers and consumers, have more than 300 million affiliated members from all continents. These are the most important contributors to food security and nutrition worldwide.

Source: CSM4CFS

The CSM also uses a quota system to ensure gender equity as well as a balance of generations and regions, enhancing diversity.

The CSM and the CFS are not perfect. Yet they represent an innovative and well-tested mechanism for participatory policy making that gives priority to the organizations and social movements representing the people who are most affected by hunger and malnutrition, recognizing that they are the organizations of the rights-holders that are the subjects of their own development.

It is often claimed that the CFS is ineffective and takes too long to make decisions. This is mistaken. The CFS, while highly under-resourced, has consistently developed high-quality policy recommendations. These recommendations are legitimate because they are the outcome of intergovernmental negotiations and benefit from the inputs of a diversity of actors, including the private sector. This is necessarily a messy process that requires time and debate. The CFS has put human rights at the core of food systems. Human rights are at the heart of these recommendations, building on existing international norms, with attached accountability mechanisms.

In contrast, the UN Food Systems Summit has not been designed as a governance space where true debates will take place and where valuable solutions will emerge through meaningful and inclusive dialogue. This is because of how the agenda was developed, who developed it and how participation has been organized. In addition, the UNFSS is a one-off event with no institutional follow-up capacity, while the CFS, with its decades of experience, is the natural place for long term dialogue.

Who will decide the future of food, and how?

For more information and to read the research that informs this content, check out:

Duncan, J. and Claeys, P. (2018). Politicizing food security governance through participation: opportunities and opposition. Food Security, 10, 6, 1411–1424.

Claeys, P. and Duncan, J. (2019). Do we need to categorize it? Reflections on constituencies and quotas as tools for negotiating difference in the global food sovereignty convergence space. Journal of Peasant Studies. 46(7).

Claeys, P. and Duncan, J. (2019). Food sovereignty and convergence spaces. Political Geography. 75, 102045.

Handbook of Sustainable & Regenerative Food Systems

RSO’s Han Wiskerke and Jessica Duncan, along with Michael Carolan have edited a new Handbook on Regenerative and Sustainable Food Systems. Out soon!

Food Governance

I am excited to announce that our new Handbook of Sustainable and Regenerative Food Systems will be out soon.

The Handbook includes contributions from established and emerging scholars from around the world and draws on multiple approaches and subjects to explore the socio-economic, cultural, ecological, institutional, legal, and policy aspects of regenerative food practices.

Taken as a whole, the chapters point to a number of key practices and ideas that would appear central to advancing regenerative food systems, from a social-ecological perspective. We draw on these chapters to identify 6 principles for  regenerative food systems, noting that these are not exclusive or clear-cut principles, but rather dynamic, cross-cutting.

The 6 principles are:

  1. Acknowledging and including diverse forms of knowing and being;

2. Taking care of people, animals and the planet;

3. Moving beyond capitalist approaches;

4. Commoning the food system;

5. Promote accountable innovations; and,

6. Long term planning and…

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Webinar EU Farm to Fork

Feel free to join this online discussion about the EU’s new Farm to Fork Strategy from a food sovereignty perspective. It’s part of the now virtual World Social Forum of Transformative Economies

Food Governance

Strategising from a food sovereignty perspective

As part of the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies we will discuss the collective response by 23 food sovereignty scholar activists to the European Commission’s new Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. Our goal is to gather feedback, and strategize together.

Speakers: Christina Plank, Chiara Tornaghi, Ana Moragues Faus,
Tomaso Ferrando, Fernando García-Dory
Facilitation: Marta Rivera Ferre and Jessica Duncan

Join us: Wednesday 1 July 2020 at 15:00 GMT+02:00 (Brussels time)
Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86422243952

For more information, contact: priscilla.claeys@coventry.ac.uk

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EU Farm to Fork Strategy: Collective response from food sovereignty scholars

Two RSO scholars, Jessica Duncan and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, have contributed to this analysis of the EU’s new Farm to Fork Strategy.

Food Governance

On 20 May 2020 the European Commission (EC) released its new Farm to Fork (F2F) Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system. As scholars committed to supporting sustainable food system transformation, we commend the EC for delivering a  longer term vision, and proposing the development of a legislative framework for sustainable food systems by 2023. Binding mechanisms and coherent, integrated rights-based legislative frameworks are fundamental to ensuring compliance and meeting the proposed targets. We acknowledge that the F2F Strategy contains many positive points, but are deeply concerned that these remain embedded in an outdated framework.

The evidence overwhelmingly points to a need to move beyond the (green) economic growth paradigm. This paradigm, reified by the European Green Deal, perpetuates unsustainable lock-ins and entrenched inequalities. The Scientific Advice Mechanism[1] recently advised the EC to stop treating food as a commodity and start thinking about the implications of seeing food…

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Rural-urban relations in times of COVID-19

** Special online discussion on rural-urban relations**

Bettina Bock and Jessica Duncan

How are the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas changing at this moment?

Let us know! Comment below or #ROBUST #RuralUrban

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the foundation of our societies, painfully demonstrating the enormous difference residency makes for your risk of infection, as well as your chance of medical treatment. Shockingly clear are also the social differences in threats resulting from the societal lockdown – in terms of income security, access to education, as well as housing, shelter, and food. Though known before with earlier pandemics, COVID-19 has swiftly exposed and exacerbated social inequalities and injustice within and across countries.

 

It also triggers changes in rural-urban relations, while underlining their importance.  For example, rural areas have been widely perceived as offering a safe haven from the virus, given their lower population density. This has motivated some urbanites to seek shelter in the countryside. However, in reality, rural areas are extremely vulnerable to public health crises of any kind, as their populations are ageing and their primary health care infrastructures are extremely fragile, and often cannot sufficiently serve even the local population. Most urban residents are likely not aware of the risks they carry with them in their own search for security, leisure, or space (i.e. physical distancing). And this is not surprising.

Research has shown that with urbanisation, rural and urban regions grew apart, leading to a lack of mutual awareness, understanding and affinity, as well as a difference in affluence, status, and recognition of interests. This may explain why some rural residents have accused urban security seekers of selfishness for travelling to rural areas (e.g. the rise of #dontvisit; Wales, UK where people have been warned not to travel to; The Hampton, US where some wealthy Americans are bunkering down; or Scotland, where the chief medical officer resigned over ignoring her own warnings by travelling to her second home).  But also students, returning to their rural family home, may have unintentionally brought the virus with them, for instance in the South of Italy.

Current times call for solidarity, for contributing to the security of others even at individual costs. And there is plenty evidence of that solidarity – also across rural-urban boundaries. This is reflected in the many initiatives taken to support local farmers, whether by directly buying the products they cannot deliver to restaurants and schools, or by offering to help with the local harvest, as seasonal labour migrants are also unable to travel and work abroad.

Nevertheless, rural areas, which have long experienced out-migration as people leave for educational and employment opportunities, are now experiencing a critical shortage of people who are capable of working in agriculture and harvesting food. This will also be felt in the urban areas eventually.

COVID-19 is having paradoxical effects. It reveals our vulnerability and our readiness to adapt our daily life if security demands it. It reveals our selfishness, at the individual and national level. It reveals our struggles understanding that we can be part of the problem, even when travelling on our own. It also discloses our compassion for others and the capacity of selflessness that many possess.

It underlines the importance of creativity and solidarity. Knowledge and a sense of affinity are crucial for promoting solidarity. Social distancing can promote discrimination and social division if we prioritise our safety and comfort. For good rural-urban relationships, knowledge, understanding and respect are crucial, as is awareness of interdependence. We need each other now and in the future.

Recognizing that rural-urban relations are not the urgent priority of governments, it cannot be denied that the pandemic is reshaping and will likely continue to reshape these relations in multiple and complex ways. The outcomes of this crisis on rural-urban relations will depend heavily on the decisions taken now by political leaders.

Governments need to play an important role in communicating this knowledge and promoting better cooperation and solidarity between rural and urban areas. In the case of COVID-19, they should set an example of unselfishness and solidarity, both locally and globally.

We are calling on governments to not impose measures that would negatively impact rural residents, or over the long term. Pandemic–related trends (e.g. migration for employment from urban to rural areas) should be carefully monitored to avoid unintentional long-term threats to rural communities.

We encourage governments to consider rural-urban relations explicitly when developing and implementing new policies, including an integrated strategy that clearly communicates that the rural is not a refuge – but a partner.

Finally, we encourage governments to strengthen local food production systems and consumption at a structural level and in line with a city-regional approach. Eventually, when it is safe to do so, we also encourage governments to promote sustainable local recreation and tourism, which is vital for many rural areas.

ROBUST is a European research project involving 24 partners from 11 countries. One of our main goals is to advance our understanding of the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas.

We are very interested in hearing from you. How are the interactions and dependencies between rural, peri-urban and urban areas changing at this moment?

Let us know in the comment section or online @bock_bettina  and @foodgovernance

#ROBUST #RuralUrban

ROBUST

Thesis opportunity: What are food systems anyway?

Mapping and analysing the diversity of food systems research at WUR

MSc Thesis Project
Rural Sociology & WCDI 

Supervisors: Jessica Duncan (RSO) and Herman Brouwer (WCDI)

The topic: The concept of food systems has emerged recently as a buzzword. Across Wageningen University and Research (WUR) researchers are using the concept and applying it in different ways. This thesis will review the different ways food systems are being defined and applied across WUR.

The research process will involve:

  • Literature review on food systems
  • Data collection (e.g. comprehensive analysis of WUR-based activities around food systems; interviews)
  • Analysis with the aim of: 1) mapping the food systems landscape at WUR; 2) categorizing the diversity of concepts and approaches; 3) analyzing points of coherence and contention across these concepts.
  • Conclusions with possible recommendations

Pre-requisites: completed at least two social sciences courses (preferably with RSO); keen interest in food systems research; interdisciplinary background an asset.

Start date: ASAP

For more information: jessica.duncan@wur.nl

roots

The rise of Community Supported Agriculture in China

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Image from Cultivate https://www.facebook.com/collectivecultivate/

On April 16th, Shi Yan, pioneer of the Community Supported Agriculture movement in China will visit Wageningen after participating in FAO’s International Symposium on Agroecology. During the day she will visit a selection of CSAs and in the evening she will give a presentation at Wageningen University.

Where: Room C013/VIP Room Forum Building

When: 19:00-21:30

In 2008 Shi Yan started the first CSA of China in the area of Bejing as a joint project with her university, the district government, and the Renmin Rural Reconstruction Centre. By now some 800 CSA’s are operating around China.

Shi Yan had been inspired by her experience of working with Earthrise Farm, a small CSA in Minnesota, USA. “It changed my life,” says Shi Yan. She arrived there thinking that she would study its business model, “but when living there, I realised that farming is not just a model, it’s a lifestyle.” But she decided to move to the northwest corner of Beijing’s Haidian district to found and manage Little Donkey farm, going against the trend of young people abandoning rural villages for jobs in the city. After that she started Shared Harvest farm (http://sharedharvest.cn/), where she produces fresh food and also trains both farmers and school children.

With a growing middle class and expanding cities, fresh produce has become hard to come by in China. Novel food production and distribution systems are successfully meeting demands of urban residents in search of fresh and local produce. As the story of Shi-Yan tells, the CSA movement also offers opportunities to young people to shape their lifes according to a different set of principles from the average ‘big city’ way of life.

Shi Yan was a speaker at FAO’s Agroecology Symposium from 3-5 April 2018 where over 700 people attended. Learn more about Shi Yan and the CSA movement in China and join us on April 16th. More details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/413668762416251/ 

Are you too curious to wait? Check out this article in Farming Matters (June 2015): https://www.ileia.org/2015/06/09/community-supported-agriculture-thriving-china/

The state of Sitopia

The state of Sitopia. Report of the 8th AESOP Sustainable Food Planning Conference 

By Paul de Graaf, External PhD Candidate, Rural Sociology Group

IMG_2103In the fall of 2017 the 8th AESOP Sustainable Food Planning Conference took place in Coventry,  hosted by the Center for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR). Since its inception in 2009 the Sustainable Food Planning department is one of the most active within AESOP (the Association of European Schools of Planning), indicating that food is back on the urban agenda, at least in academia. As a budding urban agriculture planner and researcher I attended the first two AESOP SFP conferences (Almere, 2009 and Brighton, 2010). Both were exciting meetings where pioneers from Europe and America – not only planners but also initiators, activists and scientists from other disciplines and people like Carolyn Steele (architect and writer of the seminal book Hungry City) – came together to discuss the then relatively new theme. I went to Coventry curious to see how the discussion has developed since those days and what is the state of affairs in the field in international perspective.

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Call for Papers: Evolving Agriculture and Food – Opening up Biodynamic Research

20141004_134427_AndroidCall for papers open for the 1st International Conference on Biodynamic Research

Call for Papers: Evolving Agriculture and Food – Opening up Biodynamic Research

Taking place at Goetheanum in Dornach (Switzerland), September 5th to 8th 2018

Biodynamic research is done in any agricultural field, in many places of the world using a great diversity of methods and disciplines, getting in touch with many other research areas. Taking an inter- and trans-disciplinary approach, we aim to bring together both academic research and farmer’s expertise to explore and discuss issues in biodynamic food and farming systems. The perspective taken on these issues may be from a classical scientific point of view as well as from an innovative methodical standpoint.

This new biannual event will gather academics, scholars, PhD students, graduate students, farmer-researchers and action researchers from around the world to discuss the latest and most pressing issues in biodynamic agriculture, horticulture and food, dedicating significant attention also to new and alternative researching methods.

The partners of the organizer, the Section for Agriculture at the Goetheanum, are: The Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences of the University of Kassel, the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and Forschungsring (Research in Biodynamic Agriculture, Darmstadt, Germany).

Call for papers is open : http://www.sektion-landwirtschaft.org/veranstaltungen/biodynamic-research-conference/call-for-papers/

More information  at: www.sektion-landwirtschaft.org

Thesis Opportunity: What is inclusive when it comes to policy?

Thesis Opportunity with Rural Sociology: What is inclusive when it comes to policy?

Proposed title: Inclusive approaches to policy making: Making sense of options for food policy

Key words: policy, inclusivity, civil society, multi-actor, stakeholder, co-production

Context:  There have been increasing calls for more participation in policy making to allow for more inclusive policies. But what does this look like in practice? What models have been developed and tried? What has worked and what hasn’t? What are the implications of trying to be more inclusive. And, what does inclusivity even mean in a policy making context? The goal of this thesis is to start to answer these pressing questions and to related them to food policy.

Objective: The goal of this research is to identify and understand strategies for including people and their lived experiences, into policy making processes.

In this thesis, you will:

  • Undertake a literature review into inclusive governance (theory and practice)
  • Identify examples of inclusive governance from a broad range of sectors
  • Create a database of examples
  • Select an appropriate number of case studies to examine in greater depth
  • Collect data (including via interviews) to support description and analysis

On the basis of this, you will be expected to deliver concrete outputs.

Outputs:

  • Develop a clear research proposal building on a structured literature review and outlining clear methods for undertaking the research
  • Collect relevant literature and empirical cases to support the answering of the research question.
  • MSc thesis conforming to the criteria and quality indicators of the Rural Sociology Group.

Start date:  February or March 2018

Qualifications:

  • You are registered in one of the following MSc programmes:

MIDMHSMOA or MFQ

  • You have an interest in participatory policy making, civil society, food security and food sovereignty
  • You have some knowledge about theories of change
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Supervisor: Dr Jessica Duncan (RSO)

If you are interested, please email Jessica Duncan (jessica.duncan@wur.nl ) with a short letter of motivation.