About foodgovernance

Jessica Duncan is Assistant Professor in the Rural Sociology Group at Wageningen University. Originally from Canada, she lived in France, Spain and the UK before coming to the Netherlands. She holds a PhD in Food Policy from City University London and is the author of the book Global Food Security Governance: Civil society engagement in the reformed Committee on World Food Security (Routledge, 2015, http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138802520/ ). Her research areas include: food policy; food security; global governance; environmental policy; participation; rural sociology. She is particularly interested in transitions towards environmentally sustainable food security governance.

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.

 

 

Planning for Equitable Urban and Regional Food Systems

There is a new Special Issue of the journal “Built Environment” on the topic of Planning for Equitable Urban and Regional Food Systems.

The Special Issues starts from the question: How does and can planning and design enhance the freedom and wellbeing of marginalized actors in the food system – low-income residents, people of colour, small-holder farmers, and refugees – the very people the alternative food movements purport to serve?

In the Special Issue authors from across the Global North and South explore the role of planning and design in communities’ food systems, while explicitly considering the imbalances in equity, justice, and power.

The collection includes a paper by former Rural Sociology MSc student Maria Vasile and Jessica Duncan.

We want to be part of the broader project’ Family Farmers and Local Food Governance in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Brazil has been praised for the development of its agricultural sector, its policies against hunger, and its support for family farming. Yet, the future of small-scale family farmers remains uncertain. In this paper, we question whether food system localization facilitates the integration of small-scale family farmers into food governance processes in Porto Alegre, Brazil. To answer this, we present the City Region Food System (CRFS) as a conceptual approach to explore the relationship between food systems localization and enhanced participation of small-scale family farmers in food governance. After introducing the case study of local food in Porto Alegre, we highlight key structural inequalities that limit family farmers’ participation in local food practices and influence their involvement in food governance. We then examine linkages between local food policy efforts and family farmers’ praxis, attempting to discern mismatches and related implications for the development of an inclusive CRFS. We argue that systematization of local food practices within the city region represents a double-edged sword as it may
translate into a decrease in farmers’ autonomy and ownership of local initiatives and burden them with regulations not fit for purpose. In conclusion, we suggest that a CRFS approach to planning can help to address structural inequalities and power asymmetries in local food governance only if informed by local dynamics and based on context-sensitive mechanisms for participatory governance incorporating a variety of small-scale family farmers (and other stakeholders).

Sustainable Food Futures (NEW BOOK)

Food Governance

bok coverVoltaire once said that “no problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking”.

In this book, we put that statement to the test. The problems plaguing food systems are well researched and well known. But how can we support transformation towards sustainable and just food systems?

One thing is clear,  the objective of future food systems can no longer be to simply maximise productivity

We are very pleased to announce that our new book, Sustainable Food Futures: Multidisciplinary Solutionshas just been published. The book includes proposals for solutions to move us toward more sustainable food futures.  The solutions, which are based on concrete cases, are organised around 4 themes:

  1. Recognizing place
  2. Enhancing participation
  3. Challenging markets
  4. Designing sustainable food futures

The solutions proposed in this book can be read as an atlas of possibilities.

There are multiple roads we can, and must, travel to bring us towards our…

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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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