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.

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.


  • 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


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


  • 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…

View original post 410 more words

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…

View original post 209 more words

“Global Food Security Governance” at Kyoto University

By Joëlla van de Griend


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).

Rice planting.jpg

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

Gender & Diversity in Sustainable Development


PhD Course Gender and Diversity

Wageningen University’s School of Social Sciences  (WASS) will be offering a PhD course in May and June 2017 called Gender and Diversity in Sustainable Development.  Bettina Bock and Jessica Duncan, both from RSO, will lecture in this course.

Date Mon 22 May 2017 until Fri 16 June 2017
Time 09:30
Venue Leeuwenborch, building number 201
Hollandseweg 1
6706 KN

Inequality lies at the center of current debates about sustainable development, from which a number of policy issues, including Sustainable Development Goals, emanate. Yet, how social (in)equality contributes to creating sustainable development often remains invisible in research. This course enables participants to recognize linkages between gender and diversity and sustainable development in a contemporary globalising world.

The topics covered in this course are:

  • Introduction: key concepts in gender studies
  • Trends form a historical perspective
  • Economics: macro and micro perspectives
  • Work and care
  • Population and migration
  • Food security and governance
  • Environment and natural resource management
  • Global politics


This course will be a seminar. We will take a highly interactive learner-centered approach that combines short lectures with group-based learning activity and discussion. A series of instructors with gender and diversity expertise from WUR and other universities will discuss the relevance of the themes discussed in our class to their own domains.

More information is available here: http://www.wur.nl/en/Education-Programmes/PhD-Programme/Graduate-Schools/Wageningen-School-of-Social-Sciences/Courses/Show-1/Gender-Diversity-in-Sustainable-Development.htm

Book Launch: Yearbook of Women’s History 36 (2016)


You are all welcome to the launch of Gendered Food Practices from Food to Waste

  •  Wednesday 22 February 2017 / 15.00-17.00 
  • Impulse / Wageningen Campus, Building 115,Wageningen University
  • Address: Stippeneng 2, Wageningen


There will be coffee and tea upon arrival. Guest-editors Bettina Bock and Jessica Duncan (from RSO) will give a short presentation and hand over the first copy to professor J.M. van Winter, professor emerita of medieval history, expert in food history, and main benefactor of the Yearbook of Women’s History.

Curator of the National Museum of Education Jacques Dane will give a presentation of his contribution to the volume on Domestic Science in and outside the Dutch Classroom in the period 1880-1930.

Registration:  Please RSVP before 19 February to e.c.walhout ( a ) hum.leidenuniv.nl (Evelien Walhout).

About the volume

In nearly all societies gender has been, and continues to be, central in defining roles and responsibilities related to the production, manufacturing, provisioning, eating, and disposal of food. The 2016 Yearbook of Women’s History presents a collection of new contributions that look into the diversity of these gendered food-related practices to uncover new insights into the shifting relations of gender across food systems. Authors explore changing understandings and boundaries of food-related activities at the intersection of food and gender, across time and space. Look out for intriguing contributions that range from insights into the lives of market women in late medieval food trades in the Low Countries, the practices of activist women in the garbage movement of prewar Tokyo, the way grain storage technologies affect women in Zimbabwe, through to the impact of healthy eating blogs in the digital age.

Editors: Bettina Bock and Jessica Duncan (guest-editors), Eveline Buchheim, Saskia Bultman, Marjan Groot, Evelien Walhout and Ingrid de Zwarte



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