Project “Weerbaar vee” – thesis onderzoek

Voor het project “Weerbaar Vee” moeten data geanalyseerd en geïnterpreteerd worden, afkomst uit gesprekken die het afgelopen jaar met een groep van 45 veehouders zijn gevoerd. Deze melkveehouders nemen allen deel aan het project “Weerbaar vee” dat in 2010 is gestart. Het projectteam is momenteel naarstig op zoek naar een student Agrarische of Rurale Sociologie die in nauwe samenwerking met Ingrid den Uijl onderzoek wil doen naar verbanden tussen karakteristieken van bedrijven, stijlen en persoonlijkheden enerzijds, en parameters van weerbaar vee anderzijds. Het onderzoek staat gepland voor najaar 2012.

Contactpersonen zijn onderwijscoordinator Jan Schakel (Leerstoelgroep Rurale Sociologie; of Dr. Ingrid den Uijl, Veterinair epidemioloog Geneeskundige Dienst , Deventer (

Project ‘Weerbaar Vee’

Kunnen we het niveau van natuurlijke weerstand meten? En zo ja, kunnen we die meetwaarden dan gebruiken als navigatiemiddel voor het voorkomen of beperken van dierziekten? Die vragen staan centraal in het project Weerbaar Vee dat, na jaren van voorbereiding, in 2010 van start ging. Het project Weerbaar Vee is een onderzoek naar biomarkers voor weerbaarheid op het melkveebedrijf. Een biomarker is een parameter die gemeten kan worden in melk, bloed of weefsel van een dier. In dit onderzoek wordt gezocht naar biomarkers die gemeten kunnen worden aan een gezond dier die een maat zijn voor de weerbaarheid van het dier. Het project borduurt voort op en maakt gebruik van resultaten van het project Natuurlijke Weerstand van Wageningen Universiteit in samenwerking met het UGCN.

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Next student seminar August 29th afternoon: programme

The Section ‘Sociology and Anthropology of Development’ offers students every two month the possibility to present their thesis or thesis proposal. All students doing a thesis with one of the chair groups within the SAD section, are requested to present during one of these student seminars.

The next seminar will take place Wednesday August 29th, starting from 13.00 hours, room C76 at De Leeuwenborch. This will be the last opportunity within the academic year 2011/2012. The seminar is open to everyone, student or staff. Please, join (part of) a session (or more)!

If you are interested to present either a thesis proposal or a thesis report, please contact Jan Schakel (, room 3013)

Programme August 29:

13.00 – 13.30 Evelien Hennekens (MID): Biogas as domestic energy solution? Potentials and barriers of the technology for low-income households in South Africa’.

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“Kuifje in India” (4)- International Master of Science in Rural Development (IMRD)

The Hindu (“India’s National Newspaper since 1878”) opened yesterday’s edition with agricultural news on the front-page. “Skyrocketing fertilizer prices floor farmers” was the title of the story about increasing costs of inputs. Small and marginal farmers, who constitute almost 80 per cent of the total of farmers in the State of Karnataka, has been hit hard by the skyrocketing prices of all fertilizers. The prices of most fertilizers doubled or even has gone up with over 250 per cent since 2010. It’s rather complicated why the costs are skyrocketing that high, but once again it makes clear how vulnerable marginal and small scale farming is for external costs. Going ‘organic’ or going for a maximum of ALEI (Agriculture on Low External Inputs) is the strategy that most of my colleagues at the UASB plea for, and they really ‘go for it’. Although a ‘top university’ in a scientific way (UASB is nr. 3 ranked of all Agricultural Universities in India), everyone I met so far isn’t just a ‘top scientist’, but also ‘a grass root worker’; very committed with the poor and the very poor, and always trying to find ways to help and to give mute people a voice or some kind of a future.

I participated many seminars and presentations, and I did speak with many professors, researches and teachers. And they all touched my heart, because their heart was always with the oppressed and the poor. I had the opportunity to meet the highest person in charge (Prof. dr. Gwonda, the Vice Chancellor) several times, and every time I spoke with him, I was impressed by his commitment with the message and mission of his institute. To help the poor and the very poor; to empower the weak and the marginalized.

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“Kuifje in India” (3) – International Master of Science in Rural Development (IMRD)

In ‘part 2’ I promised to tell more about ‘farming and rural life in India’. I have to break these promises. Like with so many other things in India, it is impossible to get a good idea about what’s really at stake. Remember the figures I gave you about the average spending in rural and urban India. They indicate wide spread poverty. But at the same time, India is worldwide nr. 1 producer of milk (17 percent of all worldwide cows & buffalo’s are located in India); India is nr. 2 in producing vegetables; the same score with rice; the same with fruit, etcetera. These incredible figures do impress as well. So I was thinking: where are these dairy farms, where are those orchards, where is the field with ‘sweet peppers’? Considering these things, I noticed that it is so hard to imagine what India really look likes. I flew to New Delhi and took some metro’s to get an impression of this city (I didn’t), and then flew to Bangalore to get dropped off at the campus just outside this enormous city. So what do I know? What have I seen? Some cows in the street, a bull near a Hindu temple. So nothing at all so far…..

If you look at the figures, you hardly can imagine that India is ‘one country’. India is 100 times as big as The Netherlands, and the population over 80 times. So the whole of India has (in average) almost the same population density as Holland; can you imagine…. ? It has 22 States (India is a federation) and there are 17 official languages. Languages, that are completely different, and although Hindu is the official language (and many people do speak more or less some basic English), the coherence of this nation is rather fragile (not to mention the differences in religion: Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christians). So what about ‘farming and rural life‘ (the title of one of our RSO courses at the WUR); is it possible to get any idea about that?

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“Kuifje in India” (2) – International Master of Rural Development (IMRD)

A week has passed since I arrived at the campus of the University of Agricultural Sciences Bangalore (UASB) in the State of Karnataka, South West India. A week that looks like month’s to me. But it is good to notice that things get more and more familiar to me. The first days of my stay were both overwhelming, depressing and exhausting. Of course because of the climate (37 degrees Celsius, and monsoon season just started), but moreover because of the culture shock that happened to me when I arrived in New Delhi and later in Bangalore. Although many things still are completely strange to me, I manage more and more to find my way around. After a week, English conversation with Indian people is not that difficult anymore is it was in the beginning (although sometimes…), and also I get a little bit familiar with the names of my colleagues at the USAB, like prof. Shivamurthy, prof. Krishnamurthy, prof. Subbareddy, prof. Gayathredevi, prof. Srinivassappa and prof. Nanjappa. Since I have my own little apartment at the International Students Hostel and an office at the Dept. of Agr. Extension, I can find my way and rhythm in this melting pot of many different experiences. Especially the daily walk after work to Sahakaranagara to do my shopping’s makes me feel at home. Because I’m the only western guy (which means: long, tall and very white) at the campus, people get to know me and so we have our daily talks and jokes. By the way, when Indian people pronounce the name of the quarter (Sahakaranagara), it’s sounds like a mortar fire: takkatakkatakka.  Actually, that’s also the way many other names and words are pronounced: takkatakkatakka….

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“Kuifje in India” (1) – International Master of Rural Development (IMRD)

The University of Agricultural Sciences Bangalore (‘UASB’, in Hindu it is named ‘GVKV’) is ‘associate partner’ of the IMRD consortium. This International Master of Science in Rural Development (‘IMRD’) is an EU funded Erasmus Mundus Program, which originally (it started in 2004) was meant for non EU students to enter an European Master program. Since then, the program became more and more popular; also because it was opened for European students. But more changes took places and put the IMRD into the pictures: since some years, the IMRD not only has full partners (through the Atlantis program) in the US (Florida and Arkansas), but also cooperates with so-called ‘associated partners’ all over the world. These partners are in South Africa (Pretoria University), Beijing (China agricultural University) and Ecuador (Espol).

Students who enter into the IMRD program, have the opportunity to do a ‘specialized module’ in one of those ‘associated partner universities’ (the other 3 semesters has to be chosen out of Ghent, Berlin, Rennes, Nitra, Pisa or Wageningen). In this (‘spring’)semester, 3 IMRD students are in Bangalore: two of them (Basavaraj and Lauren) for their thesis (doing their data collection in India), and one (Tungaa) for the specialized module in agricultural economics.

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Authority and efficiency – Jan Schakel in Rennes – Part 6

Last weeks, I have seen some wonderful examples of higher education. Like during the ‘Stage du terrain’ in Plouha, where there was a good balance between theory and practice, and between the classroom and the field. The students were very pleased with the high number of professors: 40 students, with over 12 staff members! Also the way how tools and techniques were taught and practiced in the laboratory as well as under the open sky, was of high quality. And of course above all: the integrated and multidisciplinary approach. At least 5 different disciplines (like in hydrology, biology, architecture, economics, sociology) were mixed up in transversal groups to integrate the different types of knowledge.

This week, again the course was very well structured and all kinds of methodologies and techniques were practiced. Really fascinating was the application of the IDEA tool (“Methodes d’Evalation de la Durabilité en Agriculture “). After a long day outside in the fields (together with farmers, researchers, agronomists etc), the next day a workshop took place (for almost 10 hours), where all the information, gathered in the field, was interpreted and assessed  in terms of ‘indicators’. Almost 200 indicators past by. First divided into three categories: ‘échelle de durabilité agro écologique’, then ‘échelle de durabilité économique’ and finally the ’échelle de durabilité socio-territoriale’. But within every category, again indicators were distinguished on a lower level, and again theseat a lower level, etc. So all together there were over 200 indicators. With different researchers within the classroom, the whole group of (30) students, analyzed their findings in the field within this framework; a really intensive but also very efficient way of dealing with data from different sources and different disciplines.

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Fez Noz and Black Cross… – Jan Schakel in Rennes – Part 5

Last week, I was asked to take part of a jury to assess  a thesis (‘memoire’), and it was a great experience. The classroom was filled up with many students (rather unusual), but that was due to the topic:  the performing arts in rural Brittany). The title of Alice Varagnat’s (the student) thesis was: “Le spectacle vivant dans le milieu rural en Ill-et-Vilaine” . Before I go into the ‘rural-urban’ aspect of her topic, it is good to mention that again I was too biased (or unaware) about this event. It was a real ‘defense’, even more then we are used to in Wageningen. There was a solid presentation, and after that, there was a real argument between the candidate and the committee (of 4 staff members, including me). Both took at least one hour. After that, the committee (likewise a real  PhD-thesis defense) went into ‘retraite’, and evaluated the thesis, presentation and defense. I was really pleased with the quantity and quality of the data, of her resources, findings, presentations, etc., but I had some serious comments on the structure of her report: there was no hypothesis, no methodology, no theoretical framework, no reflection, etc. But my comments didn’t make sense, because I was not participating a Master-thesis defense, but the ‘Memoires de fin d’études’, which  has more the character of an internship then from a scientific research project.  Again I had to find out that the degree of d’Ingénieur  is very different from a Masters degree. Alice’s thesis was not a scientific prove of competences, but a practical one: the report covers the ‘stage’, and shows that you’re able to organize your activities in a professional way. When I realized, that this was the context of her research (and findings), I was even more enthusiastic about it. So I proposed a high mark… just like the rest of the committee did. Finally her mark was a 17,5 (so almost belong to the best 5%), so really good!

The topic attracted many students. Rennes is a city with a lot of concerts and other cultural events. But also the rural area is famous because of an old British or even Celtic tradition: folk music, in bars and village halls, sometimes whole weekends or late in the evening. Festivals during the night, ‘feast at night’, so in Breton language called: ‘Fez Noz’ are very popular!  Alice’s study was on much more then jus this phenomenon of Fez Noz (she looked at cabaret, theater, dancing etc; see her report if you are interested), and the results of her empirical study were rather impressing: there is a vivid world of ‘spectacle vivant’ in the’ very’ rural Brittany (in areas far from the city). When I tried to compare these findings with my experiences in Holland, I couldn’t think about more or other things like the “Zwarte cross”(a multi performance and cultural motorcycle event), the “boeren bruiloften” (Farmers weddings) or “zuipketen” (no translation…). When I talked about this with the other members of the jury, they said they had the same idea before this project started. Part of the rural identity was the tradition of the ‘spectacle vivant’, and everybody thought it had disappeared, so the main goal of this project was to find out ‘why so’ and ‘what to do’ to restore this tradition (by means of infrastructural or economical or institutional arrangements), etc. But –to everybody’s surprise-, it turned out that there still is a rural identity in Brittany in terms of these cultural traditions. Maybe a topic for a thesis at the RSO-group in Wageningen?

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Inclusion and exclusion of the rural… – Jan Schakel in Rennes – Part 4

As I wrote before, there are many relations between the urban and the rural. I just mentioned some of them: the markets, the food,  the regional identity, the life histories of families and …. biking trails… Although many people (in Rennes) don’t recognize this aspect, they do agree when I explain it to them. Maybe it’s too familiar to them –it might be in their backbone. But maybe also, because many Rennes’ peoples are getting very global: they just travel by car, TGV, Thalys or plane. Not any more by bike. Anyway, every day –after work- I’ll take my Batavus, and start roaming around. But when sunsets starts, I go to the écluse de St Martin’ (“shiplock”),  just nearby the Agrocampus. It is exactly on the edge of the city and the countryside. I go there, just to experience a beautiful phenomenon. I am not the only one that goes to that place. When it’s getting dawn, I see ten, hundred, thousand and ten thousands, maybe even millions of birds (starlings) coming back from the countryside. I don’t know where they have been all day, but every night the gather together on the electricity pylons and its wires; they come from everywhere, with thousands and thousands. Like me, but I’m there just to watch them. It almost takes an hour when they’re “all there”..(although I do not count them).  And then, suddenly (who said to leave; which bird took the initiative; and why?) they disappear, and they all go into the city. I’ve been told that they always go to the same places, and that hundreds of  trees are fully loaded with birds, really: fully loaded, and you can listen all night to their talks and stories…you can’t even sleep. But the next morning: they all have left. Where have they gone? Fascinating. But even more astonishing is the fact that this daily rural-urban migration became part of an urban ‘exclusion’ policy. The birds are not welcome anymore in the city, at least: not everywhere. For example, in the luxurious  Avenue de Jean Janvier (just opposite the central railway station)all trees are covered with nets(see picture), so the birds can’t have their sleep there anymore. I noticed these nets one morning on my daily trip to the station to buy my “de Volkskrant”. Rennes is changing … Anyway; the peoples who I asked about these nets, they just shook their head; they didn’t understand it either. Why exclude the birds…?

Some years ago, Rudolf van Broekhuizen and I did some research on “breeding and culture” as part of the EU funded project called “Sustainable Farm Animal Breeding and Reproduction” (SEFABAR). We studied the cultural context of breeding (for four species: poultry, pigs, ruminants and aquaculture)in 6 different countries.  France was one of them, together with the USA, Thailand, Norway, Italy and the Netherlands (by the way: why do I have to say in French that ‘je suis Hollandais, je parle Neerlandais, et je habit a Pays Bas’? Three words for one nationality; rather complicated!). Anyway, breeding can be embedded in or intertwined with culture in many ways and with different meanings. Although we noticed –especially in breeding – an ongoing process of globalization, we also noticed processes of (re-)localization. Our main conclusion was: culture and context still do matter! In Italy for example, breeding is strongly related to food, and in France breeding still is deeply rooted in the region: ‘origine’, ‘identity’ and ‘terroir’ are the keywords  to understand the cultural context of French breeding.

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“I bike, so I am” (or was it…”I am, so I bike”?) – Jan Schakel in Rennes – Part 3

Tomorrow I will leave Rennes and go the  countryside (to Villarceaux) to assist a field practical on sustainable indicators in the rural area. But I already miss the city. As I wrote before, Rennes is an special city: it has character, class and culture. And after three weeks you’re getting to feel at home: I know my way around, do my daily shopping’s, shake hands, have a kiss here and there (‘des bisous’, more ‘cheek to cheek’…), etc. After three weeks you also get a rhythm:  I buy a Dutch newspaper at the station, have  a coffee on the terrace and a late dinner at the bistro (see picture).

Rennes is a very beautiful city, also due the fact that they have a major that is very well respected and who is major for over 30 (!) years already. So compared to other cities, Rennes has a very sustainable and constant policy, and you can feel and see the results of that everywhere.  I will show you two –also for me – very interesting examples. First : Rennes urban strategy (and at the same time: rural). Rennes, with almost 200.000 inhabitants within the city, is a very ‘compact’  city. Also due to ecological and rural motives, the city of Rennes decided over 30 years ago to  concentrate housing within its walls, and by that, saving the qualities of the surrounding countryside. So the policy was to intensify the density of its buildings, but according to very high architectural standards. So indeed, you don’t see any suburbs, industrial zones or slumps within the city: it all has quality and a very special atmosphere.

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