Vacancy: the Rural Sociology group will recruit an Assistant Professor in Agrarian Sociology

The Rural Sociology group will recruit an Assistant Professor in Agrarian Sociology (Tenure Track). For more information see: https://www.wur.nl/en/vacancy/Assistant-Professor-in-Agrarian-Sociology-chair-group-RSO-Tenure-Track-.htm

De duurzaamheid van de Nederlandse landbouw, 1950-2015-2040: PhD thesis Meino Smit

Op 11 september 2018 van 13.30-15.00 verdedigd Meino Smit zijn proefschrift getiteld: De duurzaamheid van de Nederlandse landbouw, 1950-2015-2040. De verdediging is live te volgen en ook terug te kijken via weblectures.wur.nl.

Het volledige proefschrift (klik op de link) is te downloaden via WUR-Library. Hieronder de samenvatting uit het proefschrift:

Dit proefschrift gaat over de duurzaamheid van de Nederlandse landbouw. Deze is in de periode 1950 t/m 2015 sterk afgenomen. Dit als gevolg van een toename van het gebruik van energie en grondstoffen, een toename van het landgebruik en een afname van de hoeveelheid arbeid. Verder zijn de opbrengsten en de arbeidsproductiviteit veel minder gestegen dan tot nu toe werd aangenomen. Meer gebruik van energie en grondstoffen betekent ook een hogere emissie in CO2-equivalenten en als gevolg daarvan een emissiereductie die veel groter moet zijn dan in het regeerakkoord is aangegeven. De landbouw moet omschakelen naar een lage-input kringlooplandbouw. Voor het jaar 2040 is een schets gegeven van een duurzaam landbouwsysteem, dat kan voldoen aan de eisen die op basis van het akkoord van Parijs worden gesteld, voldoende voedselzekerheid biedt en een aanzienlijke vermindering geeft van de door de landbouw veroorzaakte maatschappelijke kosten.

Organic Times – first edition of the MOAgazine

 

Recently students of the Master programme Organic Agriculture (MOA) of Wageningen University launched the first edition of the MOAgazine entitled ‘Organic Times’. The magazine (Organic times online) is written and edited by MOA students and provides some insights into the programme, study and student activities and a variety of issues linked to MOA, including book reviews and organic recipes. As chair of the MOA study programme committee I have enjoyed reading the Organic Times and am proud of the time and energy the students invested in developing this magazine. It reflects the enthusiasm and commitment of this great and dedicated group of international students as well as the interdisciplinary character of the MOA programme.

Financing Future Farming – MSc-thesis by Susan Drion

Susan Drion, MSc-student Organic Agriculture, Wageningen University.

Below the Executive Summary of the MSc-thesis “Financing Future Farming: an exploration of alternative financing constructions to enhance sustainability at farm level“.

The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink.

De thesis bevat ook een Nederlandse samenvatting. Zie ook haar eigen website: waardenscheppers.com

The pressing ecological and economic state of Dutch agriculture begs eagerly for the acceleration of the sustainability transition in this sector. Access to sufficient capital is a major bottleneck in this transition. Established ways of financing agriculture, i.e. via a  bank loan, becomes increasingly harder. This warrants an exploration of alternative financing constructions. This research aims to study to what extent alternative financing constructions enable farmers to achieve sustainability on farm level. It aims to find out how and why these constructions work well, how they are realised and what features of possible best practice can be extracted from them. This research is limited to the context of Dutch agriculture and to financing constructions that yield monetary returns. Alternative financing constructions are defined by the underlying investment logic to create social and natural returns and by the novelty in the mechanisms used.

In this research alternative financing constructions are considered new institutional arrangements, embedded in the framework of neo-institutionalism, practice theory, new practice creation and scaling dynamics. To study the alternative financing constructions, a qualitative case based best practice approach is employed. Eight cases of alternative financing are selected, ranging from citizen participation constructions, alternative loans, business participation constructions and collaborations with institutional investors. Over the course of two months, farmers and investors directly related to the selected case sites were interviewed. The technique of crowd-sourcing was used to find cases, reach the target group and get to know the field of social financing better. Twelve blogs were written about the research process and about the interviewed farmers. Also a collaboration with communication partners was set up to make this technique more effective.

By using the grounded theory approach the data was analysed and the following findings revealed itself:

  1. The key feature that is the foundation of the mechanisms of nearly all alternative financing constructions is the separation of capital and business. Also farmers offered diverse returns on investment;
  2. The added value of the alternative financing constructions to farmers were mostly the friendly collaboration with investors, which gave them a licence to produce, and the solutions they offer to take over of farms by the next generation;
  3. The alternative financing constructions were products of a long build up, earlier failing and the right momentum. Farmers experienced little resistance in the process;
  4. Each alternative financing construction requires certain personality traits of the farmer, the latter is therefore decisive in the choice of financing. Also, the current low interest rates for saving on the bank made it easier for the alternative financing constructions to succeed.

Five features of possible best practice were extracted from the findings.

  1. Make use of certificates, acting as perpetual bonds;
  2. Make use of long term lease contracts to access land and buildings;
  3. Stack capital flows;
  4. Work with shareholders;
  5. Loans remain an option.

Finally, one can say that alternative financing construction do enable farmers to achieve sustainability on their farms. However, the scope is limited because novel alternative financing constructions are yet only used by their designers. Further research is required to find out for whom and under which conditions features of possible best practice are scalable, while at the same time harnessing the personal approach to investors.

Keywords: social financing, Dutch agriculture, alternative financing constructions, elements of best practice, sustainability, separating capital and business, new practice creation, scaling

First generation Farmers: values, practices and relations – MSc-thesis by Laura Genello

Laura Genello, MSc-student Organic Agriculture, Wageningen University.

The average age of farmers is steadily rising across the United States and Europe, while the  proportion of young and beginning farmers declines. Challenging  economic conditions, coupled with agricultural consolidation and rising costs, have led to a decrease in farm successions. Simultaneously, the popular media has reported on increasing interest in agricultural careers among those from non-farming backgrounds.

This emerging population of first generation farmers has largely been ignored by the  academic literature, with only a handful of studies that suggest the ways in which these farmers differ from others. This study aims to characterize the values, practices and  supply chain relations of first generation, beginning farmers (FBFs). By incorporating concepts from research on farming styles, agricultural paradigm shifts and identity, I investigate to what extent FBFs represent change in agricultural attitudes and practice. To do so, I position their farming styles between the archetypes of the productionist and agroecological paradigms. These paradigms hold specialized, commoditized and production-centric traditions in agriculture on one side of a spectrum, and ecologically oriented, community embedded alternatives on the other. I took a comparative, exploratory approach, recruiting farmers who were both first generation (did not take over a family farm), and beginning (approximately less than 10 years experience) from two countries, the Netherlands and the U.S. state of Maryland. Data collection occurred in two phases: an online survey distributed using snowball sampling, followed by semi-structured interviews with 33 participants (15 in the Netherlands; 18 in the U.S.), selected strategically to represent a diversity of survey respondents. The survey yielded 95 responses that met the inclusion criteria: 38 from the Netherlands and 57 from the United States. Most FBFs were practicing small-scale, diversified agriculture, marketing direct to consumer, and using some level of unmapped organic methods. Interviews revealed FBFs to be motivated by a search for meaningful work, and generally have a strong environmental and community ethic. These principles were balanced with a high valuation of the business of farming. FBFs faced a variety of challenges, predominantly financial constraints, access to land and labor, lack of knowledge and regulatory barriers. Their farm practices and structure were the result of a negotiation between their values and business ethic as filtered through practical constraints. The solutions they employed included small scale, low-investment configurations, direct marketing, judicious application of web-based and small farm technology, strong online and in-person networks, and collaborations to access land, share knowledge and market products. While their practices, relations and values are heterogeneous, overall FBFs represent a shift towards the agroecological paradigm.

Key Words: beginning farmers, first generation farmers, new entrants, agroecology,
farming styles, farmer identity, alternative food networks.

The full thesis From Food Forest to Microfarm can be downloaded from the WUR-Library

From hunger to obesity – MSc-thesis by Sonia Zaharia

By Sonia Zaharia, MSc-student Organic Agriculture.

Many low-income countries deliberately pursue agricultural specialization to increase yields and thereby lift their population out of hunger and poverty. Trade is supposed to offset the implied lower diversity of food production and deliver a food supply that supports the health of their population. This study challenges this assumption. I investigate the link between the prevalence of overweight and agricultural specialization. Using a fixed-effects panel regression on data from 65 low- and middle-income countries over the period 1975-2013, I find that countries in which agricultural production is more specialized have a larger share of overweight women. The positive relationship is higher in countries with lower per capita income. The correlation is not statistically different from zero for the male population, which confirms existing empirical evidence that malnourishment tends to be more frequent for women than for men. My results suggest that there are negative health implications of agricultural specialization in poor countries.

My full thesis From hunger to Obesity: agricultural specialization and obesity in low- and middle income countries can be downloaded from the WUR-Library.

Welcome Kees Jansen – Scholar in Critical Agrarian Studies

My name is Kees Jansen. A few weeks ago, I have started in my new job at the Rural Sociology Group. I am very honoured that I can contribute to the international development profile of the group and teach in the domain of critical agrarian studies. Rural Sociology is an exciting group with a long history of remarkable work on redesigning the agro-food system and developing a social justice perspective in agrarian and food policies.

My teaching activities will mainly focus on the courses Sociology of Farming and Rural Life, Globalization and Sustainability of Food Production and Consumption, and Advanced Social Theory.

Latin America is the region where I have done most of my own field work, but shorter stays in a number of Asian and African countries have been important for grasping the significance of comparative research. By working on an organic farm in France, by living with small potato producers high in Andes and with maize-bean producers in Honduras, through interviewing export crop producers in Costa Rica and Mexico, and by visiting farmer co-operatives in the Philippines, I have experienced the multiple pressures on different types of farmers in this globalizing world. In the Rural Sociology Group I will continue my research activities on agrarian political ecology (the greening of the agrarian question; nature-society issues), pesticide risk governance, and theoretical issues in agrarian studies.

The latest examples of my work have just been published in Global Environmental Politics: Business Conflict and Risk Regulations: Understanding the Influence of the Pesticide Industry  (sorry, not yet open access) and in the Journal of Agrarian Change with Jaye de la Cruz: Panama disease and contract farming in the Philippines: Towards a political ecology of risk – open access).

The interesting aspect of doing sociology in Wageningen is the unique opportunity to collaborate with natural scientists on analysing social-technical configurations. Besides my own more specific research topics, I am always interested in exploring new, creative and challenging ideas of prospective thesis students and PhD candidates within the broader domain where international development studies and agrarian studies intersect. Examples are labour conditions of a flexible (often migrant) labour force, the social conditions for agroecology, social responses to risks of agricultural technologies, counter-expertise and social movements, people’s adaptation to climate change, agribusiness strategies, the future of corporate social responsibility, hunger and food security, sociology and politics of knowledge (including interdisciplinarity), autonomy/dependence in agrarian change, and comparative analysis of food sovereignty actions in the Global South. You can read more about me and my work on my website: www.keesjansen.eu.

Do not hesitate to contact me at kees.jansen@wur.nl to talk about your ideas.

Drijfveren, waarden en praktijken van eerste generatie boeren – MSc thesis onderzoek Laura Genello

Laura Genello, student MSc Organic Agriculture van Wageningen University, doet een vergelijkend onderzoek naar eerste generatie boeren in Nederland en de staat Maryland in USA. Eerste generatieboeren zijn zij die geen familiebedrijf hebben overgenomen, maar toch op de een of andere manier zijn begonnen met boeren. Zie haar website Beginning farmers research voor meer informatie (in Engels). Daarop staat ook de online vragenlijst met een Nederlandse en Engelse versie.

Laura wil onderzoeken of deze instromers bepaalde ideeën en waarden over hoe goed te boeren met elkaar delen en in hoeverre ze die in praktijk weten te brengen. Laura heeft een online vragenlijst gemaakt die ingevuld kan worden door personen die in het profiel passen. Hier vindt u de Nederlandse versie van de online vragenlijst. Mocht u zelf een eerste generatie boer zijn dan kunt u de vragenlijst zelf invullen. Mocht u iemand kennen die hier aan voldoet, dan mag u de link doorsturen.

U kunt ook uiteraard ook contact opnemen met Laura Genello: laura.genello@wur.nl

Sustaining Dairy – PhD thesis by Georgina Villarreal Herrera

On Monday 26 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Georgina Villarreal Herrera will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘Sustaining Dairy’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

 

 

 

Summary of the PhD thesis

Dairy in Europe has undergone many changes in the last few years—the abolition of milk production quotas being a fundamental one. This study explores these changes in relation to the sustained social and environmental viability of the sector and how dairy processors’ sustainability programs are a part of that.

This study traces the evolution of the dairy sectors in the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom since the post-war era, outlining the dominant logic that has guided their development. The analysis shows that the post-war logic based on the increase of scale and intensification of dairying has continued to shape the development of the sector through today. While the visible impacts of intensive dairy have led to adaptations to the dominant rules and practices, these changes have not been fundamental in nature. The analysis of dairy processors and their sustainability programs revealed that these programs can be an additional tool for compliance to legal standards and the alleviation of pressing societal concerns. However, processors address social and environmentally relevant dairy-related challenges when an effective link to profit can be established. These programs have been unable to ensure that the dairy sector operates within established environmental limits and societal expectations, while providing a stable livelihood for farmers.

Feeding Dar es Salaam: a symbiotic food system perspective

On Thursday 22 June 2017 at 11.00 hrs Marc Wegerif will defend his PhD thesis entitled ‘Feeding Dar es Salaam: a Symbiotic Food System Perspective’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

Marc is currently Land Rights Policy Lead for Oxfam and based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Before that he was in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) as Food and Land Rights Advisor for Oxfam with a focus on Horn, East and Central Africa. During that time he also undertook the fieldwork for his PhD thesis.

His thesis is based on qualitative research that explored the food system which feeds most of the over 4.6 million residents of the fast-growing city of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Marc followed key foods (maize, rice, potatoes, green vegetables, eggs and milk) from the urban eaters to the retailers, processors and primary producers.

What has been found is a “symbiotic food system” made up of multitudes of small-scale and interdependent actors that together produce the food and get it to urban eaters at a city feeding scale. They do this without any vertically – or horizontally – integrated corporate structures.

The symbiotic food system that feeds Dar es Salaam is not perfect, but it is working and worthy of further research and interventions to create a more enabling environment for such foods systems to flourish in Tanzania and elsewhere.

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