Unpacking legitimacy in regional development

In 2018, Yasmine Willy came as a visiting fellow to the Center of Space, Place and Society at WUR. Two years later, the fruits of this visit have been published in the journal Territory, Politics and Governance. The article focuses on an issue widely discussed in academic literature: the lack of legitimacy of regional development agencies.  Following Hannah Arendt’s distinction between legitimization and justification, the article argues that the main problem regional development agencies struggle with is not procedural rightfulness (legitimization) but means–end coordination (justification). The abstract of the article writes: “In recent years, policy-makers and researchers have identified regional development agencies as the most suitable actors to carry out public tasks. One of these tasks has been the coordination of regional development processes. Both practitioners and researchers argue that legitimacy is a prerequisite for these regional actors to function properly. Although legitimacy is a key issue, little is known about the challenges that arise while producing it. Selecting six regional development agencies in Switzerland and applying an interview-based research method, this explorative study analyses how regional development agencies deal with legitimacy issues. The findings indicate that the main problem with which regional development agencies struggle is not procedural rightfulness but means–end coordination. By proposing a clear distinction between legitimacy and justification, we aim to stimulate the debate on how to operationalize legitimacy and further the discussion of the functioning of regional development agencies. Consequently, we introduce the concept of ‘asymmetric justification’ to the debate on regional development processes in order to shed a light on the functioning of regional development agencies.”

If you are curious, you can access the article under this link
https://rsa.tandfonline.com/eprint/FVR9SKRQMMXG8GMVRZ5S/full?target=10.1080/21622671.2020.1805352


(De)coding a technopolity: Tethering the civic blockchain to political transformation – PhD-thesis by Syed Omer Husain

May 14 2020, at 11.00 am (CET) Syed Omer Husain will defend his PhD-thesis ‘(De)coding a technopolity: Tethering the civic blockchain to political transformation‘. See the Abstract below. The full thesis can be downloaded (click title) from WUR Library after the defence ceremony.

The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but is recorded and can be viewed later as well. Syed Omer Husain is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. He was employed at the EU-funded MSCA ITN project SUSPLACE.

 

Abstract

This study rests at the intersection of technopolitics, translocal networks and political change. The overall aim of the thesis is to understand, and in turn, influence, the way technology interacts with political transformation. It responds to the fact that social science has thus far neglected to adequately account for and analyze how emerging technologies like blockchain and civic tech influence the way politics is practiced. The main research question guiding the study is how does the design, implementation and use of technopolitical innovations influence the practice of politics. The thesis foregrounds the idea that technopolitical experiments personify a ‘prefigurative politics by design’ i.e. they embody the politics and power structures they want to enable in society.

Conducted as part of the EU-funded SUSPLACE project that explores the transformative capacity of sustainable place-shaping practices, the research was predominantly inspired by a hybrid digital ethnography methodology. The thesis confines its focus to three empirical clusters: technopolitical blockchain projects, government-led blockchain projects and place-based civic engagement technologies. The study delineates how differing politico-social imaginaries play a role in the design and implementation of technopolitical projects; addresses contemporary post-political phenomena such as the depoliticization of agency; and identifies the activation of a place-based geography of political action through digitally-mediated municipal networks. It articulates the language and frameworks necessary to analyze these present-day challenges, while simultaneously developing approaches that can be exported to different domains of political activism.

Technology is not neutral; but neither are its designers and users. The thesis finds that it is through considerable, deliberate efforts, in conjunction with individual and collective choices, that technopolitical innovations can reframe our socio-economic and political realities. The study demonstrates the emphatic and urgent need for researchers, practitioners, politicians and citizens to collaboratively work on redrawing boundaries of access, empowering the citizenry, creating new forms of organization and re-politicizing the economy. It outlines a transdisciplinary research and practice agenda that aims at not only (de)coding the existing technopolitical innovations, but also (re)coding them to create a more equitable system of politics. The thesis concludes that since coding affordances and constraints in a technopolitical system is shown to regulate political agency and even influence the behavior of citizens, we must devise value-driven technology that incentivizes creating a more equitable political system.

MSc thesis opportunity: Environmental versus/and political ecology explanations of civil war

There is a fierce debate about the origins of the civil war in Syria.

Some argue that the civil war was caused by environmental induced scarcity (climate change). Key environmental factors identified are water-scarcity and climate variability. Drought is said to have contributed to the displacement of rural populations to urban centers, unemployment and the occurrence of food insecurity with subsequent effects on political stability (Gleick 2014).

Others have argued that the relation between drought, migration and conflict is not so clear-cut (Eklund & Thompson 2017). They content that the central causes of the war were the Syrian regime’s agrarian policy and the rural poverty it produced (political ecology). The regime’s social and economic reforms cut the peasantry from subsidies, resulted in a loss of livelihood and brought large parts of the population out of the social reach of the state (Daoudy 2020).  

For this thesis you will evaluate and assess climate change and political ecology centered explanation of the causes of the civil war in Syria. Based on this reading, you are challenged to 1) develop an approach beyond the climate change – political ecology controversy or 2) assess the policy implications of both approaches. For this study, you will analyze scientific articles, reports by international organizations and NGOs, but also consider datasets of FAO and WB.

More info: joost.jongerden@wur.nl

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

New Book: Achieving Sustainable Urban Agriculture

Book cover Achieving Sustainable Urban Agriculture

This collection reviews key recent research on developing urban and peri-urban agriculture. The first part of the book discusses ways of supporting urban agriculture, from policy and planning to building social networks for local food supply chains. The chapters in the second part of the book survey developments in key technologies for urban agriculture, including rooftop systems and vertical farming. The book also assesses challenges and improvements in irrigation, waste management, composting/soil nutrition and pest management. The final group of chapters are case studies on urban farming of particular commodities, including horticultural produce, livestock, and forestry.

The book targets a varied audience: academic researchers in agricultural science, urban planning and environmental science specialising in urban agriculture; urban planners and policy makers in local government; national government and other bodies promoting urban agriculture.

More information about the book can be found at https://shop.bdspublishing.com/store/bds/detail/workgroup/3-190-83836

 

Collaborating towards Berlin Food Policy: Exploring civic-state collaboration in current urban food governance in Berlin – The Case of the Berlin Food Strategy

dinah thesis coverDinah Hoffman, MSc student Communication, Health and Life Sciences
Specialization: Health and Society, Wageningen University

Below please find the abstract of the MSc thesis Collaborating towards Berlin Food Policy: Exploring civic-state collaboration in current urban food governance in Berlin – The Case of the Berlin Food Strategy

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

 

Urban food policy is an area that joins actors from civil society, academia, the local state and the market. To accomplish sustainable changes of local food systems these actors work together in governance arrangements. Two prominent instruments that are used in urban food governance where these actors collaborate are the food policy council and the urban food strategy. Both can be initiated through top-down or bottom-up processes or a combination of both with the relationship of local government and civil society having an impact on the success of the initiatives. One of the cities where civil society and local government engage in collaborative food governance is the city-state of Berlin, the biggest city in Germany, surrounded by the agricultural region of Brandenburg. Drawing on data from 11 interviews and 40 documents, this thesis describes and examines the nature of the relationship and governance arrangement of the two main actors in current Berlin food governance. The collaborative governance framework, a categorization of civic-state relationships found in urban food governance and the concepts of integrated food policy and institutionalization were used to guide the analysis. The objective of this thesis is to understand how civic-state collaboration in urban food governance looks like in Berlin, what impact the local context has on the development of the governance arrangement and what strengths and challenges involved stakeholders perceive. The two main stakeholders were found to be the civic food policy council Ernährungsrat Berlin and the Berlin Senate Administration for Consumer Protection. It was found that the Ernährungsrat Berlin’s food policy activity brought forward a relationship where they are striving for independence but are linked to the government through a secondary agency, being the aforementioned administrative department. Although not embedded in municipal institutions, which has been identified as crucial for a food policy councils’ success, the Ernährungsrat Berlin proved to be an agile and resilient structure able to successfully be an independent advocate for civil society and a valued advisor to the government. Their collaboration resulted in the development of a Berlin Food Strategy. In this thesis I investigate the process of developing this strategy as a form of collaborative governance. Regarding their governance arrangement around the Berlin Food Strategy, the involvement of the Green Party in the current coalition was found to have had a big impact on the position the Ernährungsrat Berlin but also food policy was able to occupy on the urban agenda. This research identified a number of strengths and challenges of the governance arrangement including a strong interdependence, a strong and long history of civic action, the presence of political food champions in the coalition and the administration, the limiting structure and functioning of the Senate administrations and the limited inclusiveness and representatives of the Ernährungsrat Berlin.

Key words: urban food governance, urban food policy, food policy council, urban food strategy, collaborative governance, Berlin food strategy, Ernährungsrat Berlin, Senate of Berlin

Cultivating Food Sovereignty: Understanding the diverse economies of sago in Luwu Utara, Indonesia

title pg ulilMuhammad Ulil Ahsan, MSc Student Development and Rural Innovation, Wageningen University

 

Below the abstract of the MSc-thesis “Cultivating Food Sovereignty: Understanding the diverse economies of sago in Luwu Utara, Indonesia“.

 

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

 

Indonesia has taken up food sovereignty in the constitutional document Food Act number 18/2018 that animates the food policy and program implementation in Indonesia. However, it remains largely rhetorical since the food program implementation has undermined the local food system in many places. This study explores the implementation of food sovereignty in Luwu Utara that is predicated with productionist paradigm, where self-sufficiency is the main goal and transnational corporation are involved in the process of enactment. The implementation put pressure on the local food system in Luwu Utara, particularly in relation to sago. The sago food system encompasses complex issues ranging from the relationship between people in the system to their relation with sago. The diverse economy framework is applied to unravel the diverse forms of economies that lie within the sago food system, and to legitimate the value of food sovereignty existing in Luwu Utara. Diverse economies of sago in Luwu Utara are dominated by non-capitalist practices that can challenge the dominant discourse of capitalist economy as food sovereignty against for. The different forms of food sovereignty at different scales necessitates reflection on food sovereignty implementation. Cultivating food sovereignty requires reflexivity, creating the basis of food sovereignty and building recognition are the strategies to develop a multi-scalar sovereignty. Administering multi-scalar sovereignty is a challenge that must be overcome in the development of a democratic food system in Indonesia.

Keywords: Food sovereignty, diverse economies, sago, Luwu Utara

Understanding food systems’ change: the making and the practicing of the school food reform in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil – PhD-thesis Camilo Lozano

Wednesday, March 13 2019, at 1.30 pm CET Camilo Lozano will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Understanding food systems’ change: the making and the practicing of the school food reform in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil’.

The ceremony will be live streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but can be viewed later as well. The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.

 

The EU Protein Plan: shifting to sustainable supply-chains or more of the same?

Chris Chancellor, WU Graduate

The impact that our industrialised global food supply-chain has on diverse ecosystems and communities around the world is receiving greater attention than ever before. Scholars and activists have for decades emphasised how European agricultural demand has driven deforestation and environmental destruction in species-rich biomes such as the Amazon and Cerrado regions in Latin America.  Now it is becoming clear that the consequences extend far beyond the environmental harm generated by the production stage itself. When looking at the wider chain, the implications of industrial food systems for issues such as food and nutritional security, human health, social justice, rural vitality, employment, and the concentration of market control, become apparent.

Having found its way onto the political agenda, the European Union (EU) has come up with the idea of a European Protein Plan. The EU is currently heavily reliant on imports of protein crops, primarily soybean from Latin America’s Southern Cone region. As well as being linked with major environmental and human rights concerns, the reliance on imports also makes the EU agricultural industry vulnerable to shocks in international commodity prices. Soybean is the favoured ingredient in animal feed for the EUs powerful livestock industry, and therefore a price shock would have major socio-economic consequences.

The Protein Plan essentially proposes increasing the amount of domestic protein crop production. The idea is that this would lift the burden on Latin American ecosystems whilst at the same time providing the EU with greater ‘protein independence’. This has been presented as a win-win situation, and yet the manner in which this production would take place has received little or no critical attention.

A report published by civil society organisation European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) highlights the dangers of simply transplanting the same corporate industrial supply-chain into Europe. Last year, an agreement called the European Soya Declaration was signed by 13 member states, highlighting the suitability of fertile and ‘underused’ lands in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) for expansion of European soybean production. The ECVC report details the recent emergence of agribusinesses and financial investors in the CEE region. Land here is cheaper and often more fertile than in Western Europe, and offers suitable agro-climatic conditions for commodity soybean cultivation. There is therefore an opportunity for large profits to be made if land is bought up now, cultivated with soybean or other commodity protein crops, and potentially sold later when land prices have reached western European levels. As one company puts it: ‘protein crops are the new gold bars’. However, this process is not a neutral one, and entails radical reformulations of arable land ownership and control, threatening the livelihoods of the region’s small-scale producers and rural communities.

Another report from the Land and Resource Lookout reaches a similar conclusion, pointing out that ‘a control-blind approach’ to sustainability is evident. Much attention is given to the fact that this soy would be non-GM, would be deforestation-free, and would help to fix nitrogen in crop rotations. These are undoubtedly positive, yet these traits in isolation don’t automatically equal sustainable supply-chains. The manner in which this soy is produced, distributed and consumed, as well as how and who controls these processes and relevant markets, are key for building a truly sustainable and inclusive food system. It argues that sustainable food system strategies must explicitly address the issue of corporate control if effective progress is to be made.

With the European Commission set to release a report on the EU Protein Plan before the end of the year, both reports advocate for the inclusion of agroecological principles and the concept of food sovereignty in any future EU protein strategies. An agroecological transition offers a potential pathway for a truly inclusive, interconnected and mutually beneficial food system to be built, but this must receive political backing in order for it to really take hold.

The fact that the sorts of headline issues emphasised in the European Soya Declaration are receiving genuine political attention is a positive step. It provides an opportune moment to address deep-seated systemic problems in our current industrially-based food system; policy-makers must now be brave enough to seize it!

Note: are you a WU master student and interested in doing a thesis research on this issue, please contact joost.jongerden@wur.nl

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.

Social Capital and Fisheries participation in Marine Spatial Planning in Orkney – MSc-thesis Yanick Bakker

By Yanick Bakker, MSc International Development Studies.

MSc-thesis Social Capital and Fisheries participation in Marine Spatial Planning in Orkney, Scotland (complete thesis can be downloaded).

In the autumn of 2016, I spent three months on the Orkney Islands in Scotland, where I delved into the worlds of inshore shellfish fisheries and marine spatial planning. Marine spatial planning is a relatively new tool for marine governance designed to manage the use of marine space while minimizing user-user and user-environment conflicts. The marine environment around the Orkney Islands is an important natural asset for the island communities. The waters are used for recreation and transportation, they provide fresh sea foods and are a central part of the islands’ ecosystem, identity and diverse livelihoods. Since 2010, the inshore waters around the Orkney Islands and the North East coast of Scotland have also become sites for marine renewable energy developments. Controversy over the allocation of marine space for these developments, have led to the set-up of a pilot marine spatial plan for the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters.

Writing this thesis, I was curious to see how fishermen relate to this new way of looking at and giving direction to the development of marine space. As the waters in which they fish and the fish stocks they target are central resources for fisher communities, access to these resources is vital for their survival. Not only do new marine developments create concerns for sustainability, the notion of spatial planning at sea also causes concern for decreased mobility and consumption of space among fishermen. Taking community resilience theory as a starting point, I have focused on the use of community social capital in fisheries’ engagement with marine spatial planning in Orkney.

Social capital refers to practices, values and sets of norms found within different forms of social networks (or communities) which can contribute to the collaboration, functioning and collective action of the network. Social capital can be produced within a community (bonding), between different kinds of communities (bridging) or across scales and hierarchical structures (linking). Community resilience theory assumes that community members can act as agents of change, whereby they use different strategies to ensure the survival of the community in face of change. For example by engaging in social relation within and beyond the boundaries of the community to mobilize resources or gain power.

By conducting qualitative interviews with fishermen, representatives of fisher organizations, researchers and policy makers, I have gained insight in the different ways in which the Orkney inshore shellfish fisher community employs and continues to develop its community social capital in order to collaborate, mobilize resources to generate information to reframe the definition and formal representation of marine space and to gain power in (future) marine spatial planning negotiations.

Although social capital seems to be an enabling factor for participation in policy making, this research has shown that it is not a community asset which can be readily mobilized. Having social capital, does thus not equal having agency to act. Seeing the participatory sphere as one of unequal power, stakeholders’ ability to gain influence in governance processes is influenced by institutional limiting and facilitating factors. Social organization of fishermen in fisher organizations has shown to be an important enabling factor for participation in marine spatial planning, in Orkney.