Imaginary futures of food provisioning practices in peri-urban areas – Martin Ruivenkamp

Since a couple of months, I’m employed as postdoc researcher by the Rural Sociology Group and assigned to the project Urbanising in Place, a selected project of the Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI) that is funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 ERA-NET Cofund scheme. Let me introduce myself to you, but I’m interested in getting to know you too! So, please do not hesitate to contact me at martin.ruivenkamp@wur.nl.

I do feel ‘at home’ at the Rural Sociology group. Surely, this might be related to the fact that I heard many good stories about Rural Sociology from people close to me… And, the work carried out by members of Rural Sociology intrigue me and motivate me to contribute to the three themes RSO focuses on: 1) the development of ecological and socially sustainable agrarian and food policies by studying the role of agricultural and rural activities, products and services in metropolitan and peri-urban regions; 2) the identification and reconfiguration of modes of connectivity between the production and consumption of food, by taking a multidimensional approach to food and reconnecting food to the social, cultural and environmental context of food provisioning practices; 3) the generation of images and narratives of ‘other’ values that build on a reappropriation of space through practices that reflect both rural-urban differences and symbiosis and overcome commoditisation of rurality. These themes link up nicely, however maybe creatively, to my previous meanderings through the landscape of social science. Looking back, the pathway that emerged through my wanderings in the fields of social psychology (MSc in 2004), sociology (Ba in 2005), and Science and Technology Studies (PhD in 2011; postdoc research since 2013) foregrounds my interests in the interwovenness of the real and imaginary, the practised and the envisioned and I look forward to apply these concepts as a lens for exploring food provisioning practices in peri-urban areas. I will further elaborate these issues within the contexts of ‘Urbanising in Place’ project. This project investigates how small-scale food provisioning practices on the metropolitan fringe, threatened by ever-expanding urbanisation dynamics, may be reimagined and reconfigured in such ways that rather than being pushed out of metropolitan areas they can be enabled to claim an active role in managing the food-water-energy nexus in the (near) future. Within the confinements of the overall research programme I am not to take the future as an extension of a dominant now, but rather to explore the envisioning of various potentialities of multitudinous futures and investigate how to shift perspective from the obvious, mainstream food system, to the multitude of food provisioning practices, developing and emerging from ‘below’ and how to appraise their roles in social and ecological sustainable futures.

Aside from the above, my roots also explain my contentment to have become part Rural Sociology. As a kid, I always enjoyed visiting my grandparents in Italy. Being originally peasants from Calabria (a region in the ‘poor’ southern parts of Italy) who for economic reasons had migrated to the ‘rich’ north of Italy, working the land was part of their being. Therefore, next to a small two-room apartment in the centre of smoggy Milan, where my grandfather had started a restaurant serving traditional Calabrian food, they had a cottage in the hills of Alessandria (one and a half hour drive from Milan). Here they had an orchard with various fruit trees (apricots, peaches, prunes, cherries), a vineyard and they grew their own vegetables. I always loved to climb the trees and pick and eat the fruit while sitting in the trees and have lunch with the whole family underneath the umbrella pine close to the house. My grandma processed the tomatoes and basil from the garden into pasta sauce, which, with the fresh homemade pasta she made, needed just a little parmesan cheese to make it taste beautiful. The wine came directly from the neighbours and was made partly with the grapes my grandfather grew. Also, years later, when my grandparents had to sell the cottage and were stuck in their two-room apartment, my grandmother kept huge basil plants on the balcony, which, with an open window, smelled up the whole living room. My grandfather rented a small plot next to a power station a couple of blocks from their house, to be able to continue to work the field and grow his tomatoes. In Milan, due to his connections in the catering industry, he sometimes was able to obtain from friends ‘Sardella’, a typical fish conserve from Calabria – also known as ‘Poor man’s caviar’.

These memories, the smells and tastes are to my opinion important points of focus manifested in studies of regional food dynamics, diverse modes of food provisioning (in peri-urban and urban areas) and interlinked food networks (as in this case emerging from migration flows). I do believe in the relevancy of giving affective credence to food knowledge, food appreciation and consciousness in the identification and generation of socially just and ecologically sustainable food futures. And, I hope, without sounding too histrionic, in the coming three years to be able to combine ‘heart’ and ‘mind’ and form new personal pathways that contribute – e.g. through action research approaches – to the identification of diversity, making visible the potentialities of unconventional food practices, broadening the scientific, policy-oriented and public visions of food provisioning activities and advancing multiple food futures and policy decisions. In elaborating these ‘small-scale’ ambitions I guess I will very much appreciate an automatic wifi connection.

Thesis Opportunities: Social Economies of food, agriculture, and nature in Gelderland.

Social economy is an umbrella term used to describe a variety of third sector, cooperative, voluntary, non-profit, and social enterprise initiatives that put social and environmental well-being before profit.  They operate in different sectors of the economy, and provide a number of important goods and services – that range from food to social services and care. The social economy is also an important part of the solidarity economy, a term used to describe diverse economic practices that seek to strengthen local economies and communities and create alternatives as a form of resistance to the social, economic, and environmental injustices associated with capitalism, colonialism, racism, and neoliberalism. The cities of Ede, Arnhem, and Nijmegen are home to a growing number of social economy initiatives, especially in the areas of agriculture, food, and nature (e.g. ecosystems services, green infrastructure). Here they play a vital, yet often unrecognized role. With these three thesis topics –  on (WP1) mapping, (WP2) diverse economies analysis, and (WP3) assessment –  we hope to change that.

Start date: January or February 2019

Qualifications:           

  • You are able to conduct qualitative research in Dutch.
  • You are able to engage diverse stakeholders in participatory and collaborative research
  • You can use basic excel and mapping tools (WP1)
  • You have an interest in diverse economies and social innovation (WP2).
  • You have some experience in assessment and evaluation (WP3)
  • You are registered for one of the following MSc programmes: MID, MCS, MLP, MFT, or MOA
  • You have completed at least 2 RSO courses (or relevant social science courses)

Questions? Please get in touch!

Supervisors: Oona Morrow (RSO) oona.morrow@wur.nl and Jan Hassink (PRI) jan.hassink@wur.nl

  1. Mapping social economy in food-health valley

What/ Where is the social economy in food-health valley?

This MSc thesis will seek to inventory and categorize social enterprises in the greater Ede, Arnhem, and Nijmegen region. Through online research and field research you will construct a database and map of social economy initiatives in the agriculture, food and nature domains providing social services. You will work closely with a MSc student specializing in diverse economies to develop a typology for categorizing these initiatives in terms of their organizational model, funding, sector and services,  etc. The data you collect is important for measuring the size and scope of the social economy. And ultimately for making the social economy visible to itself, the general public and policymakers. You will organize several stakeholder events in each city to reflect on the reflect on your data, and also what is missing. You will use your research practice to strengthen existing social economy networks in the region by bringing stakeholders together. Your MSc thesis will thus also reflect on the role of mapping as a method for making networks visible.

  1. Diverse economies of social economy in food-health valley

What are the diverse economies of the social economy?

This MSc thesis will work closely with the Mapping the social economy thesis to adapt the diverse economies framework (Gibson-Graham 2008) to create a typology of social economy initiatives and practices. You will draw upon  the database and map created by MsC 1 to select case studies from several different sectors (e.g. food, agriculture, nature care, etc.) and analyse them for their diverse economic practices and business and funding models. You will examine the social and institutional relationships and policies that shape these practices – e.g. health policy, access to land from the city. And identify emerging social innovations and best practices to share within this network social economy initiatives.

  1. Co-designing Impact and Assessment tools for social economy initiatives in food-health valley

What are the impacts of the social economy, and how can we measure them?

Social economy initiatives have important goals. But how do they know they are achieving them? What metrics and indicators are meaningful? And what types of evaluation tools are actually useful and usable ? And how can they best communicate their impact (to funders, policy makers, and participants)? You will answer these questions, in collaboration with social economy initiatives working in different sectors of the region. Together you will co-design impact and assessment tools that are tailored to the unique needs of social economy initiatives yet also replicable and can be implemented by the initiatives. You will organize communities of practice around evaluation that are rooted in the concrete needs and practices of different sectors.

Further Reading:

Amin, A. (Ed.). (2013). The social economy: International perspectives on economic solidarity. Zed Books.

Gibson-Graham, J. K. (2008). Diverse economies: performative practices for other worlds’. Progress in Human Geography32(5), 613-632.

Gibson-Graham, J. K., Cameron, J., & Healy, S. (2013). Take back the economy: An ethical guide for transforming our communities. University of Minnesota Press.

Loh, P., & Agyeman, J. (2018). Urban food sharing and the emerging Boston food solidarity economy. Geoforum.

Miller, E. (2010). Solidarity Economy. In Eds. E. Kawano, T. Masterson, and J. Teller-Ellsberg. Solidarity Economy I: Building Alternatives for People and Planet. Amherst, MA: Center for Popular Economics. 2010

 

Book Launch – Flourishing Foodscapes: Designing City Region Food Systems

On Thursday 27 September 2018 Valiz and the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture will host a programme dedicated to the launch of the book entitled ‘Flourishing Foodscapes – Designing City Region Food Systems’.

About Flourishing Foodscapes

Flourishing Foodscapes is a book about the the social and spatial organization of networks and systems of food provisioning. It explores, highlights and discusses strategies and designs for creating future-proof city region food systems by addressing the social, economic, and ecological vulnerabilities and sustainabilities of current and future foodscapes, as well as how the spatial qualities of the rural and urban landscape and its use need to adapt and change. A key argument in the book is that food not only has to do with nutrition, but that it links up with and influences a multitude of domains; from health to (eating) culture and from employment to climate change. It has a major impact on the city (especially on consumption and distribution, and, to a lesser extent, on production) and on rural areas (mainly production), but also the relations between city and countryside, close by as well as far apart. Thinking about food-related problems and challenges is becoming increasingly important. These issues influence our planet and way of life, but also our everyday existence.

Flourishing Foodscapes transcends the field of bottom-up initiatives and private projects. If we really want to design more sustainable food systems, we will have to think more structurally about changing food provisioning at different levels of scale. Flourishing Foodscapes links research, case studies and spatial design and takes a step towards a more comprehensive approach to food issues, building on inspiring practices, projects and designs from all over the world.

Programme Book Launch

The book presentation will take place on Thursday 27 September 2018, from 17.00 to 19.30 at the Academy of Architecture (Waterlooplein 211-213, Amsterdam). The programme is as follows:

  • 17:00–17:05 Opening by moderator Saskia van Stein (director Bureau Europa)
  • 17:05–17:10 Welcome by Madeleine Maaskant (director Academy of Architecture)
  • 17:10–17:30 Introduction to the book by the editors and main authors Han Wiskerke (Professor of Rural Sociology, Wageningen University) and Saline Verhoeven (landscape architect and researcher)
  • 17:30–18:00 Reactions tot the book by Froukje Idema (Programme Manager Food, municipality Ede); Martin Woestenburg (rural sociologist and journalist); Arnold van der Valk (Professor emeritus of Spatial Planning and co-founder of the Food Council of the Metropolitan Region of Amsterdam)
  • 18:00–18:25 Discussion led by Saskia van Stein
  • 18:25–18:30 Presentation of the first copy to Hanneke Kijne (Head of Landscape Architecture at the Academy)
  • 18:30–19:30 Snacks and drinks

This programme is free of charge, but if you plan to attend please register via avb-webredactie@ahk.nl

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

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).

Reminder – Vacancy Assistant Professor in Food Sociology (tenure track)

At the Rural Sociology Group we have a job opening for an Assistant Professor (tenure track position) in Food Sociology. As assistant professor you will undertake independent research and participate in international research projects focusing on the dynamics of food provisioning practices and processes and on the relations between food provisioning and sustainable rural and urban development. You will also teach and coordinate Bachelor and Master courses for the Bachelor and Master program International Development Studies (specialization Sociology of Development), the Master program Food Technology (specialization Gastronomy), and the Master program Organic Agriculture and supervise Master thesis research for these programs. Other aspects of the job include project acquisition, training and supervision of PhD students and participation in various research and/or education committees. About 45% of your time will be spent on education, 45% on research and the remaining 10% on a variety of activities within and outside the university.

For more information about the position (and the Rural Sociology Group) go to the vacancy page of Wageningen University or contact Prof.dr. Han Wiskerke (han.wiskerke@wur.nl). Candidates can apply for this position onlineThe deadline for application is Thursday 14 September 2017.

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.

What if the Trucks Stop Coming? – PhD thesis by Cheron Constance

On Wednesday 21 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Cheron Constance will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘What if the trucks stop coming? Exploring the framing of local food by cooperative food retailers in New Mexico’ 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 thesis

Proponents of local food cite a variety of economic and environmental advantages of short food supply chains. Consumer interest in local food has also offered a point of differentiation for many players in the food industry, including restaurants and grocery stores. Engaging with local food has significant challenges, however, and many production and distribution systems engender and support more diffuse food provisioning, not less. Though food can travel thousands of miles from its point of origin to consumption, many cooperative (co-op) grocery stores have long sold locally-produced food and have deep ties to their supplier communities. This thesis offers case studies of two co-ops in the natural and organic food sector and examines how they think about and work with local food. The theories of embeddedness (after Polanyi) and diverse economies (from Gibson-Graham) undergird the analyses of these co-ops’ involvement with local food and how the cooperative business model relates to it.

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