Research Position: Mapping gender-responsive rural policies (Deadline 8 Dec 2022)

Click here to apply

This is a pre-vacancy announcement for an exciting research position in the Rural Sociology Group.

The Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University is looking for a Researcher to work on a comprehensive mapping of gender-responsive rural policies across the EU. This research is part of a 4-year EU-funded project (SWIFT).

The position is for 10 months at 0.8 FTE and will be based in the Rural Sociology Group in Wageningen University.


In this exciting research position :

  • You will lead a systematic review of academic and grey literature to map and assess gender-mainstreaming and gender responsiveness in EU policy and law, pertaining to innovation and rural communities.
  • You will undertake a SWOT analysis of the identified strategies from the perspective of rural women and innovation.
  • You will interview relevant project partners and stakeholders to validate and expand on the review.
  • You will work as part of a team to translate the insights into an accessible report.
  • There are also opportunities to develop the work into an academic article.
  • You will work closely with project partners (especially at Oxfam Belgium, and BOKU in Austria).

We ask

We are looking for a candidate with:

  • A passion for agroecology and gender-based approaches.
  • An understanding of the challenges within the current food system (inequalities, climate change…) and the need for transformation.
  • A BSc (ideally an MSc) in a social science discipline (e.g. sociology, food studies, feminist studies).
  • Familiarity with agricultural and rural policies in a European context. Knowledge of the Common Agricultural Policy is an advantage.
  • Experience conducting systematic literature reviews and interviewing stakeholders.
  • Strong analytic and communication skills, ability to process complex information and translate it into accessible and usable formats.
  • Fluency in English. Other languages are an advantage.

Key dates

This vacancy will be listed up to and including 8 December, 2022. 

The job interviews will be scheduled 16 December 2022.

Candidates are expected to start the position1 February 2023.

More information
Additional inquiries should be addressed to Dr Jessica Duncan (jessica.duncan@wur.nl) with the subject SWIFT Researcher.

We offer

You are going to work at the greenest and most innovative campus in Holland, and at a university that has been chosen as the “Best University” in the Netherlands for the 18th consecutive time.


Do you want to apply?
Applications can be submitted through the Wageningen University Vacancy Website.

To apply, you will need to upload the following:

  • Letter of motivation, clarifying your interest in the position and research experience
  • A current Curriculum Vitae, including names and contact details of two referees
  • A writing sample (e.g. a chapter from your thesis, a blog entry, an essay from a course)

Please note that only applications sent through the online application button can be taken into consideration.


 Equal opportunities
Wageningen University & Research (WUR) employs a large number of people with very different backgrounds and qualities, who inspire and motivate each other. We want every talent to feel at home in our organization and be offered the same career opportunities. We therefore especially welcome applications from people who are underrepresented at WUR. For more information please go to our inclusivity page. A good example of how WUR deals with inclusiveness can be read on the page working at WUR with a functional impairment.

Wageningen University and Research
The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University, and the specialized research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 7.200 employees, and 13.200 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organizations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

The Rural Sociology Group (RSO)

A more detailed profile of the Rural Sociology Group can be found in its 75th Anniversary book ‘On meaningful diversity: past, present and future of Wageningen rural sociology’.

Central to the research program of the Rural Sociology Group is a relational approach to transformation processes, explored from the perspective of the everyday life of people, with a focus on agrarian and rural change, food provisioning, and place-based development. These processes are studied from a range of critical perspectives (e.g. interpretative and micro-sociological perspectives, cultural political economy, or governmentality studies). We actively engage in interdisciplinary (including collaborations with natural scientists), multi-method and multi-stakeholder approaches. A common denominator in our research is the focus on actors, agency, the institutionalization of practices, differential development paths, and political organization.

Our mission is to contribute to the development of sustainable and socially acceptable modes of farming, food provisioning, and rural development, which foster social and spatial justice. Through our research we attempt to un-familiarize the familiar and undertake critical analyses, but, importantly, also be transformative by engaging in the exploration of new practices and by showing a diversity of credible options beyond dominant understandings and constellations. A key characteristic of our research program is its threefold relevance: it should contribute to the scientific development of our field and scientific discipline(s), inform policymaking and provide support for practitioners.

The Rural Sociology Group is embedded in the sub-department Space, Place & Society (SPS)  together with two other chair groups: Health & Society (HSO) and Sociology of Development and Change (SDC). Within SPS the groups share administrative support and collaborate in education. Together with the Cultural Geography group the sub-department Space, Place and Society has founded the Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS), which aims to advance critical-constructive scholarship within the social sciences with a particular focus on issues of socio-spatial inequalities and social and environmental justice. Within the CSPS the chair groups participate in research and PhD supervision and training.

More information about Wageningen University, the Rural Sociology Group, the sub-department SPS and CSPS can be obtained through one of the following links.


New RSO student authored article on Ayurveda and commodification in Europe

Former RSO thesis student Marine Viale has had an article based on her thesis published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine. The article’s title is Conserving traditional wisdom in a commodified landscape: Unpacking brand Ayurveda, and is co-authored with Mark Vicol from RSO. Fantastic to see a very good thesis leading to a peer-reviewed publication. You can read the full article here https://authors.elsevier.com/sd/article/S0975-9476(22)00126-7 and the abstract is pasted below.

Abstract

As Ayurveda continues to gain global recognition as a sanctioned system of health care, the essence of Ayurveda’s identity has become prey to commoditization and commodification for commercial undertakings in the holistic health milieu of India, but also in emerging markets such as Europe. This paper critically assesses the commodification of Ayurveda as a cultural signifier within Europe that separates the indigenous artefact from its Vedic origins. Often presented as an elite commodity in Western settings, Ayurveda has become embedded as a cultural artifact within consumer society as the epitome of holistic care with an emphasis on its spiritual attributes, yet simultaneously isolating it from the customary elements that motivated its inception. The paper argues that Ayurveda’s discursive detachment from its ontological tenets facilitates its rearticulation as a malleable experience as it crosses national boundaries, and in this process fosters the misinterpretation of the ancient healing tradition. This process may provide Ayurvedic treatments and principles with increased visibility in Europe’s health sector. However, brands are exploiting this niche with push-marketing strategies to capitalize on the budding Ayurveda industry, turning traditional medicines into emblematic commodities. To advance this argument, we examine product diversions in the commodification of classical Ayurvedic medicines in the Netherlands and Germany, focusing on the over-the-counter (OTC) segment. We present an interpretive analysis of the processes that are (de)constructing traditional practices and principles as Ayurveda travels beyond India, and how this complicates issues of authenticity and expertise as herbal medicines diverge from the indications ratified in Ayurveda’s classical compendiums.

‘Eliciting Aspirations’, MSc-thesis by Esmee van Schuppen

Esmee van Schuppen finished her Master International Development Studies with an excellent thesis on the aspiration of youth in Ghana. In her thesis she argued that the aspired livelihood trajectories of youth in Ghana are poorly understood. Her thesis moves beyond the binary representation of rural youth aspirations in academic research, in which these aspirations are portrayed in a dichotomy of rural versus urban and farming versus non-farming.

“Eliciting aspirations: Understanding the role of aspirations and opportunity space in the livelihood trajectories of rural youth in Kwaebibirem and Atiwa-West”, MSc Thesis Rural Sociology by Esmee van Schuppen. See the abstract below.

Abstract
With a third of Ghana’s population currently between 15-35 years old, efforts to revitalise the agricultural sector in Ghana are increasingly geared towards youth. However, the full range of aspirations of rural youth and the opportunities and constraints that shape them, are often overlooked in policy and academic research.

This thesis aimed to elicit the role of aspirations and the opportunity space – the spatial and temporal distribution of viable options that a young person can exploit to establish an independent life – on the livelihood trajectories of rural youth. A total of 41 life history interviews and eight FGDs were conducted in order to gather data on the aspirations, opportunity space and livelihood trajectories of rural youth in Kwaebibirem and Atiwa-West, in Ghana’s Eastern Region. The results suggest that rural youth especially aspire occupations in waged employment, but that the options for waged employment are limited in Kwaebibirem and Atiwa[1]West. As a result, the majority of youth engages, and aspire to engage, in mixed livelihood trajectories, in which the capital generated from one activity is invested in the farm, and vice versa. This thesis therefore found that even though youth do not aspire to engage in farming full-time, agricultural activities do play an integral part of the livelihood trajectories and aspirations of rural youth. The perennial crops that are dominant in the landscape, cocoa and oil palm, can help youth to claim temporary ownership over the land and can therefore serve as an investment, a means to guarantee a stable retirement and a way to leave a legacy for their children. However, this thesis also found that the opportunity space for farming is narrowing due to a decrease in the availability and affordability of land and an increase in prices for inputs and hired labour. Moreover, climate change and a decrease in the quality of natural resources make farming a risky investment, subsequently making youth hesitant to engage in farming in the future.
This thesis concludes that the opportunity space plays an important role in shaping the livelihood trajectories of youth. It appears that youth re-evaluate their life and their livelihood at the moment an important change occurs, and change the course of their livelihood trajectory as a result. However, this thesis also suggests that aspirations also play a role in the livelihood trajectories of rural youth, by demonstrating that rural youth does have the capacity to navigate through the opportunity space and take steps towards those futures by employing different strategies, such as adjusting their aspirations to fit with the opportunity space, by putting aspirations on hold or for instance by exploiting the distant opportunity space. In pursuit of their aspirations, youth are able to enforce their agency to expand their opportunity space and shape their livelihood trajectory according to their aspirations. As this thesis only captured the perspectives of youth residing in Kwaebibirem and Atiwa-West, where perennial crops are dominant, future research is needed to expose how the aspirations and opportunity space of youth differ from youth in regions where annual crops are dominant. Moreover, due to the oversampling of youth who did not migrate, future research could focus on how the aspirations and opportunity space of migrated youth enabled them to move down a different trajectory than the youth who stayed behind. Policymakers should consider making more comprehensive agricultural policies for youth, hereby not only focusing on improving the conditions for young farmers, but also on the provision of off-farm opportunities, as mixed livelihood activities are central in the aspirations and livelihood trajectories of rural youth.

As the Soil, So the Human: Narratives of Ontological Entanglement and Soil Management in Regenerative Agriculture – MSc thesis report by Levi Kingfisher

The Glen by Travis Shilling

As the Soil, So the Human: Narratives of Ontological Entanglement and Soil
Management in Regenerative Agriculture
‘, MSc-thesis report by Levi Kingfisher graduated as MSc Organic Agriculture, Wageningen University.

Abstract
Regenerative agriculture is a diverse, highly contested, and rapidly developing sustainable agriculture movement. It has been lauded for its transformative potential, and criticized for its incoherence and susceptibility for corporate co-option. At the heart of regenerative agriculture is an effort to engage with soil life rather than bypass it; this ethos and the messiness of the movement indicate that a range of novel human-soil relations may emerge within this space. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with members of intermediary organizations – research institutes, consultants, and NGOs, among others– that are active in promotion and advocacy for adoption of regenerative practices in order to explore these changing human-soil relations. Interviews focused on conceptualizations of soil (life), forms of analysis and knowledge production around soils, regenerative soil management, and the larger goals of regenerative agriculture, including addressing climate change and improving the economic situation of farmers. Results were subject to narrative analysis, which indicated that respondents acknowledged the fact that soils are living, rather than inert substrates reducible to chemical and physical criteria. Soil biology was understood and engaged with to different extents, and a wide range of analytical tools were used to scrutinize soil, including microscopy, genetic testing, measurement of soil organic carbon, among others. Overall, narratives indicate that a wide range of human-soil relations can be identified within regenerative agriculture, including care, exploitation, and relatively novel mechanisms of commodification and financialization of soil life through the development of soil carbon credits. Further, results indicate that this variation is produced by differences in human approaches to understanding, analyzing, and managing soil life; different approaches to producing knowledge about soils facilitates the creation of different kinds of relations. Building on the narratives, it is argued that the human should be theoretically (re)centered in the social science study of regenerative agriculture and human-soil relations, in order to maintain a uniquely human sense of responsibility to address, among other challenges, climate change. Similarly, the role of alternative ontological outlooks on soils and nature in food system transformation is discussed.

The experiences of Dutch livestock owners with wolf damage compensation schemes – MSc Research practice by Jasmijn Keuning

The experiences of Dutch livestock owners with wolf damage compensation schemes: Analyzing compensation payments through a lens of environmental justice‘, is a MSc Research practice report by Jasmijn Keuning (jasmijn.keuning@wur.nl), MSc student International Development and Forest and Nature Conservation of Wageningen University.

A MSc student interested in an academic career can opt for a research practice in stead of an regular internship and thus gain relevant work experience at an academic level. Below the Abstract. The report also includes a Summary in both English and Dutch.

Abstract
After 140 years of absence, the Netherlands is once again housing one of Europe its largest predators, the wolf. This has caused human-wolf conflict to reemerge, of which the main cause is the depredation on livestock. To mitigate this conflict between farmers and wolves, the Dutch government has implemented a compensation scheme. Compensation schemes are one of the most common ways through which policy-makers try to mitigate human-wildlife conflict, but remain controversial. This research aims to create a deeper understanding of the perspectives, experiences and attitudes of Dutch farmers towards wolf damage compensation payments and thereby, wolf management more broadly by studying this tool through the Environmental Justice framework. A case study has been adopted on the South-Eastern provinces of the Netherlands, for which 15 semi-structured interviews have been conducted with the organization handling compensation payments, farmers organizations, an ecologist and livestock owners from this region. The findings suggest that the arrival of the wolf to the Netherlands has created new insecurities for farmers’ livelihoods, which are caused by wolf presence itself and the system that has been set up to manage this presence and its impact. By analyzing farmers’ experiences with compensation payments in a framework of environmental justice, this research demonstrates that only focusing on compensation is insufficient to create a sense of environmental justice among farmers, and thereby mitigate human-wolf conflict, since compensation payments alone are unable to address all challenges that cause insecurity among farmers. This study concludes that while compensation payments continue to be an important focus point of wolf policy, it can be understood as only a last step in building a supportive base for wolf presence in the Netherlands. Instead, more emphasis should be given to improvements at the beginning of the process, before damage has occurred.

Key words: human-wildlife conflict, compensation payments, environmental justice, livestock depredation, livestock owners.