Values and relationships in the diverse economy of De Ommuurde Tuin: an illustrated ethnography

inez thesis coverLast year Inez responded to a RSO thesis advert to join a research team exploring the social economy of food and nature in Gelderland in connection with several science shop projects coordinated by Jan Hassink. Inez completed her research at de Ommuurde Tuin in Renkum, and took the opportunity to further explore visual and creative methods, documenting her results in an illustrated ethnography that was shared with stakeholders at our most recent network gathering Nijmegen. Thanks for being part of our research team Inez ! 

Inez Dekker, MSc student Sociology of Development (MID) Wageningen University

Below please find the abstract of the MSc  minor thesis Values and relationships in the diverse economy of De Ommuurde Tuin: an illustrated ethnography

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

Summary : In the last decades a growing number of alternative food and care initiatives emerged in North-America and Europe. Due to uncertain situations within current neoliberal economic systems such as the recent recession, ongoing outsourcing and environmental depletion, and alienation from production (Morgan and Kuch, 2015), these initiatives offer an alternative to an existing neoliberal model. Moreover, they inspire to create a more diverse pallet of economies alongside dominant economic and social systems. Important to mark here is that their decisions and actions are not merely led by dominant economic models, but intentionally done to create worlds that are environmentally and socially just (Gibson-Graham et al., 2013). Often these initiatives fit in an alternative economic framework where a diverse, interdependent, rich and prolific disarray of ‘good life’ are central for their economies. One of such frameworks is the diverse economic research framework based on the work of Gibson-Graham (2008) where the economy is one based on a myriad of human and non-human social relationships that go beyond capitalist economic models. While there seems to be an emerging interest for practices within alternative economic frameworks, such as in community supported agriculture (CSA) or care farms, there is an absence of how human and non-human relationships create values that form an (diverse) economy. Moreover, in conventional economic thinking, practices occurring outside current economic system remain often unrecognized and unseen, though, these are essential for an economy to exist. Therefore, I aim to strengthen a network of diverse economic initiatives focus on initiatives located in the Dutch province Gelderland. To do this, I created a visual illustration that highlights the diverse practices and human and non-human relationships in the organic horticulture business located in Gelderland called ‘De Ommuurde Tuin’. I add to the scholarship of diverse economies by describing and showing the processes that produce a diversity of values in De Ommuurde Tuin’s daily economic practices. These processes are not only led by relationships among humans but include human and non-human relationships as well. To do this, I not only use a written form, but foremost I used visual and sensory research methods that highlights relationships between humans-humans and humansnonhumans. By putting forward the senses, the visual and emotional, this research concerns the processes in daily economic practices through a study of an economy that is lived and experienced. Moreover, I make alternative and diverse frameworks of economy/is more visible for a wider public through presenting my outcomes in a visual manner in booklet form. This approach tries to display and recognize economic alternatives, which helps to connect and build a coherent and powerful social movement for another economy (Miller, 2008; Gibson-Graham, 2008; Gibson-Graham and Miller, 2015)

Thesis opportunity: developing a framework for business models that enhance soil quality

The Rural Sociology Group and Business Economics Group jointly offer thesis opportunities on developing business models that enhance soil quality.

Developing a theoretical framework for business models that enhance soil quality in crop and dairy production.

Soil quality is (rapidly) decreasing in The Netherlands, and thereby endangering future income perspectives of farmers. Moreover, reduced soil quality provokes all kind of negative externalities, such as reduced biodiversity, increased climate-change related risks, etc.. Hence, increasing and maintaining soil quality is a prerequisite for sustainable soil use.

This issue affects a multitude of stakeholders, each with different positions and preferences.

Business models, including various stakeholders and aimed at increasing and maintaining soil quality, are essential to enable farmers taking appropriate measures focused on these aims.

Currently, various initiatives have been taken to develop business models, mostly at a smaller scale. However, for mainstream agriculture to getting involved in improved soil management, a thorough theoretical framework, based on scientific analysis and rooted in (at least) economic and sociological theory, is essential. Only then, essentials of balanced business models can be developed which have the pursuit for larger-scale adoption in practice.

Being a pilot study, the aims of this MSc Thesis research are:

  • Qualitative analysis of real costs of soil management (i.e. monetary and non-monetary costs, such as costs for society) through the application of basic economic (cost) concepts;
  • Qualitative analysis of the stakeholder structure;
  • Definition of business cases and performance of a qualitative SWOT-analysis;
  • Evaluation of several existing business cases against the developed framework.

We are looking for a MSc-thesis student with an interest in the topic and a background in (business-)economics and/or rural/agrarian sociology.

Searching for a master thesis topic? Write your master thesis about community fridges in The Hague!

 

fridge foto hagueWhat are community fridges?

Community fridges are refrigerators located in a public space, for example in a neighborhood or community centre. These refrigerators enable food to be shared within a community. In The Hague, community fridges are utilized primarily to share left-overs from restaurants with people facing hardship, with the goal of offering easy access to fresh, nutritious food. The initiative aims to simultaneously reduce poverty and food waste. To read more about the specific case in The Hague, visit their website: https://www.versenvrij.nl/

vers frij hague

Interested in writing your master thesis about this initiative?

In cooperation with LUMC (Leiden University Medical Center – Campus The Hague), we are searching for a master student who wants to do a thesis research about community fridges in The Hague.

Topic 1: To explore user experiences and the role of these fridges in addressing food insecurity.

Topic 2: To explore how users manage risk and safety in the distribution of surplus food, and the care of community fridges.

We will encourage you to actively design your own research and hope you are eager to use various methods.

You are :

  • interested in the issues of food insecurity and food waste
  • willing to engage actively in designing a research about community fridges
  • willing to conduct research in The Hague (think about travel-costs)
  • experienced in doing qualitative research; e.g. participant observation, semi-structured interviews, the photo-voice method, focus groups
  • interested in mixed methods; combining qualitative with quantitative data (e.g. surveys or questionnaires)
  • a native Dutch speaker and willing to write your thesis in English
  • able to start this spring (possible to start immediately)

 

If you are enthusiastic about this research topic, please send an e-mail to thirza.andriessen@wur.nl , L.A.van_der_Velde@lumc.nl , & oona.morrow@wur.nl

Energy and labour use on farms: case studies from the Netherlands and China – PhD-thesis Tian Yu

November 20, 2019 at 4.00 pm Tian Yu will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Energy and Labour use on farms: case studies from the Netherlands and China‘. See the Abstract below.

The full thesis will be available after the defence ceremony. The ceremony will be live-streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but can be viewed later as well. Tian Yu is affiliated as PhD-candidate at the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University.

Abstract

As one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emission, agricultural production is responsible for climate change. In the most industrial countries, agricultural production has built a great dependency on fossil energy consumption by replacing most human labour with agro-technologies on the farm. This is unsustainable in the context of climate change and resource depletion. Therefore, in order to mitigate climate change, the transition to sustainable food production is necessary and urgent. Rising in the 1970s, organic agriculture is believed to be a sustainable approach for agricultural production. It has been proved to use less fossil energy due to a commitment not to use any synthetic substances, but at the same time it uses more labour. When labour and fossil energy are regarded as two basic resource inputs on a farm, it seems that organic farms use more labour to compensate for the reduced fossil energy consumption. However, it is still unknown how the input balance of fossil energy and labour on organic farms is different from that on conventional farms, and how the different input balance would influence the sustainability of agricultural production. It is valuable to explore these questions against the backdrop of climate change. As the issue of fossil energy and labour input balance on farms has not been studied thoroughly, this thesis is written based on an exploratory research. The main objective is to explore the balance of fossil energy and labour input at farm level by comparing conventional and organic farming systems, and to explore the possibility to optimise sustainability of resource use in agricultural production.

By conducting comparative case studies in both the Netherlands and China, this thesis first calculated the energy and labour input balance separately in the two countries, and it concluded organic farming uses less energy and more labour compared with conventional farming in both countries, but there is great variation among all the farms in the size and farming activity of this gap. When comparing the results from the two countries, the thesis concluded that Dutch farms use more energy while Chinese farms use more labour due to their different resource endowments. However, the situation is changing in both countries, and the changes show that the so-called industrial agriculture – which consumes much more energy – is not the only nor the best trajectory for agricultural development. Requiring more labour use on-farm, how organic farming can deal with the labour constrains is then answered: organic farmers should be encouraged to explore their diverse local solutions to increase the resilience of their farm when dealing with the constraints. In further, using the theory of farming mode and farming style, this thesis discussed farmers’ input strategies by clarifying the heterogeneity within organic farms, and highlighting the trend of conventionalisation in the development of organic agriculture, and it supports the hypothesis that organic agriculture with peasant qualities shows better potential in applying organic principles to optimise the sustainability of an organic farm. At last, the thesis discussed the theoretical concept of organic peasant agriculture and tries to distinguish it from conventional agriculture and conventionalised organic agriculture. It concludes that organic peasant agriculture is valuable in the transition to sustainable food production.

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

#VEGAN: A critical analysis of the discourses around food, identity and responsibility from vegan Instagram influencers – MSc Thesis by Adele Wilson

title pg

Adele Wilson, MSc Student Health & Society, Wageningen University 

Below the abstract of the MSc-thesis “#VEGAN: A critical analysis of the discourses around food, identity and responsibility from vegan Instagram influencers“.

 

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

In the UK we need to reduce the amount of meat we produce and consume in order to prevent climate disaster and poor public health. Vegan Instagram influences have been key figures in providing society with knowledge on why and how people should live meat free. The discourses provided to us by these ‘influencers’ about, food, health, ethics and environmental concerns are extremely powerful as they shape our everyday food thoughts and practices. However, there has been relatively little academic research into the knowledge produced by these online food influencers. Therefore, this study aimed to identify some of the contemporary discourses around veganism on Instragram. Particular attention was paid to how these discourses framed the responsibility for animal welfare, human health, and environmental concerns. The research analysed the profiled of 6 vegan instagram influencers; @chakabars, @earthlinged, @deliciouslyella, @rachelama, @kingcook and @crueltyfreeclairey. The data was analysed using a Foucauldian style discourse analysis. Two main themes were identified. The first was ‘hard veganism’ that focused on the moral justifications for veganism. It was found discourse focused on the justifications for veganism was critical of the livestock industry and unevenly burdened individuals with the responsibility for preventing climate disaster, protecting animals and preserving human health through by consuming a vegan diet (e.g. Christopher, Bartkowski, Haverda, 2018). Therefore, veganism was associated with practicing one’s moral beliefs and acting in a utilitarian way to societal constraints we live in. The second theme was ‘soft veganism’ that referred to images and talk on food. ‘Soft veganism’ framed the food industry positively for providing people with many vegan food options and making veganism ‘easy’. Vegan food was also used to construct vegan subgroups that were aimed at challenging stereotypical views on veganism as an elite white practice (Harper, 2012) and breaking down barriers that prevented some people from engaging with a vegan lifestyle. Therefore, this research found that Instagram is a space where multiple vegan identities are constructed with varying levels of political involvement and philosophical engagement. This research concludes that Instagram may be a useful tool for influencing people to reduce their meat consumption, as it allows people to select knowledge on how to practice veganism that best suits their identity, beliefs and lifestyle.

Door eendrachtige samenwerking: De geschiedenis van de Aardappelveredeling in Nederland, van hobby tot industrie (1888-2018)

Geert Veenhuizen, aardappelkweker die vooropliep met het kruisen van aardappelrassen (1857-1930)

Op woensdag 15 mei om 13.30 uur verdedigt Jan P. van Loon in de Aula van Wageningen Universiteit zijn proefschrift getiteld “Door eendrachtige samenwerking: De geschiedenis van de Aardappelveredeling in Nederland, van hobby tot industrie (1888-2018)”. De promotie is live te volgen via WUR TV en kan ook later worden bekeken. Het proefschrift is digitaal beschikbaar na de openbare verdediging. Voor meer informatie over dit proefschrift, zie het nieuwsbericht op de WUR-website of het artikel in Resource.

Onderwijsboerderij scriptiemogelijkheid

Voor een deel van de leerlingen in het primair en voortgezet onderwijs werkt een schoolse omgeving soms (tijdelijk) contraproductief. Het gaat vooral om leerlingen voor wie de structuur en aanpak van een school te ingewikkeld is, kinderen die moeite hebben met sociale relaties en het in stand houden van vriendschappen, kinderen met hechtingsproblemen, kinderen die door een beperking niet uren achtereen op een stoel kunnen zitten. Kinderen dus die het moeilijk hebben met zichzelf en hun omgeving en daarom op een gegeven ogenblik niet meer naar school willen, kunnen, mogen, of durven. Voor deze groep is vaak geen passend onderwijs in de regio beschikbaar, en deze leerlingen komen vaak noodgedwongen thuis te zitten. Dit kan leiden tot moeilijk gedrag, een negatief zelfbeeld en een toekomst zonder perspectief.

Verschillende zorgboeren bieden deze leerlingen onderwijs op de boerderij. Een groep van ongeveer 20 van deze zorgboeren heeft een netwerk gevormd om ervaringen en knelpunten te delen. Problemen zijn bijvoorbeeld gebrek aan uitwisseling en onderbouwing van kennis, knellende regelgeving en de kloof tussen zorgboerderijen en scholen. Bovendien is geen goed zicht op het aantal leerlingen die onderwijs volgen op de boerderij (en hun specifieke problemen), en de ervaringen van boeren, leerlingen, ouders en scholen.

Om deze vragen te beantwoorden en uiteindelijk te komen tot een sterke, geaccepteerde en professionele onderwijssector, is de wetenschapswinkel van Wageningen UR een onderzoeksproject gestart. Binnen dit project zijn wij op zoek naar één of meerdere MSc studenten die voor een scriptie of stage onderzoek willen doen op verschillende gebieden zoals:

  • Het in kaart brengen van de huidige situatie (omvang en inhoud van onderwijs op de boerderij, type leerling, samenwerkingsvormen tussen boerderij en school, financieringsvormen), alsmede ervaringen van boeren, leerlingen, ouders en onderwijspartners;
  • Advies geven over mogelijke strategieën voor het versterken van de sector (belangrijkste knelpunten voor onderwijsboeren in kaart brengen, best practices beschrijven);
  • Literatuuronderzoek naar de voor- en nadelen van de boerderij als onderwijslocatie.

Een specifieke opdracht kan samen met de student worden opgesteld. Studenten zullen onderdeel worden van het wetenschapswinkelproject (stages worden begeleid door Jan Hassink van Wageningen Plant Research). Voor meer informatie: esther.veen@wur.nl