Register now for RSO55306 – A Global Sense of Place: Place-based approaches to development | Period 5

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In the face of urgent environmental and societal challenges, how do we move towards inclusive futures? What is the role of people in places? And what can be our role as (social) scientists?

In this course, we explore inclusive place-based approaches to development. We analyse how change happens from below and how people take matters in their own hands, shaping the places they live in according to their own needs and values. A relational perspective allows us to see the interdependence between the local and the global, the urban and the rural and the individual and the collective.

Besides engaging with key theories and analysing topical cases, we reflect upon our own role as (social) scientists and explore the tools and methodologies we need in place-based research, specifically focusing on participatory and creative methods.

This advanced MSc course is relevant for all students (including PhD candidates) with an interest in inclusive development, that seek theoretical as well as methodological guidance. The course can help students prepare an MSc thesis proposal and is supported by lecturers from all chair groups involved in the Centre for Space, Place and Society (RSO, SDC, HSO and GEO)

For more information, contact anke.devrieze@wur.nl.

 

Young people with practical education and sustainable food

Carlijn de Kok, student International Development Studies, wrote her MSc thesis on young people studying cooking, baking or food studies and their engagement with sustainable food. I ask her to share some of her findings.

Why did you choose this topic?

“The literature tends to argue that it is mainly highly educated people who buy sustainable food. It remains unclear, however, to what extent people with a practical education are interested in sustainable food (as well) and if and to what extent they consume sustainable food. Following Karl Marx and his thoughts about the alienation of labour, it can be assumed that people who are engaged with food in their daily lives are more likely to be critical regarding food – and thus to consume sustainably. This is why I decided to focus on people studying cooking, baking or food studies: I expected that their engagement with food in general would lead to more interest in sustainable food.”

What was your theoretical starting point?

“Studies on consumption often use rationalist approaches whereby the individual is taken as a starting point to understand consumption. However, we also know that there is a difference between caring for the environment and changing consumption: this is explained by the ‘attitude-behaviour gap’. This is why I wanted to take a more contextual approach, using Social Practice Theory. This theory puts everyday social practices at the centre of analysis, and considers consumption in terms of its practical, contextual and everyday nature, leaving room for both agency and structure.”

So what practices did you study?

“I defined the general practice of food consumption as a range of sub-practices, including acquisition practices (buying and growing food) and use(r) practices (food preparation-, eating-, and disposal practices), following the work of Sargant (2014). I also made a distinction between how respondents view sustainable food (their cognitive engagement), what they are doing in practice (their practical engagement), and the underlying motivations and reasons for participating in these practices (I called this the narrative behind their engagement).”

Ok, that sounds interesting. But how did you study this?

“In order to understand students’ cognitive engagement with sustainable food and the narrative behind their engagement, I used interviews, a focus group and questionnaires. I interviewed fifteen students following a practical education: five bakery students, five cooking students and five students of food studies. Fifteen cooking students participated in the focus group, and seventy-five students filled out the questionnaire. In order to better understand people’s actual engagement with sustainable food I complemented these methods with food diaries: six of the students interviewed recorded for one to three days what they bought and consumed, where they bought that, and whether there were any sustainability labels on those products.”

And? What did you find?

“There were a few interesting findings. First of all, my respondents are in fact rather knowledgeable about sustainability, the issues in the food system and sustainable food, and they see urgency in acting sustainably. Especially animal welfare, environmental friendliness, a fair price for farmers and naturalness are considered important. All respondents participate in at least some sustainable forms of food consumption. Second, part of the respondents is rather interested in and knowledgeable about sustainable food. This group often performs sustainable food acquisition practices, mostly out of sustainability motivations (for respondents who only occasionally buy sustainable produce, sustainability is less often a motivation). Students of food studies are most often interested in sustainability, followed by the cooking students – for whom sustainability mostly relates to quality.

Thirdly, the extent to which respondents perform food consumption practices sustainably differs per locale. In general, respondents more often act sustainably when they are grocery shopping. They much less do so while eating out, on-the-go or at school or work. In these places sustainable food is less accessible and available, and students feel that their choices have less impact. Finally, I found that respondents’ cognitive and practical engagement with sustainable food does not always align. While some respondents stated to act more sustainably than their food diaries showed, in some cases it was the other way around. These students did not connect much to the concept of sustainability, but they were motivated by certain elements of sustainability such as animal welfare, and so they did make sustainable choices.”

Taking all of these findings into account, what is your main conclusion?

“Young adults who are following a practical educational programme related to food are to a certain extent interested and engaged in sustainable food. Sustainable food plays a role in their daily lives: respondents perform certain food consumption practices sustainably, mostly out of sustainability motivations. The extent to which respondents manage to do so, however, depends on the locale.”

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

Postdoc vacancy – Developing An Integrative Approach to Regenerative Agriculture, Circular Agri-Food Systems, and Convivial Conservation

We are recruiting a postdoc for the three-year research project ‘Tackling Crises in the Countryside: An Integrative Approach to Regenerative Agriculture, Circular Agri-Food Systems, and Convivial Conservation‘. Apply before January 20, 2020.

Food, farming, and conservation face major, interrelated challenges in the countryside, yet are treated as largely independent in research and policy. This postdoc will explore regenerative agriculture and convivial conservation as two paradigms that aim to address these challenges. The key questions are (1) how can the two paradigms be integrated into a holistic approach, and (2) how can this integrative approach help sustain biodiversity, livelihoods, social equity? Next to developing an integrated approach and assessing the impacts of its application at different integrative levels, the postdoc is expected to disseminate findings and develop an acquisition portfolio.

The postdoc will be positioned at the chair groups of Rural Sociology and Sociology of Development and Change under supervision by Dr Dirk Roep (Rural Sociology) dirk.roep@wur.nl and Mindi Schneider (Sociology of Development and Change): mindi.schneider@wur.nl

This is one of the 15 vacant postdoc positions at the Social Sciences Department of Wageningen University. For more information on requirements and selection procedure see: We-are-looking-for-15-Postdocs-in-social-sciences

Master thesis opportunity – Regenerative food systems and the changing interfaces of food production and consumption in Taranaki, New Zealand

An exciting, funded thesis opportunity for students interested in regenerative food systems in New Zealand

Introduction

Regenerative agriculture has gained momentum as increasing groups of farmers become preoccupied by ‘soil health’ and attentive to the practices required to augment and sustain soil biodiversity. Regenerative agriculture builds on the principles of circular farming, enhances biodiversity as ‘nature-inclusive’ farming, mitigates climate change, adopts ‘a true costs’ approach towards the impact of (diverse modes) of food provisioning, and includes more sustainable, inclusive business models. It has been identified as a major solution for carbon sequestration and a response to destructive environmental consequences of conventional or industrial agriculture on the planet and climate.

Farm Next Door, is an entrepreneurial initiative from the Taranaki region that applies precision tools to small-scale ‘hyper-localised, backyard’ urban, community supported farming/horticulture. Farm Next Door intend to nurture and facilitate the support structure for a new urban farming community. This network of local producers will farm regeneratively, earn income from their own land, and supply local, values-based produce for local consumption.

Exploring innovative and sustainable food systems, Like Farm Next Door requires attention to both production (regenerative agriculture) and consumption (the conscious and responsible consumer). What is required is a more holistic approach to how business is conducted – one that is inclusive of social good (Vishwanathan, Seth, Gau and Chaturvedi, 2009). A focus that is inclusive of consumption allows us to understand how more sustainable patterns of consumption might be co-created through an in-depth understanding of what, how and where we choose to onsume. Engaging with the forces required to alter consumption enables a greater transformative societal shift (Fuchs and Boll, 2018).

Research project and thesis opportunity

Within this context, Massey University and Wageningen University have set up a research project that allows for 2-3 Master thesis students to conduct their research on regenerative farming. Four broad research questions provide a framework for the overall project, with smaller subsets of emergent questions guiding the focus of each individual student thesis:

  1. How can regenerative, circular, zero-waste systems be embedded within the Farm Next Door initiative and multiplied across all urban farming practitioners that will be part of this operation? What are the challenges, constraints and opportunities presented by such a holistic approach?
  2. What innovative 21 st century economic and business models provide the basis for sustainable livelihoods and thriving communities? What lessons can be drawn from initiatives across various global contexts?
  3. How are changing food production-consumption interfaces and the increasing demand for traceable, environmentally sustainable, nutritious foods promoting co-creation of common or public goods or positive externalities of innovative food systems? How are these forms of value demonstrated?
  4. How can issues of equity, ethics and responsibility be integrated within agrifood transformations and changing land use practices to secure sustainable livelihoods and promote flourishing communities in Taranaki?

Research will entail immersion in the Taranaki region at different junctures by all the researchers, to enable the development of context-based understanding in addressing the broad research questions outlined above. It will also enable the practical action research derived from the series of targeted inquiries identified by Farm Next Door listed below:

  • To identify the emerging decentralised small scale organic farm movement in Taranaki – what? when? where? how?
  • To explore how precision horticultural practices and the latest AgTech solutions can be adapted and applied to the emerging decentralised small scale organic farm movement in Taranaki
  • Understand producer and consumer dynamics – motivations to engage and co-create a new way of producing and consuming food and how behavioural change in ethical purchasing behaviour is encouraged to a wider demographic than the current “local ethical consumer”

In consultation with their identified thesis supervisor(s), students will select one of the 4 broad questions listed above for their thesis topic and develop subsets of smaller, more focused research questions to guide their field work in Taranaki. Alongside this more academically-oriented focus, they will apply appropriate methodological approaches to integrate key action research components based on the targeted areas of inquiry developed by Farm Next Door. This dual aspect to the research undertaken in this project will provide academic rigour whilst retaining direct and practical relevance to the Farm Next Door initiative and its wider purview in Taranaki.

Planning

Expected start of the thesis: between January/February 2020.

Expected fieldwork period: April – July 2020 (4 months)

Requirements and procedure

Interested students can apply for this possibility by sending and email to Dirk Roep/Jessica de Koning/Mark Vicol to express their interest in this exciting opportunity. In order to be considered, students must meet the following criteria.

  • Students are enrolled at the Wageningen University
  • Students are preferably part of one of the following programmes:
    • MID programme, specialisation Sociology of Development
    • MOA programme, specialisation Sustainable Food Systems
  • Students preferably have completed RSO-31806 Sociology of Food and Place and/or RSO-30806 The Sociology of Farming and Rural Life
  • Students must be willing to work in a team led by Massey University
  • Students must be willing to stay in New Zealand for a period of 4 months
  • Students meet the criteria of entering New Zealand set by New Zealand immigration.

Final selection of candidates will be made by Dirk Roep, Jessica de Koning and/or Mark Vicol.

In return we offer

  • Relevant work experience in a research collaboration between Massey University and Wageningen University
  • Reimbursement of costs of travel, housing and transport (incl. return flight Netherlands-New Zealand).

Contact

Dirk Roep (dirk.roep@wur.nl), Jessica de Koning (jessica.dekoning@wur.nl) Mark Vicol (mark.vicol@wur.nl).

Thesis skills – an online RSO support system for thesis students

Ever wonder how to write the perfect research question?

Problems in building raport with your respondents in the field?

Never really quite sure what operationalisation of concepts means?

Is a thesis stressing you out?

RSO has just designed an online learning environment on Brightspace called Thesis Skills. Thesis Skills is an innovative platform that is 100% online and 100% based on your needs.

The aim of this digital thesis environment is to give you tools to assist you in the thesis writing process. We have divided this process into topics such as planning, proposal writing, literature review, in the field and after the field, writing, etc. For each of these we have created a module containing information, exercises and self-tests. You do not have to take all modules, but can select the ones most appropriate for you. Mini-tests help you select these.  The digital thesis environment also contains peer support discussion fora to discuss difficulties with other students, and exchange tips and tricks.

All master thesis students (already busy with their thesis or planning to start) of RSO are invited to register for this online education platform. You can do this by sending an email to Jessica de Koning (jessica.dekoning@wur.nl)

Thesis Opportunities “Circular economy for agri-food systems”

Thesis Opportunities “Circular economy for agri-food systems”

The following thesis opportunities are co-supervised by Dr. Vivian Valencia (Farming Systems Ecology) and Dr. Oona Morrow (Rural Sociology Group)

The circular economy is a hot topic these days, with innovations coming from the grassroots, public, and private sector. But the governance of the circular economy is lagging behind, and we lack a systemic and regional view that bridges the gap between innovation and policy, rural and urban, and the social, economic, and environmental. Taking a systems view can help us to identify where policy interventions would make the most impact, by for example focusing on producers instead of consumer waste streams. We advertise three interlinked projects on the circular economy, that will feed into a multi-stage four year project.

Our approach to the circular economy that takes a food systems perspective to map all of the flows, benefits, and burdens of our current agri-food and waste system in the Amsterdam city-region, as well as the governance structures and policy levers that keep this system in place, and have the potential to change it. Importantly, our approach proposes to capture not only environmental and economic impacts, but also social impacts in the AMA city-region, including for example quality of life, social inclusion, food security, and transitions potential.

We take a geographic, sectoral, and sustainability perspective on circularity, to ensure that not only are materials reused – but that they find their highest and best use in the local food economy. For example, surplus food is redistributed to people rather than bio-digesters, organic waste is composted or converted to animal feed rather being burned for home heating or converted to jet fuel. These re-generative loops are depicted in the diagram below by Feedback Global.  

feedback global

Furthermore, we take seriously the role of urban design in reproducing or disrupting our current agri-food-waste system through the (re)design of green space, logistics, waste, and waste water infrastructure. Approaching urban design and infrastructure as vital components of agri-food systems offers opportunities for crafting shorter and more regenerative loops at every stage in the agri-food system, including the “end of pipe” recovery of nutrients.

If you wish to pursue this as a thesis opportunity you will receive supervision in the development of a research proposal on the governance of the circular economy.  The following topics are possible:

  1. Mapping Circular Economy Innovations in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area

We seek a motivated student to conduct a scoping study and stakeholder mapping of circular food innovations in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We take a broad view of circularity, to include traditional and emerging innovations, and social, economic, and environmental impacts.

2. Governing the Circular Economy

We week a motivated student to conduct a scoping study, media analysis, and literature review on the governance of circular urban and regional governance for the circular economy practices that are being tested and developed in city-regions across the globe, while focusing in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area. We seek to learn from inspiring examples, best practices, as well as failures.

3. Methods for Visioning the Circular Economy in Place

You will research visioning and futuring methods that are well suited for stimulating creative out of the box thinking on the governance of the circular economy, develop a workshop design, and test your methods. There are already many existing participatory methodologies for visioning the future and co-creating transformation pathways for the future. Which may work best when it comes to transitioning to a circular economy?

Questions: contact 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.

Third @voedselanders (Food Otherwise) Conference 2020 – call for participation

The third national Voedsel Anders (Food Otherwise) conference in Wageningen will take place in February 2020. The conference organization team calls all those interested to participate and make the third edition again successful. Some general information below. See Voedsel Anders conference 2020 for more detailed information.

Voedsel Anders is a movement of people in the Netherlands and Belgium working towards just and sustainable food systems. A lot has happened since the first conference and the drafting of our manifesto. Political as well as societal attention for the challenges and opportunities of the agri-food system have grown significantly and the urgency to ignite a transition is bigger than ever.

During the Voedsel Anders Conference 2020, we will identify and reflect on wins, barriers and solutions in our joined quest to an alternative food system. We will touch upon questions such as: What have we already achieved and what were the factors of success? How can we identify and deal with barriers? What possibilities and opportunities lie ahead? Can we strengthen the food movement whilst making it more inclusive and diverse?

If you have further question, want to organize a workshop or sponsor the conference, you can send an email to info@voedselanders.nl