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Jan Douwe van der Ploeg & Terry Marsden (eds.), 2008. Unfolding Webs: The Dynamics of Regional Rural Development, Royal Van Gorcum, Assen.

Cover Unfolding WebsRural development stems from combining a wide range of different and often refigured rural resources in new ways. As a result these resources flow into new activities, interactions, transactions and networks. The effects of this become particularly significant when activities and relationships start to mutually reinforce each other. This is when synergy is created; especially when new town-countryside relations emerge that support the newly emerging activities and networks.  The contributions in this volume help expand our understanding of the creative patterns which shape resources, activities, transactions and networks and which build new relationships between them. The contributions to this book have been developed in the context of the ETUDE programme that is conducted (in the period 2007-2009) within the 6th Framework of the European Union.

Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, 2008. The New Peasantries: Struggles for Autonomy and Sustainability in an Era of Empire and Globalization, Earthscan, London.

Cover of The New PeasantriesThis book explores the position, role and significance of the peasantry in an era of globalization, particularly of the agrarian markets and food industries. It argues that the peasant condition is characterized by a struggle for autonomy that finds expression in the creation and development of a self-governed resource base and associated forms of sustainable development. In this respect the peasant mode of farming fundamentally differs from entrepreneurial and corporate ways of farming. The author demonstrates that the peasantries are far from waning. Instead, both industrialized and developing countries are witnessing complex and richly chequered processes of ‘re-peasantization’, with peasants now numbering over a billion worldwide. The author’s arguments are based on three longitudinal studies (in Peru, Italy and The Netherlands) that span 30 years and provide original and thought-provoking insights into rural and agrarian development processes. The book combines and integrates different bodies of literature: the rich traditions of peasant studies, development sociology, rural sociology, neo-institutional economics and the recently emerging debates on Empire.
Dirk Roep & Han Wiskerke (eds.), 2006. Nourishing Networks: Fourteen Lessons about Creating Sustainable Food Supply Chains, Reed Business Information, Doetinchem & Rural Sociology Group, Wageningen.

Cover Nourishing NetworksNourishing Networks – Foreword

This book offers an empirically grounded perspective into the creation of sustainable food supply chains and networks. Building upon experiences from seven different European countries, this book presents a rich diversity of examples of food supply chain initiatives. From this diversity of experiences fourteen valuable lessons are drawn that are applicable to a wide range of different conditions and contexts. They are the kind of lessons that need to be borne in mind when becoming involved in the (re)construction of sustainable food networks. One of the interesting findings in this respect is that direct and regional marketing initiatives do generate additional income and employment for rural regions, although the degree to which they do so differs. In addition they enable synergies with other regional economic activities and often contribute to an increase in job satisfaction and organisational capacity within rural communities, greater consumer trust in food systems, and reductions in food miles or waste. In more marginal areas, these benefits can help counter the abandonment of agriculture, out-migration and ‘greying’ populations. These findings are of interest for those seeking to enhance sustainable rural and regional development, in particular policy makers who often face difficult decisions over what type of initiatives and development patterns they should support or promote. Policy is about making choices: over who and what to support, when, and how to provide this support in the most effective way. This book convincingly shows that a great range of instruments and approaches is available for creating a more favourable environment for the development of sustainable food networks. The lessons and recommendations in this book are also relevant for practitioners and their supporters, as these can help them to position themselves, develop a clear strategy, find the right allies, develop their skills and build the capacities that they need. It can not only help practitioners to find the right road, but also to travel along it better equipped.

Michel Delebarre – President of the Committee of the Regions



 Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, Ann Long & Jo Banks (eds.), 2002. Living Countrysides: Rural Development Processes in Europe – the State of the Art, Reed Business Information, Doetinchem.

Cover Living CountrysidesLiving Countrysides – Foreword

This book presents a comprehensive and path-breaking overview and analysis of rural development processes throughout Europe. It profiles how new countrysides are emerging, characterized by new multi-functional enterprises, strong regional economies, new professional identities, and networks that interlink the rural and the urban. Multi-functionality, as the case studies from the different regions show, is a central feature of these changes, allowing farm enterprises to engage in new activities, such as agro-tourism, the production, transformation and commercialization of quality products, the management of landscapes and nature, the production of energy crops, part-time farming and new co-operative arrangements. By engaging in these processes, rural enterprises are strengthened and the countryside as a whole is more able to effectively meet the new demands emerging from society at large. The book offers for the first time a systematic analysis of the socio-economic impact of rural development. It shows that, in Europe, more than 50% of all professional farmers are actively engaged in one or another of these new rural development practices. And it documents how this significantly contributes to the overall income realized in the agricultural sector. The countrysides of Europe and the diversity and richness of their agricultural systems represent an undeniable social, cultural, ecological and economic patrimony for European society as a whole. In a scenario dominated by the negotiations of the WTO and the enlargement of the Union, rural development constitutes a key defense mechanism for protecting this patrimony. It is therefore highly important to sustain these ongoing rural development processes and to stimulate new ones. As this book demonstrates, some 75% of European farmers consider the Rural Development Policy of the European Union a positive and helpful instrument, which favours the diversification of their income strategies. This book is the outcome of a large-scale European research programme coordinated by Prof. Jan Douwe van der Ploeg of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Many universities and research institutes from all over Europe have participated. The resulting book underlines the value and relevance of this type of international cooperation and research. The overall findings of the research stress that the maintenance of heterogeneity and flexibility in Europe’s agriculture requires a strengthening of Rural Development Policies. The improvement of such policies should, on the one hand, build upon the impressive variety and heterogeneity that already exists and, on the other, reflect the richness of rural values and knowledge systems which together constitute the common roots of our European heritage. The results of such new policies are, as this book amply demonstrates, well worth the effort.

Romano Prodi – President of the European Commission