What are the current challenges facing our food systems. And what can be done? Get a taste of the problems and solutions at the 2nd edition of the Food4all festival. Part of the festival are: a regional farmers’ market, a documentary on Monsanto, a book presentation, and a dinner with music and gastronomic film. Later this year, a 2 day training on the right to food, agroecology and food sovereignty. For more information see the programme below or visit www.grassrootsscience.nl.
Part of a joint initiative the Farming Systems Ecology group of Wageningen University offers a new course the Farm Experience Internship (FEI). This course is presented and discussed in Grassroots Science event next July 4. See the earlier blog for more info. The course is inspired by a similar course in Brazil. Below Heitor Texeira, student from Federal University of Vicosa and currently intern at Stichting Otherwise and ILEA, tells about the Brazilian experiences and about course starting for the first time summer, from 11th to 30th of August. See for more information on the FEI course also the site of the Boerengroep.
By Heitor Texeira
The Estágio Interdisciplinar de Vivência
In Brazil family farmers and traditional communities play a very important role concerning food production and conservation of natural resources. They are responsible for the production of approximately 70% of the food consumed in the country and in many cases manage their production systems in a more sustainable way, seeking for the integration between nature and agriculture. Although their great contribution for society, the knowledge developed and disseminated in educational institutes of superior level is often disconnected from the reality and needs of family farmers. On the one hand their traditional knowledge is underestimated regarding research and extension at the University. Continue reading →
Under the heading of Grassroots sciences St. Otherwise has organised a new series to debate the agro-ecology approach, see the website for the programme and to make a reservation.
Monday, March 18 will be the next event, called The power of agro-ecology. This is part of the Rode Hoed debate series ‘It is the Food Stupid’. Venue: Forum building, Wageningen.
The agro-ecology movement is gaining momentum worldwide. Family farmers, sometimes in collaboration with researchers, have successfully developed agro-ecological innovations that use local resources and work with nature to strengthen production systems, increase farmer autonomy and maintain productivity. This makes farming more resilient, and less dependent on expensive external inputs such as chemical fertilizer and pesticides. What has agro-ecology achieved? Can it feed the world? What choices can we make to give it a fair chance? And what challenges are there for Wageningen University? Irene Cardoso (professor of soil science and vice chair Brazilian Agroecology Association) and Tom Saat (organic farmer and winner of the 2012 Ekoland Innovation Prize) share their insights and experiences. You are invited for a drink afterwards. Follow it live at http://wurtv.wur.nl/. Find out more on Facebook.
Over a potluck diner organised by Boerengroep and Otherwise, yesterday, we evaluated the courses that we ran together this academic year. The course Food Farmers and Forks in November/December 2011 and the course Grassroots Science, from Februari until June this year. The courses were designed to give students the possibility to follow the evening lecture series as a course for 3 credits with additional mandatory literature and an essay assignment as exam. In both cases, initially around 30 students subscribed to the course, but not all students were able to finalise the course with the exam. It nevertheless gave both student organisations a steady audience of at least 30 students. However, the lectures were open just for anyone to join and in various cases there were over a hundred people participating. From the high numbers of participants and the positive feedback so far, we concluded that their evening lectures hit a nerve or a latent demand from students across study programs in this university to engage in critical thoughts on food issues.
The biggest hits were those lectures that had ‘food crisis’ and ‘urban agriculture’ in their title. Not to suggest ‘problem’ and ‘solution’ of course. Even though urban agriculture is unmistakenly a trend showing our re-engagement with food, we need more fundamental change in addition to some production in cities or more home grown activities by consumers in order to move towards a more sustainable and just food system. It seems that Dutch supermarkets pressured by NGO’s on animal welfare are finally beginning to catch up with wider societial trends and some leading examples in the food industry.
However, there is a long way to go. Both lecture series (in fall and spring) touched upon various structural inequalities and injustices such as around water rights and access, around seed sovereignity, the origin of our food, and the commodification of knowledge by vested interests (including of course universities) to name just a few. Both Boerengroep and Otherwise are dedicated to bringing food for thought for students who want to broaden their horizon.
They did a great job and are looking forward to organise more next year. If you have any suggestions for topics that you would like to know more about within the realm of sustainable food systems, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
As announced earlier, St. Boerengroep and St. Otherwise organize a serie of seminars called Grassroots science: socially driven alternatives that tackle global problems. Next one will be on Monday May, 14, starting 19.30, in the Forum building. See the announced below and register a seat here:
Farmer driven transformation in the Netherlands: sustainable practices and struggles with the state
Dutch agriculture is one of the most productive in the world. This however seems to have come at a price. Disease outbreaks have led to the killing of more than 40 million animals in the last 14 years, it is the only EU country that does not comply to EU groundwater standards, it is the largest user of antibiotics for meat production in the EU, it ranks in the top 3 of the world’s largest pesticide users and the farming population has shrunk by 36% in 15 years. Policy efforts and huge investments in research seem to have brought little change to this. Farmer-led initiatives have however emerged that promise to tackle some of these problems. Frank Verhoeven (Boerenverstand bv) and Douwe Hoogland (chair Noardlike Fryske Wâlden) will talk about two farmer-led environmental co-operatives in the Frisian Woodlands, who, in cooperation with researchers, have devised system innovation by re-integrating dairy farming with nature conservation and landscape management. To realise this struggles with state policies were inevitable.
Last year’s Food Farmer Fork series organised by Boerengroep and Otherwise was a big success. Some 750 people came to one or more of the 9 evening lectures and activities. The series could also be followed as a Capita Selecta course with the Rural Sociology group. Initially, 40 students enrolled and 20 students finalised the course successfully with the writing of an essay. All in all, it inspired both participants and us as organisers. So, the new series until the summer is again available for students to follow as a capita selecta course. Please look at the websites of Boerengroep and Otherwise where you can subscribe to the course and download the course outline. The current topic; grassroots science. Why? Continue reading →