“Global Food Security Governance” at Kyoto University

By Joëlla van de Griend

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In-class debate on trade and food security

 

Kyoto University’s Graduate School of Economics, as part of the Asian Platform for Global Sustainability & Transcultural Studies (AGST), aims to contribute to sustainable development in Asia and throughout the world. Wageningen University’s Rural Sociology Group is a key partner in this platform. As a part of this partnership, Dr. Jessica Duncan has come to Kyoto University to teach a course on Global Food Security Governance.

Taking a sociological approach, the course covers a variety of angles to think about global food security governance. The course is attended by graduate students, PhD candidates and faculty members, which has contributed to rich discussions. Furthermore, amongst the participants there is a large variety of backgrounds and fields of expertise such as law, economics, development studies, business management, political science, and agricultural science with attendants coming from Asia, Europe and Africa.

One of the students attending the class is Wurihan. She decided to follow the course because of a growing interest in policy regarding food security. Before attending Kyoto University as a research student, she went to an agricultural university in China where she studied geographical information systems:

“I used to think that to ensure food security we should increase efficiency in production. But after I did some fieldwork I found it was more about policy and how this can sometimes turn out differently than policy makers intend.”

That is why she wants to learn more about food governance in order to understand how we can contribute to solutions of problems like the distribution of food and obesity.

As one of the objectives of the course is to explore the complexity of the thinking about food security, many theories and approaches are discussed and explored in class while using “framing” as a method to understand the different (often competing) perspectives.

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Muddy paddies and peace

By  Joëlla van de Griend

‘Mountains covered with woods’ is used to describe the green area of Keihoku, just outside of Kyoto City. As part of the AGST program, students and faculty members visited a farming event organized by the Shinfujin Kyoto (the new Japan Women’s Association) and the Nouminren Kyoto (Japan Family Farmers Movement).

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Participants transplanting rice: Our academic hosts were not afraid to get their hands and feet dirty!

This event tries to make the connection between farmers and consumers and is visited by a lot of families. We can look at it as a celebration of what the earth has given to both farmers and consumers, illustrated by the waving flags showing the text: ‘Hug the Mother Earth’. For example, one of the farmers I met told me about how he grows his rice in the village at the foot of the mountain without making use of chemicals.

One of the organizations responsible for the event, Shinfujin, is a women’s organization that aims to promote environmental protection and emancipation but is also a movement to oppose the comeback of militarism in Japan. Many of the members of this organization are young mothers who are concerned with a variety of crises that could become a threat to their children’s future. This farming event however was more a celebration than a protest, with a vibrant temporary market with products and food stalls, activities, and the possibility to experience transplanting rice plants into the rice paddies. Continue reading

RSO student participation in Kyoto University summer school

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By MSc-students Sacha Buisman and Susanne Maenen (pictures).

It is the third day of the Kyoto Graduate Seminar on Economic Development and Sustainability. Three professors, respectively called sensei, from the Kyoto University gave lectures today on topics related to the theme: ‘agriculture, environment and sustainability’. The whole week, we will discuss a wide range of themes with a very multi-disciplinary group of students coming from Thailand, Laos, Korea, Denmark, the UK and Wageningen. In the city where the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 and in the country where there was a massive nuclear disaster in 2011, we will look back at the economic development of the Asian continent while we try to envision possible sustainable pathways for the future economic developments. Today we discussed if, and how, economic growth and environmental conservation can be achieved simultaneously. In the last lecture of today we looked at food security from a Japanese perspective. One of the main challenges that Japan faces, just like almost every other country in the world, is the population shift from the rural areas to the urban areas. The average age of a Japanese farmer is 65 years, which will soon cause the diminishing of active farmers and the utilization of farm-land. How is the Japanese politics responding to this scenario? Mainly by following the US way of reasoning: ‘increase the efficiency and the productivity’. Which might be not the right solution, given the fact that a Japanese farm has an average of 2 hectare farmland. There are multiple Japanese bottom-up movements, such as the shura ku-eino (village farming collectives), who suggest ‘another’ sustainable pathways that focuses on small-scale farming of ‘diverse local actors with a diverse and multi-layered commitment’. Continue reading