From production-oriented farming towards multifunctional entrepreneurship – PhD-thesis Pieter Seuneke

Multifunctional agriculture

 

On the 9th of May, I (Pieter Seuneke) will defend my PhD-thesis entitled:

From production-oriented farming towards multifunctional entrepreneurship: exploring the underlying learning process

Context

My thesis focusses on the many European and Dutch farming families which, urged by the environmental, social and economic crisis in agriculture, have diversified their conventional production-oriented farming activities by developing new non-farming businesses on their existing farms. Currently, there are many farmers who are involved in agro-tourism, nature and landscape management, processing and selling of farm products and, more recently in The Netherlands, professional (child)care and on-farm education. The development of such new business activities by these farmers represents a shift away from conventional production-oriented farming towards a more ‘multifunctional’ farming model in which the role of agriculture goes beyond mass food production.

Focus

Based on four different studies, all drawing on the empirical work done in the context of the Dutch research project ‘Dynamics and Robustness of Multifunctional Agriculture’ (carried out by the Rural Sociology Group from 2009 to 2011), I unravel the learning process which is considered as underlying the switch towards multifunctionality and multifunctional entrepreneurship. In other words: the process by which farmers (men, women and their families) re-invent themselves as ‘multifunctional entrepreneurs’, gain the necessary knowledge, skills and networks ‘to do multifunctionality’ as well as finding their way on the multifunctional pathway. Apart from its contribution to theory – by bringing this complex learning process to light – my work ultimately supports practitioners (teachers, trainers, advisers) in fostering this, for today’s and tomorrow’s agriculture and rural areas, valuable form of agricultural entrepreneurship.

Supervision

During my PhD, I have been supervised by Prof. Han Wiskerke (professor of Rural Sociology at Wageningen University) and Dr Thomas Lans (ass. prof. Education and Competence Studies, Wageningen University).

The defence

My defence will take place on Friday the 9th of May, at 13.30, in the Aula of Wageningen University. The event is open to those who are interested and can also be followed/seen back on WURtv.

Contact

For more information: pieter.seuneke@wur.nl

SOLINSA and FarmPath – joint Final conference in Brussels, December 3 2013

SOLINSA Final conferenceDecember 3 the EU-funded reserach projects FarmPath and SOLINSA will jointly present their findings at a final conference in Brussels. A detailed programme is available at the www.solinsa.net website. Location: Thon Hotel, Rue de la Loi / Wetstraat 75, B-1040. From 9.00 am till 4.30 pm.

Foodlinks News Issue 2

The latest issue of Foodlinks News is out!

You can read about our visit to the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain where we had a meeting with the City Council about new initiatives on organic peri-urban agriculture. We also share with you some stories from members of the urban food strategies community of practice (CoP). What kind of value did they get from participating in this CoP?

Furthermore you can see a list of upcoming and past events, new library resources as well as a list of some of our new members.

Would you also like to become a member? Sign up for the Short Food Supply Chain, Revaluing Public Sector Food Procurement or Urban Food Strategies CoP!

A key characteristic of the Foodlinks project is that it brings together different types of knowledge and experience from research, policy and civil society representatives. Foodlinks organises a collective process of sharing and integrating this knowledge around particular problems of food systems. You can read more about Foodlinks on our website and if you would like to receive the next edition of Foodlinks News you can subscribe here.  

SOLINSA video: what is SOLINSA about in a nutshell

Februari 1 and 2 we had our third SOLINSA project meeting in Paris. Apart from discussing the proceedings in the different Workpackages (see www.solinsa.net for more information and results) we had a workshop dedicated to making Participatory Video’s. In the workshop lead by Catcher Media and Chris High from the Open University, we as team of researchers learned to make our own participatory video: what is SOLINSA about?  This resulted in a short video ( 3 minutes only) that has been published at the front page of the SOLINSA website (www.solinsa.net) and at You Tube. If you want to get a quick impression of the SOLINSA project and our team have a look:

First results: analysis of the context (WP3)

Wageningen University (in casu: Communication and Innovation Studies and Rural Sociology Group) was the lead partner of WP3 Understanding the context. WP3 aimed at analysing the trends, relation to LINSA’s and structure of the Agricultural and Knowledge Systems in the participating 8 countries through desk study and a participatory SWOT analysis. This has resulted in two reports accessible at the website:

  1. A synthesis of the comparative analysis of the Agricultural Knowledge Systems in 8 countries
  2. Review of relevant EU Policy documents on innovation

For further information with regard to WP3 one can contact Frans Hermans  (Frans.Hermans@wur.nl).

Next event is the international dissemination workshop on the future of AKIS in Europe on March 5, 2012 in Brussels. The workshop is organised in partnership with the collaborative working group on Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS) of the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR). Proceedings of the seminar will be available for download after the 15th of March. At the workshop a summary of the WP3 results will be presented.

Living the peasant way of life in Santa Cruz de la Colina

After a longer posting-pause in which I finalized my first research phase, identifying supporters of rural grassroots development initiatives in the Province of Soto, here a new update of my activities in Colombia:

Time is flying and I am finalizing my second research phase, asking grassroots development initiatives to evaluate the support they are receiving to build joint capacities. To be able to speak with rural development initiatives, I was invited to spend a week with a peasant family in the vereda St. Ana of Santa Cruz de la Colina.

Santa Cruz de la Colina, Matanza, Colombia

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DERREG film Westerkwartier

Over the last 3 years, we have been carrying out research in the Westerkwartier concerning global influences on rural regional development.

The Westerkwartier, Groningen Province, The Netherlands

This research was carried out as part of the European project DERREG. The Westerkwartier was involved in two work packages of the project: 1. Investigating arrangements through which public support for joint learning and innovation is provided to development initiatives active in the region (WP4) and 2. Investigating global networking activities among rural businesses in the Westerkwartier (WP1).

In the summer and fall of this year, three film students from the University of Aberystwyth in Wales made their way around Europe to visit all case study areas and to film the present development activities. In the Westerkwartier, the film focuses on our research conducted for WP4 (joint learning and innovation). In this film, several supporters as well as the beneficiaries were interviewed. Their stories describe the development activities in the Westerkwartier very lively and give a feeling of the enthusiastic and motivated engagement of the denizens in developing their Westerkwartier. The film is available on YouTube and can be viewed here. Enjoy!

Conference ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society’ – call for abstracts (reminder)

From 1 – 4 April 2012 a conference entitled ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society: International Conference on Multifunctional Agriculture and Urban-Rural Relations‘ will take place in Wageningen. Some time ago a call for abstracts was launched. This is to inform or remind you that the deadline for submitting abstracts is 20 December 2011. Abstracts can be submitted by email to the coordinating convenor of a working group (call for abstracts for all WGs can be accessed through this link). The following working groups have been approved by the Scientific Programme Committee:

  • WG1 Green care
  • WG2 Agri tourism: Critcal Perspectives on Dilemmas and Opportunities
  • WG3 Exploring ‘civic food networks’ and their role in enabling sustainable urban food systems
  • WG4 Rural education   
  • WG5 Environmental services
  • WG6 Economic impact at the farm level
  • WG7 Business models; farm enterprise development models
  • WG8 Entrepreneurial skills and competences: challenges and opportunities
  • WG9 Learning for innovation – new challenges in an urbanizing world
  • WG10 Regional branding; the socio-economic impact at the regional level
  • WG11 Urban, peri-urban and regional planning
  • WG12 Land-use transformations
  • WG13 What are the challenges of future urban agriculture?
  • WG14 Public food procurement
  • WG15 Consumers, multifunctional agriculture and urban dynamics
  • WG16 Multifunctionality, rural policy and governance
  • WG17 Social exclusion and poverty in rural areas
  • WG18 Migration and mobility
  • WG19 Transition approaches
  • WG20 Multifunctional agriculture as a coupled human-natural system

Presenting my Colombian case study area

During the last two weeks, I was in Bogotá to talk to experts from the IER at the Javeriana University as well as the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development to find out about public support for joint capacity building in rural Colombia. Now, I am back in the department of Santander to start my field work.

In order to be able to do an in-depth study of a) how support for joint capacity building in rural areas is organized and b) how this support is evaluated by its beneficiaries, I narrowed my case study area down to one municipality: Floridablanca.

Main square in Floridablanca

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Excursion to Los Maklenkes nature reserve

Last Monday (21st of November), I participated in a field trip to Los Maklenkes nature reserve on top of the mountain La Judía in the municipality of Floridablanca, close to Bucaramanga. This nature reserve is managed by the peasants living around the reserve and, amongst others, sponsored by the Dutch state lottery. The field trip was part of the festival for urban-rural dialogue, in which I participated the previous weekend.

Los Maklenkes Nature Reserve, Floridablanca, Colombia

The day started with a gathering of all participants to make our way up the mountain to the nature reserve. It was an adventurous drive with 16 people in one Jeep, going up steeper and steeper mud-paths. I dared not to look to the right where the mountain was falling as steep to the ground as the road was crawling up.

Upon arrival at the entrance of the park, we were greeted by the local peasants and informed about the history of the nature reserve and its aim to protect biodiversity and water reservoirs. Following the introduction, we switched into our rubber boots and commenced with a three hour hiking tour through the reservoir.

Getting ready for our hike

Here, we saw the organic agro-forest farming activities which are being initiated under the facilitation of Fundaexpresión, a local NGO for promoting participatory research activities and education in peasant communities. I saw plantain and banana trees, coffee plants and avocado trees.

Banana tree

Following our hike, we settled in the communal house of the reserve to discuss nature protection activities in the high Andes and their impact on the livelihoods of peasants. At the end of the discussion, it was agreed that the provision of information and the creation of knowledge at local level was the most crucial point in enabling local peasants to deal with the resulting pressures on their livelihoods. The provision of information and the facilitation of capacity building were, however, regarded as poor. It was agreed that more attention must be given to the provision of information and the facilitation of capacity building at local level should peasants be enabled to deal with pressures on their livelihoods resulting from nature protection activities.

II Festival de Expresiones Urbanas y Rurales: Diálogo por la Diversidad y Buen Vivir, Bucaramanga, Colombia

Last weekend (18-20 of November 2011), I was able to participate in the II Festival for urban-rural dialogue in the barrio La Joya in Bucaramanga, Colombia. The festival was visited by peasants (such as fishers, women groups, and farmers), indigenous groups as well as knowledge brokers from all over Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela and Cuba. In addition, urban citizens from Bucaramanga, and La Joya in particularly, participated in the event. This mix of participants created a valuable learning environment for everyone (including me), and resulted in new ideas and organisations amongst the participants. In a way, this festival reminded me of the rural cafés I visited in the Westerkwartier, the Netherlands.

The overall theme of the event was the environmental conflicts in rural Colombia resulting on the one hand from the numerous (and often multinational) economic exploitation activities (e.g. gold mining, hydroelectric power activities and monoculture) and on the other hand from conservation activities.

Poster presented at festival

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