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.
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.
2016 has been a fruitful year for the Rural Sociology Group and it had a smashing ending: an invitation by the EU-commission to prepare a Grant Agreement for the H2020 proposal ROBUST on rural-urban relations. Rural Sociology will be coordinating ROBUST. We will keep you posted.
The PhD-thesis analysed how the activities and experiences of different actor groups involved in the implementation of the home-grown aspects of the Ghana school feeding programme enabled as well as constrained local food procurement that was expected to link the school feeding programme to local agricultural development. While the primary objective of any school feeding programme is first and foremost to provide adequate and nutritious food to school children, efforts at employing the power of procurement under home-grown school feeding to benefit local agricultural development have been considered as ‘win-win’ in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in developing countries like Ghana. The assumptions that underpin these ‘win-win’ notions of home-grown school feeding, however, ignore the socio-cultural relationships that anchor the everyday activities and experiences of the actors involved in the implementation of the programme. The thesis, therefore, conceptualized home-grown school feeding as a problem of embeddedness and showed how socio-cultural relationships in the activities and experiences of school level governance actors, school food caterers, local food traders and smallholders enabled as well as constrained local food procurement efforts.
The PhD-thesis aims at advancing the understanding of identities and roles of non-mainstream food systems. It focuses on AFNs which operate in the context of rather traditional agrifood systems, engage in both food provisioning and raising civic awareness, and collaborate with a wide range of actors, such as producers, consumers, civil society organisations and institutions. In particular, the research studies an AFN – GAS M – in Calabria – Southern Italy – by shedding light on the dynamics of interaction during the organisation and implementation of its activities.
This thesis comprises five chapters that are independent scientific publications. In the first chapter, I show how the ‘learning region concept’ and ‘triple helix thesis’ can be reframed to address support for collaboration in rural areas. In the second chapter, I reflect on the experiences of using the conceptual lens as a research tool for studying the operational features of arrangements supporting joint learning and innovation in the case study area of Westerkwartier, the Netherlands. In the third and fourth chapters, I deal with the question of how to best arrange support for collaboration by comparing the operational features of arrangements across the German and European case study areas. This thesis concludes with a discussion of the lessons learnt concerning: 1) wellworking operational features of arrangements supporting collaborative modes of governance, 2) the development and refinement of the conceptual lens, based on experiences of using it as a heuristic research tool, and 3) the potential of the refined framework to effectuate more collaborative modes of governance.