Internship: diversification strategies of farmers in peri-urban Amstelland


Amstelland is a traditional meadow landscape, dominated by dairy farming, and framed on three sides by the cities of Amsterdam and Amstelveen. The vicinity of the city offers threats and opportunities for farmers in Amstelland. The area is intensively used for recreation.

Citizen organisation Stichting Beschermers Amstelland (SBA) is concerned with the future of the area. SBA presumes that preservation of the landscape is connected to economic sustainability of the farms. For that reason SBA is interested in the strategies of farmers towards diversification and pluri-activity. A number of farmers already have added multifunctional activities to their conventional farm. Most farmers are member in the environmental cooperative De Amstel and take agri-environmental measures. Some farmers have started a B&B or sell products on farm. The peri-urban situation leads to high land prices, slowing down opportunities for farm enlargement. As a result, more farmers are likely to consider diversification and pluri-activity as an alternative strategy.

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Internship: the role of dairy in a sustainable diet

Dairy-products-1024x752 There are many definitions of a sustainable diet. A sustainable diet should not only be sustainable, but also be nutritious and healthy. Furthermore, in order to insure compliance, attainability is also an important aspect.

Sustainability, health and attainability all are very broad, overarching terms. In order to create a better understanding of those terms one should break them down in smaller more concrete determinants. E.g. sustainability can be determined by CO2 footprint, land use, water use, animal welfare, ……
In order to understand the role of dairy in a sustainable diet it is important to understand how dairy does score on the different determinants of sustainability. Furthermore, it is important to understand the influence of the dairy production process (from grass to glass) on the different parameters of sustainability.

Once the position of dairy in the sustainability landscape is defined, it is important to include other elements such as health, nutrition, food availability, habits, affordability etc. By taking all those elements together you can determine the position of dairy in a sustainable diet. Continue reading

Thesis Opportunity: Stakeholder analysis for sustainability a in Central Mexico

A new and exciting RSO thesis opportunity: Stakeholder analysis for regional sustainability analysis in urbanizing landscapes in Central Mexico


Around Mexico-city, rural landscapes have changed significantly – and continue to do so – due to the growth of the city into these rural landscapes. This so-called peri-urbanization occurs in many places in the world and is accompanied by a specific sustainability challenges regarding water management, the role of agriculture in rural communities and the cultural changes that result from this. This MSc thesis will be part of a study of how peri-urbanization has affected the sustainability of three case study regions or watersheds. Regional assessment of the sustainability of natural resource management is complicated by the large range of stakeholder priorities and perspectives. Obtaining an accurate idea of the existing stakeholder’s priorities with regard to the state of the region’s natural resources, the main challenges and their management, is thus an important first step. This gives a basis for the definition of indicators for the sustainability assessment. However, it does not yet enable giving weights to each indicator. A proposed answer to this challenge is to first distil a list of possible sustainability indicators from semi-structured stakeholder interviews, and subsequently ask those same stakeholders to attach a weight or value to these indicators, using pairwise comparisons. The resulting ranking can then be used as an important input to a regional sustainability assessment. Another challenge, still to be resolved, is how to weigh the perspectives of different actors, perhaps according to each actor’s influence and/or importance.

Objective: To define a list of regional sustainability priorities with quantitative weights attached to them, based on the analysis and integration of stakeholder perspectives.


  • Stakeholder selection
  • Semi-structured interviewing
  • Survey development and execution
  • Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches
  • Writing and defending an MSc thesis


  • MSc student in (rural) sociology or related
  • Fluency in Spanish
  • Willingness to do research in Mexico
  • Financial self-sufficiency
  • 5-6 months for the project
  • Start date January 2015 or late July 2015

Contact details

This MSc thesis will be jointly supervised by Dr. Jessica Duncan (Rural Sociology) and Leendert van Wolfswinkel (Farming Systems Ecology).

The project will contribute to the PhD project of Leendert van Wolfswinkel, who will also be the daily supervisor in Mexico. The PhD project is a collaboration between Farming Systems Ecology (WUR), CIMMYT and the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana.

For more information contact with a statement of interest and a CV.

VALUES IN PLACE – MSc Thesis opportunity on the role of values in sustainable places

At the rural Sociology Group we would like to do research on values, place and sustainability. Therefore we are looking for students who are interested in doing a MSc Thesis.

Place based approaches to sustainable development are increasingly favoured, assuming that place specificities really matter in the form of social, cultural and institutional characteristics. People shape places which is expressed in practices, relations, rules, symbols and place-identities. A central question is how human values play a role in place-shaping – aimed at sustainable development – and how to analyze and map values.

Values are not self-standing concepts which can be analysed as atomized issues, but intertwined, context determined, culturally varied and linked to how we see our self and how we perceive our environment. A value-driven perspective on sustainable place-shaping benefits dialogues based on people’s values and beliefs, and aims to provide a more in-depth insight in what people consider as worthwhile, feel responsible for and are willing to commit to in the context of their own place. This is relevant as we can see a trend towards forms of self-organisation, the ‘do-democracy’ and the participative society where people (are expected to) take responsibility for their own environment.

Our goal is to analyse how values are expressed in places, distinguishing between the following dimensions:
• The economic dimension: adding value to places;
• The intentional dimension: why people contribute to sustainable change in places
• The symbolic dimension: how people appreciate place and attach meanings to place
• The integral dimension: how cultural worldviews and levels of human behaviour play a role in place-shaping.
Does this make you curious and/or do you have an interest in this research theme, please contact Ina Horlings at:

Twee thesis opdrachten lokaal voedsel – Almeerse Weelde


Deze zomer zijn een aantal wetenschapswinkelprojecten gestart, waardoor we verschillende studentenopdrachten in de aanbieding hebben. De opdracht waar ik laatst over schreef staat nog uit, maar we zijn nu voor een ander project ook op zoek naar twee studenten.

Dit wetenschapswinkelproject speelt zich ook af in Almere; de opdrachtgever is Almeerse Weelde. Almeerse Weelde (AW) bestaat uit ongeveer vijfentwintig mensen die zich bezighouden met lokaal voedsel. Sommigen van hen doen dat professioneel, anderen meer hobbymatig. Naast de verwerking van lokale producten, houdt AW zich bezig met bewustwording en kennisoverdracht over lokaal voedsel.


Momenteel denkt AW na over de toekomst; hoe en in welke richting kan ze zich verder ontwikkelen? Deze vraag heeft ze voorgelegd aan de wetenschapswinkel, die AW daarbij gaat ondersteunen. In die zoektocht komen verschillende vragen naar boven, zoals:

  • Wat zijn de faal- en succesfactoren van dit burgerinitiatief?
  • Hoe houdt je het samenwerkingsverband levendig?
  • Welke bedrijfsvorm past bij Almeerse Weelde?
  • Hoe kunnen…

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