Benefits and constraints for certification of agro-ecological farmers – MSc-thesis possibility

I am Maria Alice Mendonça, a PhD-student from the Univerity of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). I’m interested in the markteting and certification of agroecological food products. I’m staying at the Rural Sociology Group to study the certification of origin and organic food products in the Netherlands.

Certification can play an important role in the transition towards more sustainable food and agriculture. Yet, at the same time, rigid standards may constrain farmer innovation. To many small scale farmers certification is moreover a large financial burden. I want to investigate two or three different major certification schemes in the Netherlands. Interviews will be conducted with agroecological farmers to find the various benefits and constraints faced for different certification schemes.

I’m now looking for a MSc-is student with an interest in the topic that can assist from May 2014 onwards. Seen the interviews, preference is given to a Dutch speaking MSc student studying for example Organic Agriculture, Rural Development and Innovation, International Development Studies or Management, Economics and Consumer Studies.

If you are interested contact me: or Dirk Roep:

Symbiotic chicken supplies – food provisioning in Dar es Salaam

By Marc Wegerif. PhD Candidate, Rural Sociology Group Wageningen University. Marc Wegerif is carrying out research on food provisioning in Dar es Salaam.

Diagrams made by Jerryt Krombeen, a freelance designer and advisor working with own company ( on: design, urbanism, landscape architecture, and public space. Jerryt is completing his Masters at the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture ( ) and joined a group of students in a project on planning for food markets in Dar es Salaam.

By Jerryt Krombeen  (

By Jerryt Krombeen

It is 5am, still dark, I am at the Shikilango people’s market in Dar es Salaam, a variety of vehicles are arriving and stopping in the street next to the market, the clucking of chickens fills the air. Motorbikes with two large woven baskets on the back, tied on top of each other, park. The baskets carrying up to 50 chickens each are arranged on the ground. Small Suzuki pick-up trucks and other vehicles with wood and wire frames on the back arrive with hundreds of chickens, the various buyers crowding around them as the morning business picks up and the sun begins to light the sky. Some customers are buying directly from the vans and motorbikes. Some of the butchers, identifiable in their white overalls and boots, are also buying direct from the vehicles to fill orders they already have. I watch the scene while sitting on a large rock on the edge of the road. The man sitting next to me on the rock is selling plastic bags of different sizes and cigarettes to customers and traders. Most of the people with the vans and motorbikes also have a stall in the market or cooperate with someone who does. The chickens not sold directly in the morning are transferred to the market and sold there through the rest of the day.

Under a high roof that covers a raised concrete platform there are thousands of chickens in lines of cages four levels high. The alley ways left between the cages are busy with people selling and buying chickens, negotiating or just talking. There is an alley at a lower level between the platform and six white tiled chicken slaughtering and cleaning areas that run along two sides of the platform.

Continue reading

Meat: the good, the bad and the complicated

By Birgit Boogard, former RSO-staff member, now Post-doctoral fellow at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) currently working on the imGoats project that has the objective to:  ‘increase incomes and food security in a sustainable manner by enhancing pro-poor small ruminant value chains in India and Mozambique’. (

Meat: the good, the bad and the complcicated (IFPRI Infographic)

Meat: the good, the bad and the complcicated (IFPRI Infographic)

The International Food Policy Institute recently published an interesting info-graphic on meat production and consumption in the world entitled ‘Meat: the good, the bad and the complicated . The debate about meat production and consumption is a very interesting one in many ways. I don’t need to remind us of the recent discussion at Wageningen UR on ‘the good’ of intensified animal production ‘to feed the world’. In response to such arguments, ‘the bad’ are brought into the debate (see for example earlier blog by Petra), which are subsequently answered by the animal production sector with defensive responses. Continue reading

Resistance and Autonomy in Western Mexico – local actors creating a place of their own

 By Peter R.W. Gerritsen, Department of Ecology and Natural Resources, South Coast University Centre, University of Guadalajara, Av. Independencia Nacional 151, 48900, Autlán, Jal., Mexico. Email:

 The local effects of global processes in the Mexican countryside are well documented; describing problems related to the quality of rural producers’ life, identity and traditional practices, as well as their resource management practices. Alike initiatives all over the world,  also in western Mexico local actors joined forces to counter these problems and created ‘a place of their own’ in a globalised world, a place for their own wellbeing.

RASA - Peter Gerritsen

In the state of Jalisco, located in western Mexico, 20 groups of peasants and indigenous farmers, supported by professionals from non-governmental organizations and local universities, joined forces in 1999 and created the Red de Alternativas Sustentables Agropecuarias (RASA: the Network for Sustainable Agricultural Alternatives). As such, the RASA can be considered an umbrella organization for many local organized producer groups.

The RASA is also a social organization with characteristics of the so-called new social movements. New social movements have emerged since the late 1970s in the Mexican countryside, due to the problems created by global processes. The struggles that have led to their emergence originate from the demand to defend local structures and to remain control over the different domains of daily life. As such, these movements stress the need for endogenous development approaches. Closely related to the issue of specific life styles is the defense of the territory, being the place of local identity formation. It is also here, where innovative forms of resource management have emerged.

RASA 2 PGThe RASA´s main objective is strengthening a development model that aims to mitigate the local impacts of global processes and that permits the transition towards sustainable local development. In practice, the RASA organizes workshops on organic agriculture and fair trade, and organizes farmer-to-farmer meetings for sharing experiences (including political discussions on the countryside). These activities take place in the rural and peri-urban areas of Jalisco. The RASA also designs and implements new fair trade-channels, mainly in the metropolitan area of the Jalisco state capital Guadalajara. As such, the RASA´s actions are also directed at urban consumers. Finally, articulation with other social movements is actively sought for. Thus, the RASA seeks to create new room for maneuver by establishing strategic alliances with different societal actors.

The creation of local transition paths towards sustainable development, such as promoted by the RASA, is related to the issues of agency and power. These, in turn, are (often) related to resistance and autonomy. Both elements are also recognizable in the RASA experience.

To start with, the RASA has created its own socio-political space in the Jalisco countryside, which has permitted to resist to and counter the dominant rural development model in Mexico and in Jalisco that follows global tendencies. However, the RASA´s efforts must be understood as heterogeneous in nature; not all groups are involved in fair trade, but only those with a production surplus. Moreover, some groups focus more on basic grain production, while others cultivate horticultural crops. Furthermore, the RASA emerged outside the realm of governmental intervention in rural areas. In fact, it has been systematically neglected by formal institutions, as the RASA has been considered a threat to the established formal – historically-determined – political spaces in the rural arenas. Moreover, within the rural communities the RASA-members are perceived as outsiders. In this sense, the RASA conceptual approach has permitted strengthening their self-consciousness and self-organization, as well as improving their position in their communities. It has also led to the dimension of autonomy in the sustainable development model, as designed and implemented by the RASA.

Rural Development in Brazil: interfaces between public policy and social actors

From the 10th till the 28th of February Prof. Sergio Schneider of the Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil is visiting Wageningen under the agreement CAPES-Wageningen University. Sergio is Professor of Rural Sociology and Coordinator of the Post-Graduate Programme in Rural Development (PGDR). In his contribution to the Rural Sociology Weblog he briefly introduces his research domain. He will also present this at a research seminar of the Rural Sociology Group on Thursday 19 February at 16.00 hrs in room C70 of the Leeuwenborch building.

Sergio SchneiderBy Sergio Schneider – Since the 1990′s discussions on rural development in Brazil are no longer associated with policies to combat poverty. From these times onwards discussions on rural development have been related to themes like environmental sustainability, land reform, policies to support small family farming and more recently, the issue of food security. The discussion on rural development in Brazil has gained strong momentum … Continue reading


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