IFSA 2012 workshop ‘The meaning of semi-subsistence farming in different cultural contexts’

Together with Imre Kovach and Catherine Darrot,  I will be hosting a workshop at the IFSA symposium in Aarhus, Denmark from the 1st of July until the 4th of July 2012.

The workshop is aimed at exploring the multiple meanings of semi-subsistent food production strategies in different cultural context. Two questions are at the centre of attention: 1) How has the meaning of semi-subsistent food production changed over time for producers, society and institutions? and 2) What recommendations can be derived from the research for policy makers of multi-state institutions (e.g. EU?). We invite researchers from diverse countries to present their empirical research in order to stimulate a fruitful discussion and knowledge exchange.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is the 31st of December 2011.  More information and a link to submitting your abstract can be found here. I hope to see you there!

Scriptieprijs Slow Food uitgereikt aan Elisa de Lijster

Tijdens een debatavond onder de noemer ‘Slow or cheap: that is the question‘ over de aanstaande hervorming van het Europees gemeenschappelijk landbouwbeleid georganiseerd door de Youth Food Movement (zie korte toelichting hieronder) is: 

de Jan Wolf scriptieprijs uitgereikt aan de 2 scripties die volgens de jury het meest bijdragen aan het verder ontwikkelen van het SlowFood gedachtengoed. Juryvoorzitter Michiel Korthals (hoogleraar in Wageningen) beloonde de bachelor-scriptie Sanne de Wit over de gezondheidseffecten van gemeenschappelijke stadstuinen en de master-scriptie van Elisa de Lijster over vergroening en vermaatschappelijking in het Gemeenschappelijk Landbouw Beleid, met de prijs van 500 euro en een publicatie op de website van SlowFood.

We hebben het afstudeeronderzoek van Elisa de Lijster mogen begeleiden. We zijn dus niet de enigen die lovend zijn over haar sciptie. Zie een post van Elisa voor een korte toelichting op haar MSc-thesis. 

De Youth Food Movement is een jongerenbeweging die zich inzet voor een eerlijker en gezonder voedselsysteem. De manier waarop voedsel tegenwoordig wordt geproduceerd en geconsumeerd is namelijk verre van duurzaam. In het Westen consumeren we te veel en te ongezond. Tegelijkertijd zijn er delen van de wereld die kampen met ernstige voedseltekorten. De huidige productie brengt schade toe aan mens en milieu. Steeds meer mensen raken vervreemd van hun voedsel en hierdoor verliezen we waardevolle kennis en cultuur.

Een van de projecten van de Youth Food Movement betreft de GLB-hervorming: CAP2013. Samen met het Nederlands Agrarisch Jongeren Kontact (NAJK) heeft YFM een videoblogserie ‘GLB – De toekomst van ons voedsel’ van gemaakt. In zes aflevering worden jongeren bezocht die dagelijks met het GLB te maken hebben.

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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On the trail of regional learning in rural Colombia

Over the last two and a half years, we have been investigating arrangements to support regional learning in various rural areas across Europe (EU-project DERREG). This intense period of field work and data analysis has given me a first idea of just how complex this subject is, how diverse supportive arrangements can be, and how dependent their success is on the regional contexts in which they are implemented.

As if this complexity is not already enough to ponder about, my curiosity and interest in mutual learning for development has urged me to also investigate this topic outside the European Union. I was particularly interested in questioning how rural regional learning is supported in, what is commonly referred to as, “developing” countries. So, here I am in Colombia,

Downtown Bogotá, Colombia

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DERREG – Final conference and proceedings

Two weeks ago, from October 12-13, we had our final conference of the EU-funded research project DERREG (www.derreg.eu)  in Murska Sobota, Slovenia. Here the major findings of the project were presented.

DERREG coordinator prof. Michael Woods first presented (see presentation) an overwiew of the project and an interpretative model (see below) on how regions are affected by and respond to forces of globalisation mediated by various catalyst and he ended with a typology of regional responses based on the research done in the 10 case study regions. See also the DERREG Summary Report by Michael Woods.


Successively the coordinators of the four Work Packages presented the main findings along four themes:

  1. Rural Businesses, Global Engagement and Local Embeddedness (presented by Andrew Copus)
  2. International Migration and Rural Europe (presented by Birte Nienaber)
  3. The Global Environment and Rural Sustainable Development (presented by Joachim Burdack & Michael Kriszan)
  4. Rural regional learning (presented by Dirk Roep and Wiebke Wellbrock)

Each overview was illustrated with findings for two case study areas presented by the respective partners.

A separate session was dedicated to policy perspective on globalisation and rural development in Slovenia and in particular the Pomurje region in the north of Slovenia were Murska Sobota is located and the Final conference took place.

At the end, guest speakers from the Goriška region in Slovenia, the Övre Norrland in Sweden, the Westerkwartier region in the Netherlands and the Steirische Mur-Drau-Bioenergie-Region in Austria highlighted four good practices of how regions can respond to global processes and benefit from it.

All presentations can be downloaded from the DEREG website: http://www.derreg.eu/content/events/final-conference-derreg-project (at the bottom of the webpage).

At the DERREG resource-centre other proceedings are made accessible too, such as the WP reports, the case study context reports and case study summary reports. Look at http://www.derreg.eu/content/resource-centre.  Finally, a database of good practice across the WP theme’s and case study areas has been built and made accessible: look  at http://www.derreg.eu/content/good-practice-database.

Last but not least: video clips are made for each of the ten case study regions and when ready these will be published on You tube and announced at the website.

The project will finish by the end of this year. The partners are now working on several scientific publications in journals and books. By the end of this year and beginning of 2012 DERREG related articles will be published in two special issue of the European Countryside, an online journal (see the content of latest issue). Next will be an edited book published by Ashgate titled ‘Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions‘  which will capitalise the findings for the 10 case study areas.

Publications will be announced at the resource-centre of the DERREG website, as for the video clips, and information will be posted on this blog.

A School meal in Dois Irmáos

Brasil has a School Food Program since 1955. In the last decade or so it underwent a lot of changes. Maybe one of the biggest changes is that the program was progressively decentralised since 2000. The school food program became part of a number of connected policies under the umbrella of Zero Hunger. As part of the course that I teach in Porto Alegre at the moment, we went to see the municipal school meal program in the small city of Dois Irmáos, approximately 60 kilometers from Porto Alegre (in the most southern state Rio Grande do Sul). The city – or town rather – in the metropolitan area around Porto Alegre of 37.000 inhabitants was established by Germans and it is still very much a German generations town.

We were impressed with the presentation of the municipal vegetable farm, the explanation of the system by the two municipal nutritionists and by the after-school facilities which actually serve the school meal (more about all this later). The students in class were bench marking what they saw with what they experienced and saw elsewhere and commented on the high quality of the facilities. In places with less wealth and commuter communities, it may look different, they said. We were just in time to see the last round of kids having their meal. We ourselves had an early start and were quite looking forward to a meal too…so we were offered a school meal. The picture below shows what I ate. But it can’t by no means be viewed as a standard Brazilian school meal. Not only because the School Food Program was decentralised to cater for local food habits and local produce but also because one image can never explain a system anyway. See the many comments made on this website where school meal pictures from all over the world are shown.

rice beans potato salad chicken coliflower and lettuce

Cursus Voedsel en Stad met Carolyn Steel, 14 en 15 November 2011

De stad heeft de toekomst. Maar heeft zij ook voedsel? Fluctuerende voedselprijzen, klimaat verandering, voedselkilometers en schandalen zijn reden tot zorg. Carolyn Steel heeft de zeer kwetsbare stedelijke  toegang en relatie tot voedsel op meesterlijke wijze in historisch perspectief gezet in haar boek De Hongerige Stad. Bovendien biedt zij een ontwikkelingsperspectief. Gebaseerd op haar boek en onder haar leiding organiseert de Wageningen Business School een tweedaagse cursus Voedsel en de Stad op 14 en 15 november.

Hoe kunnen we op een nieuwe manier naar voedselvoorziening in de stad kijken? Hoe kunnen we de stad weerbaarder maken en voedsel beter integreren in stedelijke ontwikkeling en cultuur? Wat kunnen planners doen? En architecten? Of stadsontwikkelaars? Of ontwerpers? En welzijnswerkers of wethouders? Deze cursus is bedoeld voor iedereen die in de breedte werkt aan duurzame stedelijke ontwikkeling en beseft dat onze dagelijkse maaltijd daarbij een essentieel scharnierpunt is.

Voor meer informatie en opgave kijk op de website van de Wageningen Business School waar ook de cursus brochure gedownload kan worden. Opgave vóór 21 Oktober.