Understanding food systems’ change: the making and the practicing of the school food reform in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil – PhD-thesis Camilo Lozano

Wednesday, March 13 2019, at 1.30 pm CET Camilo Lozano will defend his PhD-thesis ‘Understanding food systems’ change: the making and the practicing of the school food reform in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil’.

The ceremony will be live streamed by Weblectures.wur.nl but can be viewed later as well. The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.


Rural Development and the Construction of New Markets – newly published book

Rural Development and the Construction of New Markets,  edited by Paul Hebinck, Sergio Schneider and Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, has just been published in the Routledge ISS Studies in Rural Livelihoods.  The book can be purchased here.

This book focuses on empirical experiences related to market development, and specifically new markets with structurally different characteristics than mainstream markets. Europe, Brazil, China and the rather robust and complex African experiences are covered to provide a rich multidisciplinary and multi-level analysis of the dynamics of newly emerging markets.

Rural Development and the Construction of New Markets analyses newly constructed markets as nested markets. Although they are specific market segments that are nested in the wider commodity markets for food, they have a different nature, different dynamics, a different redistribution of value added, different prices and different relations between producers and consumers. Nested markets embody distinction viz-a-viz the general markets in which they are embedded. A key aspect of nested markets is that these are constructed in and through social struggles, which in turn positions this book in relation to classic and new institutional economic analyses of markets. These markets emerge as steadily growing parts of the farmer populations are dedicating their time, energy and resources to the design and production of new goods and services that differ from conventional agricultural outputs. The speed and intensity with which this is taking place, and the products and services involved, vary considerably across the world. In large parts of the South, notably Africa, farmers are ‘structurally’ combining farming with other activities. By contrast, in Europe and large parts of Latin America farmers have taken steps to generate new products and services which exist alongside ongoing agricultural production. This book not only discusses the economic rationales and dynamics for these markets, but also their likely futures and the threats and opportunities they face.

Table of Contents: 1.The construction of new, nested markets and the role of development policies 2. Newly emerging, nested markets: a theoretical introduction 3. The construction of nested markets 4. Family farming, institutional markets and innovations in public policy in Brazil 5. Self-labelling, certification and alternative marketing networks in Brazil 6. Rural tourism in China and the construction of new markets 7. Multi-level rural governance performances and the unfolding of nested rural markets in Europe 8. Smallholder irrigators and fresh produce street traders in Thohoyandou, Limpopo Province, South Africa 9. Beyond land transfers: the dynamics of socially driven markets emerging from Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme 10. In the shadow of global markets for fish in Lake Victoria Tanzania 11. Reconsidering the contribution of nested markets to rural development.




Regulation of Participatory Guarantee Systems in Brazil: Achievements and Challenges

Maria Alicia MendoncaBy  Maria Alice F. C. Mendonça, Ph.D. student in Rural Development at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul/Brazil and Wageningen University/The Netherlands

Below my contribution to the IFOAM Global newsletter on Participatory Guarantee Systems published bimonthly. See the IFOAM PGS webpage for more information. Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are locally focused quality assurance systems that certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.

The Brazilian regulation for organic and agroecological production was introduced in the 1990’s in response to international restrictions on Brazilian organic products. Nevertheless, the agroecological movement stayed prominent and actively participated in discussions and negotiations with the government. As a result of this interaction between government and the agroecological movement, a series of laws, decrees and federal regulatory instructions for organic and agroecological production was enacted, e.g. the Organic Law and its respective regulatory instructions. Moreover, the National Policy on Organic Production and Agroecology (Política Nacional de Agroecologia e Produção Orgânica) and the National Action Plan for Organic Production and Agroecology (Plano Nacional de Agroecologia e Produção Orgânica) were released in 2012 and 2013 respectively. They settle the strategies for government investments in the expansion of agroecological production.

Currently, Brazilian farmers have three options to ensure the organic and agroecological quality of their produce: 1) Third-party certification; 2) Participatory Assessment Bodies; and 3) Social Control Organizations. These last two are systems operate at a local level and rely on the active participation of stakeholders. However, only the Participatory Assessment Bodies are considered as Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) in the legal sense and authorized for the use of the national organic label, which is required for non-direct sales of organic products. In contrast, the Social Control system does not grant the right to use the national label and allows only the direct sale from small-scale family famers to the final consumers.

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The Farm Experience Internship (FEI) : experiences from Brazil

Part of a joint initiative the Farming Systems Ecology group  of Wageningen University offers a new course the Farm Experience Internship (FEI). This course is presented and discussed in Grassroots Science event next July 4. See the earlier blog for more info. The course is inspired by a similar course in Brazil. Below Heitor Texeira, student from Federal University of Vicosa and currently intern at Stichting Otherwise and ILEA, tells about the Brazilian experiences and about course starting for the first time summer, from 11th to 30th of August. See for more information on the FEI course also the site of the Boerengroep.

By Heitor Texeira

The Estágio Interdisciplinar de Vivência

In Brazil family farmers and traditional communities play a very important role concerning food production and conservation of natural resources. They are responsible for the production of approximately 70% of the food consumed in the country and in many cases manage their production systems in a more sustainable way, seeking for the integration between nature and agriculture. Although their great contribution for society, the knowledge developed and disseminated in educational institutes of superior level is often disconnected from the reality and needs of family farmers. On the one hand their traditional knowledge is underestimated regarding research and extension at the University. Continue reading

Embedded in a crisis, IRSA (3)

The majority of our purchases, be it food or something else, are done through market relations which are increasingly void of the personal, of long-term social relations and social investment. Whereas early theories on the social embeddedness of markets (Polanyi and Granovetter) are popular again amongst academics nowadays, I wonder if we can actually really imagine how deep embeddedness could or should go in the face of abstract and almost anonymous transactions through which we procure everyday. How often are we in situations where the relationship is as important as the product acquired, maybe even unrelated to the product acquired? Our current routines and realities shape how we interpret literature and imagine the possible.

Efficient food procuring – a chore that needs to be done – does make it quite impossible for me to imagine a buyer – seller relation that goes beyond regularity and chitchat. Why would I invest more than knowing my local butcher by name and where he gets his meat and a comment on the weather while buying meat, my local veggiebox, eggs and cheese (yes we have an unusual butcher in town) on my way home from work?

My Spanish colleagues told me that they are in the midst of finding out how to come by in an economy and democracy that is imploding. No money to buy in the supermarket? Get yourself a network! my colleague Ignacio exclaimed referring to those who would previously looked down on his ‘anarchist’ ideas. And land. The first land occupations are occurring in Andalusia he told me, mimicking land rights claims of the Movimiento Sem Terra from Brasil.

“Unpacking the spatial fixes of the previous regime” is how Terry Marsden called this in his keynote. The re-orientation of property rights and regimes has not received enough attention from research in the last 20 years. But cutting through the established property rights concepts and practices is needed urgently he added. This counts as well for concepts of market relations it seems to me.

Repeasantisation in Araponga, Brazil – a quest for space

By Leonardo Ayabe van den Berg, MSc graduate International Development Studies

Recently I completed my MSc-thesis. The thesis research is set in the municipality of Araponga in Brazil, where (re)peasantisation occurred and continues to occur. Here I describe some of the findings of my research.  When interested you can downlaod a pdf of my thesis ‘Invisible peasant movements: A case study of (re)peasantisation in Brazil‘.



When I started to read about the peasantry there were two major things that occurred to me as striking. First, in policy peasants are often considered as a group of laggards: who are unable to take care of themselves and therefore need social assistance; who rely on primitive forms of technology and therefore must be modernized; or who are impeded by a stagnant, traditional mentality and must therefore be converted into small entrepreneurs. The peasant mode of farming is seldomly considered in its own right. Second, in academic theory peasants are predicted to disappear, weaken or live a life of poverty as a result of their inferior mode of production and their helplessness. Departing from the assumption that actors are driven by a specific economic-rational logic, neo-liberal approaches roughly theorise that peasants commoditize, compete with other farms as a result of which there will be regional growth. Tradition or culture can block economic rationality and the transition from peasant to entrepreneur. The peasant will then be doomed to poverty. In contrast to the neo-liberal approach, neo-Marxist approaches, most of which also assume that the peasant is driven by an economic logic and commoditize, theorise that commoditization will either lead to the destruction of the peasant enterprise or to a fate of poverty. This is the result of price fluctuations, squeeze in agriculture (caused by the trend of decreasing produce prices and increasing input prices for farmers), or newly emerging food networks (through which income from weaker, peasant, parts of the chain are squeezed in favour of the more powerful, retailers, part of the chain). These predictions and preconceptions contradict with what happened in Araponga, a rural municipality in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil where there was a rise in the number of peasants and an increase in welfare. The objective of this thesis was to find out how this was possible: how had (re)peasantisation occurred in Araponga. Continue reading

Social movement and Brazil

Last week friday’s lecture in the course ‘People Policy and Resources’ discussed theory and practice of social movements. Social movements can be defined as social forms through which people:

 “coordinate and act together as collectives, respond to shifting environments and conflicts, dramatize and frame shared understandings of grievances, solidarity and visions, and challenge and influence existing political and cultural systems of authority.” (Karpantschof 2006)

One of the examples in class was the Landless People’s Movement in Brazil (MST). As a background to this example students had to read about the history and community-making of the MST (Wolford, 2003) and about the adoption of agroecology as “the science of sustainable agriculture”  within the movement (Delgado, 2008: 563).

Thanks to the cooperation of our group with the Rural Development Post Graduate Program in Brazil, of the Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul (see earlier blogs 27 January, 13 February, 6 March) the students could also see how the movement works through part of a dvd ‘Agriculacao National de Agroecologia’. Together we watched a documentary about IL ENA, the national meeting for agroecology in Brasil which took place in 2006. The documentary clearly showed how social movements work through both practice ánd language. On the one hand the struggle for the material; actions for rights and resources. And on the other hand the struggle against dominant discourse; the construction of alternative conceptions and significations which politicizes dominant understandings and creates room for change.

Evolution of Rural Development Paradigm in Brazil

In a recent research seminar prof. Sergio Schneider (schneide@ufrgs.br), coordinator of the  Rural Development Post Graduate Program from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil), presented a telling analysis of major changes in Rural Developments Policies in Brazil in the last twenty years. He explained that the recent evolution in rural development policies, as effectuated by president Lula, has to be understood within the context the evident political struggles on land. Brazil is a large country with traditionally a sharp contrast between the interests of agro-industrial conglomerates and social rural movements of landless people and peasants (e.g. MST).

This is reflected in a dualist agrarian structure between capitalist and entrepreneurial family farming and peasant familiy farming and rural poor (landless) who are struggling for survival and autonomy. In 1995 1 % of the owners with more then 1000 ha owned 45% of all land, while 90% of the owners with less then 100 ha owned only 20%. An unexpected and striking consequence of rural poverty is, that food security in rural areas is significantly lower then in urban areas. In rural areas 26% of the housholds suffers severe food insecurity versus 17% in urban areas. Because of this dualist agrarian structure Brazil is probably the only country in the world with two Ministries of Agriculture, serving different needs.

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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

Rural development in Brazil

fabio_kesslerProf. Fabio dal Soglio from the Federal University of Rio Grande de Sul (UFRGS) is currently our guest. He is one of the professors working in the Post-Graduate Programme on Rural Development (PGDR) and he has a particular interest in agro-ecology.

The  UFRGS and the PGDR-group in particular wants to extend collaboration with the Rural Sociology Group, as initiated by prof. van der Ploeg, by the exchange of staff, exchange of MSc and PhD-students and by joint research.

As part of an assignment for the MSc-course Sociology in Development, a group of MSc-students grasped the occasion and interviewed prof. Fabio dal Soglio on the Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil and their struggle for land and land reforms.

mst-21Quoted from the MST-website (English edition):

 The MST is the largest social movement in Latin America with an estimated 1.5 million landless members organized in 23 out 27 states. The MST carries out long-overdue land reform in a country mired by unjust land distribution. In Brazil, 1.6% of the landowners control roughly half (46.8%) of the land on which crops could be grown. Just 3% of the population owns two-thirds of all arable lands.

Since 1985, the MST has peacefully occupied unused land where they have established cooperative farms, constructed houses, schools for children and adults and clinics, promoted indigenous cultures and a healthy and sustainable environment and gender equality. The MST has won land titles for more than 350,000 families in 2,000 settlements as a result of MST actions, and 180,000 encamped families currently await government recognition. Land occupations are rooted in the Brazilian Constitution, which says land that remains unproductive should be used for a larger social function.

 The MST’s success lies in its ability to organize and educate. Members have not only managed to secure land, therefore food security for their families, but also continue to develop a sustainable socio-economic model that offers a concrete alternative to today’s globalization that puts profits before people and humanity.