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!

Conference ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society’ – call for abstracts (reminder)

From 1 – 4 April 2012 a conference entitled ‘Agriculture in an Urbanizing Society: International Conference on Multifunctional Agriculture and Urban-Rural Relations‘ will take place in Wageningen. Some time ago a call for abstracts was launched. This is to inform or remind you that the deadline for submitting abstracts is 20 December 2011. Abstracts can be submitted by email to the coordinating convenor of a working group (call for abstracts for all WGs can be accessed through this link). The following working groups have been approved by the Scientific Programme Committee:

  • WG1 Green care
  • WG2 Agri tourism: Critcal Perspectives on Dilemmas and Opportunities
  • WG3 Exploring ‘civic food networks’ and their role in enabling sustainable urban food systems
  • WG4 Rural education   
  • WG5 Environmental services
  • WG6 Economic impact at the farm level
  • WG7 Business models; farm enterprise development models
  • WG8 Entrepreneurial skills and competences: challenges and opportunities
  • WG9 Learning for innovation – new challenges in an urbanizing world
  • WG10 Regional branding; the socio-economic impact at the regional level
  • WG11 Urban, peri-urban and regional planning
  • WG12 Land-use transformations
  • WG13 What are the challenges of future urban agriculture?
  • WG14 Public food procurement
  • WG15 Consumers, multifunctional agriculture and urban dynamics
  • WG16 Multifunctionality, rural policy and governance
  • WG17 Social exclusion and poverty in rural areas
  • WG18 Migration and mobility
  • WG19 Transition approaches
  • WG20 Multifunctional agriculture as a coupled human-natural system

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.

Guest lectures on ‘A global sense of place’

In the context of the new Capita Selecta course ‘A global sense of place’ several guest lectures are organized by the Rural Sociology Group. These lectures are open for all students, PhD’s and staff members. Coming up are the following events, please join! More information: lummina.horlings@wur.nl.

Monday May 23th (15.30-17.00, room C63): Will Day.

Will Day is a PhD candidate in Harvard University’s dual PhD program in Middle Eastern Studies and Social Anthropology. His main interests are in economic and political anthropology, Marxist thought and its legacy in anthropology, urbanization and urban political economies defined by displacement and dispossession, and political geography and political ecology. He has carried out two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Diyarbakir, Turkey (June 2007-June 2009). His dissertation is focused on urban livelihoods and cultural politics in Diyarbakir the wake of massive state counterinsurgency campaigns that led to the displacement and dispossession of, very likely, well over 1,000,000 rural Kurds. He is interested in how family histories of rural displacement and dispossession and subsequent urban realities of mass unemployment have resulting in the transformation of not only the practices of work, but also the meaning of productivity, work, and masculinity, wealth, value, masculinity, and, ultimately, political belonging and citizenship and the imagination of political futures in this space of rapid and radical political economic transformations.
Content of the lecture: Will Day will talk about urban development in a place in Turkey. He will focus on ”political economy and urban livelihoods in the city through the lens of Massey’s concepts about thinking spatially which might help to clarify what it means to think of a space (a city, a village, etc) as less a fixed, stable entity and more a temporary, contingent crystallization of dynamic processes that link localities to wider geographies and relations of political community, economic life, and cultural imagination”.

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Rural regional learning in the Comarca de Verín, Galicia, Spain

Within the European research project DERREG, we are investigating how public policy can best be arranged to stimulate capacity building within development initiatives operating at grassroots level in rural areas across the European Union.

To find out how public policy interventions can best be arranged, we and our research partners have spoken to various stakeholders in different rural regions across the European Union to find out how they intend to support and facilitate learning and innovation and- most importantly- how the support and facilitation agreed upon is actually provided to the grassroots development initiatives. To find out what is working well and what isn’t working well yet, we have spoken to a number of grassroots development initiators in the participating DERREG case study areas and ask them to evaluate the current support and facilitation received.

To be able to compare the results obtained in the different case study areas, I have travelled to Alytus County, Lithuania in October and Oberlausitz, Germany in December of 2010. In January of this year, I was able to visit our colleague Lola Dominguez Garcia of  Universidade de Vigo in the Comarca de Verín in the South-West of Galicia, Spain. In this blog, we intend to share our experiences. Continue reading

Rural regional learning in ‘Upper Lusatia’ (Oberlausitz), Germany

Following my visit to Alytus County, Lithuania in October, I travelled to Leipzig, Germany to visit our DERREG project partners Michael Kriszan, Robert Nadler and Joachim Burdack (Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography) in their case study area ’Upper Lusatia’. In this blog, Michael, Robert, Joachim and I would like to share some of our experiences.

We first discovered that the case study regions Westerkwartier and Upper Lusatia are very different in their geographical and demographical characteristics. The LEADER region Westerkwartier in Groningen province comprises four municipalities on an area of 374km² and has a population density of 173.4 inhabitants/km² (as of 2007). In 2006, its GDP per capita was estimated at 55,400 Euro and the area has recently witnessed a population increase due to its popularity amongst young families who work in the city of Groningen and value the countryside as their residential area. The Southern part of the Westerkwartier is thus characterized by a high population density and a number of conflicting interests regarding the use of the countryside while the North of the Westerkwartier is primarily used for agriculture.

Upper Lusatia consists of the two Saxon districts Landkreis Görlitz and Landkreis Bautzen that have only been established in 2008 in the process of a reform of the administration units in Saxony. The case study region has an area of about 4,500 km² and has a population density of 135 inhabitants/km². It comprises 122 municipalities- of which 30 are urban centers- and had a GDP per capita of 18,329 Euro (district Görlitz) respectively 19,396 (district Bautzen) in the year 2007 . The region is divided into ten rural development areas, six ILE regions and four LEADER regions. In contrast to the Westerkwartier, the population of Upper Lusatia is shrinking rapidly. Young inhabitants are leaving the area due to a lack of employment opportunities, leaving the elder people behind. Rural development in this region is therefore not only affected by an aging population but also by a shrinking human capital available for development purposes. Through the reform of administrative units altogether four previously distinct districts (Landkreise) and two cities (kreisfreie Städte) have been incorporated into the two “new” districts of Görlitz and Bautzen. The previous Landkreise, however, are very distinct in their physical appearance. The former district Niederschlesien-Oberlausitz for example is characterized by a low population density and shaped through past and present coal mining activities while the hilly district Löbau-Zittau is recognized as a touristic area and winter sport resort. Due to the lack of a common history and the physical distinctiveness, there is no regional identity of the population within both districts.

To evaluate the support and facilitation available for learning and innovation within local grassroots development initiatives in Upper Lusatia, Robert, Michael and Joachim organized a workshop for regional stakeholders.

Workshop in Upper Lusatia, Germany

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FAQs for PUREFOOD vacancies

We have received a high number of inquiries with regard to our 12 PUREFOOD vacancies. It is good to see there is so much interest in these topics!
Most reactions were inquiries about similar issues. Therefore, we have prepared a list of FAQs for the PUREFOOD vacancies. Please have a look at this list of FAQs before sending us an e-mail!

PUREFOOD – 12 vacancies for ESRs are open

As mentioned in an earlier post on this weblog, the Rural Sociology Group has been granted the the coordination of a Marie Curie Initial Training Network  entitled ‘Urban, peri-urban and regional food dynamics: toward an integrated and territorial approach to food (PUREFOOD)’ funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework PEOPLE program. The objective of PUREFOOD is to train a pool of 12 early-stage researchers (ESRs) in the socio-economic and socio-spatial dynamics of the (peri-)urban and regional foodscape. The PUREFOOD network is centred around food as an integrated and territorial mode of governance and studies the emergence of the (peri-)urban foodscape as an alternative (as opposed to a globalised) geography of food, including the ways in which, and the extent to which, sustainability aspects generally considered to be intrinsic to the alternative food geography are incorporated by the more conventional food companies.

As of now all 12 PUREFOOD research vacancies have been published (or soon will be) by the host universities. For information about the ESR vacancies and application guidelines, you can download the PUREFOOD vacancies leaflet. For more information about the objectives, training and research approach and training program of PUREFOOD you can download the PUREFOOD information pack for prospective ESRs. The deadline for application is 3 January 2011.

Eligibility criteria

The enhancement of transnational mobility to improve career perspectives of early stage researchers is the main goal of the Marie Curie Initial Training funding. To achieve this objective the following eligibility criteria for prospective ESRs have been formulated:

  • You are eligible as an ESR if you are, at the time of recruitment (i) in possession of a university degree, and (ii) have a maximum of four years of full-time research experience, including any period of research training. This is measured from the date when you obtained the degree which formally entitles you to embark on a doctorate, either in the country in which the degree was obtained or in the country in which the research training is provided. Please not that ESRs cannot be PhD holders.
  • You are eligible to the position if, at the time of the selection by the host university, you did not reside or carry out your main activity (work, studies, etc) in the country of the host university for more than 12 months in the 3 years immediately prior to your recruitment.

If you have any questions about a vacancy please contact the contact person mentioned in the vacancy announcement. For general question about PUREFOOD please contact me (han.wiskerke@wur.nl).

Rural regional learning in Alytus County, Lithuania

Last week (October 21-22, 2010), I was given the opportunity to visit our DERREG project partner Emilija Kairyte (Institute NeVork) in her case study area of Alytus County in the South of Lithuania. In this blog, Emilija and I would like to share our experiences.

Like the Dutch DERREG case study region Westerkwartier in the province of Groningen, Alytus County comprises four rural municipalities. In terms of demography and economy, both areas are very different from each other. For example, the Westerkwartier has a population density of 173.4 inhabitants/ km², whereas the population density of Alytus County is estimated as 32.6 inhabitants/ km². While the Westerkwartier has witnessed an increase in citizens over the last years, amongst them a large number of young families, rural development in Alytus County is strongly affected by an increasing out-migration and an aging population. Living standards differ considerably. In the Westerkwartier, the GDP per capita was estimated as 55.400 Euro in 2006 while the GDP in Alytus County was estimated as 19.100 Litai in 2007 (equals 5.531,74 Euro, October 2010). Also in geographical terms the two regions are very different. The Westerkwartier is characterized by open grasslands in the North and small fields with framing hedgerows in the South. Alytus County is renowned for its vast forests and lakes.

During my visit to Alytus County, I accompanied Emilija to two workshops, one for the LAG and other public administration authorities on the 21st of October and one for rural initators and actors on the 22nd of October, which she organized in order to evaluate existing arrangements for support and facilitation of joint learning-by-doing activities within rural development initiatives. At these workshops, I presented supportive arrangements and benefiting rural development initiatives that we found during our investigations in the Westerkwartier and which we evaluated together with local stakeholders at a workshop organized by the Rural Sociology Group in the Westerkwartier on the 18th of October.

Meeting with rural development initiative supporters in Alytus District LAG office, Alytus

To my surprise, both regional learning supporters (including the LAG) and rural initiators did not see striking differences between the existing arrangements and support given to rural development initiatives in Alytus County and the Westerkwartier. Emilija and I however learned that there are some basic differences in the foundation and operation of the Countryside House (Plattelandshuis) in Westerkwartier and Seniūnija (NUTS5) in Alytus County. Continue reading