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:

“Sugar in Dutch foods throughout the years” – MSc-thesis possibility with Rural Sociology and Food Technology

Sugar in Dutch foods throughout the years: proposal for a Rural Sociology Master’s Thesis supervised by dr Jessica Duncan of the Rural Sociology Group and dr ir Ralf Hartemink of the Food Technology Group of Wageningen University.

Note: the research question is proposed by Knowledge Centre for Sugar & Nutrition (Kenniscentrum suiker & voeding). They will review the thesis and potentially use findings to develop a fact sheet on the history of sugar use in the Netherlands.

Research context and problem:

Today, it is not uncommon to read warning of the impacts of increasing amounts of sugars being added foods and drinks and thus increasing sugar intake by consumers. But is this the case in the Netherlands? Are Dutch people using more sugar in their cooking? Are they consuming more sugar in ready-made products? Has the sugar content in these products increased over the years? If so, by how much and why? In order to establish an overview of trends in sugar use in some typical Dutch products the researcher will:

  1. Research and map sugar trends in foods and drinks throughout the years (both domestic cooking and industrially prepared foods);
  2. Research the functionalities of sugar in a variety of products in the context of the trends.
  3. Analyse the  social and technological drivers and implications of the trends

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MSc Thesis on return-migration in Turkey-Kurdistan

The destruction and burning of thousands of rural settlements and the forced migration of hundred thousands, if not millions of (mostly) Kurdish villagers is one of the most painful and pressing issues in Turkey. Though the evacuations date back to the end of the 1980s, the issue has left a heavy legacy, socially, politically, and economically.

Over the last years, many thousands of people returned to their villages. Yet little is known about who returns and when and how livelihoods are rebuild . The evidence there is suggests that not all segments of the population return in equal proportions and that young men and young families in particular are underrepresented among the returnees. Furthermore, it transpires that people do not exchange their urban accommodation for a rural one; instead, it appears that what may be identified as dual or extended settlement patterns emerge. Apparently, there is not only no coming back to an earlier condition, but rather the development of new ways of organizing living and working space.

For those attempting return, there are new problems, livelihood difficulties that they did not have to face prior to their evacuation. Clearly, re-establishment as a peasant is difficult because most of the displaced have to start from scratch: they arrive back to find their fields and houses ruined. Furthermore, community facilities and services like health care and education facilities and water and electricity supplies were similarly destroyed or fell into disrepair or just remained unsupplied. Neo-liberal policies are said to have negatively impacted returnees by undermining their ability to make a living from agriculture.

At the Rural Sociology group and in collaboration with partners in Turkey we would like to look at return migration from several perspectives. Therefore, we are looking for (two or three) students who are interested in doing a MSc thesis, looking at the (gendered) demography of return, the rebuilding of livelihood and multi-place settlement patterns and spatial mobility.

Does one of these issues make you curious and/or do you have an interest in one or more of the research themes mentioned above, please contact Joost Jongerden at

Student asked for MSc-thesis research on poultry systems in Venda, Northern South Africa

There is a possibility for a MSc-student to explore poultry dynamics in South Africa. Post-apartheid socio-technical development interventions (still) favours the introduction and expansion of modern poultry systems (broilers and layers) among smallholders to supply meat and eggs to urban consumers. The ‘formula 1 chicken’ (or plof kip) relies heavily on purchased industrial feed and fodder. The market, in addition, plays a crucial role. Together they shape the future of this poultry system. Next to this modern system, a flourishing poultry hinging on indigenous scavenging chicken is operational.

The project aims to make a detailed socio-technical analysis of both poultry systems with a focus on problematic issues and opportunities.

Accommodation and a translator can be arranged. Info:

Leadership and regions: unlocking the potential of communities

Every year the European Commission organizes Open days in Brussels, where EU Members of Parliament, national, regional and local policy/decision makers, Academics, students and researchers, can inform themselves on a variety of subjects. These Open Days host workshops and debates, and exhibition route, presentation of RegioStars -the most innovative projects co-financed by EU Structural and Investment Funds – and “Open Days University and Master Class”. See the programme.

open days 1The Regional Studies Association (RSA)  and the European Commission (DG Regio) organized 4 Master Classes, including a session for more than 100 participants on Oct. 9th 2013, on the topic of ‘Leadership and Regions: Unlocking the Development Potential of communities’, chaired by Prof. Dr. Andrew Beer. Besides Prof. Beer, Dr. Terry Clower (Texas), Dr. Henrik Halkier and myself were the speakers.  This report is based on the their presentations and the discussion with the audience.

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Sense of place in a neighbourhood in Groningen: request for a master student

The Rural Sociology Group is looking for a master student who is willing to do his or her master student in the city of Groningen. In Groningen an urban working group of citizens aims to establish an ecological walking route in their neighbourhood Helpman/Wijert. This working group needs support in their process. A group of students from Larenstein has already helped them with a plan and communication.

The aim is to involve the neighbourhood in an action-based explorative research approach, gain insight in the sense of place, values and motivations of the citizens and analyse if this can lead to agency and participation in the green development of this urban area.

This project is part of the wider programme of KIGO, ‘Green education in the city’, aimed at cooperation between educational institutions to enhance green knowledge and green education in the city. This means that the plan is to combine the work of the student with complementary research and implementation activities by other students from for example AOC Terra in Groningen. For this research one or more master students in social sciences are requested. The implementation and starting date of the project is flexible and can be further discussed with the local commissioner, chairman of the Working Group and with Frans Traa, coordinator of the KIGO programme.

Interested students can contact L.G. (Ina) Horlings, Rural Sociology Group,

Internship: Regionaal voedsel rondom Arnhem: ‘lokale verkoop in kaart’

buy localEr zijn tal van sites waar boerderijwinkels zichzelf presenteren en waar verkooppunten van boeren en tuinders verzameld staan. Maar geeft dit inderdaad een accuraat beeld? Is alle huisverkoop van boeren en tuinders echt in beeld? En wat is het volume dat door directe verkoop wordt afgezet? Is dit volume gelijk aan afzet in de regio? Welke kanalen zijn te onderscheiden? Logistieke problemen?

Deze vragen kwamen voort uit een verkenning van het regionale voedselsysteem door een ACT groep voor de opdrachtgevers Architectuurcentrum CASA en de Wageningen UR Wetenschapswinkel. Lokaal voedsel is hip, maar wat al gedaan wordt in een geografisch gebied is onvoldoende in beeld; hoe krijgen we huisverkoop dat nu ‘onder de radar’ verdwijnt in beeld?

casa arnhem CASA wil samen met andere partijen voedsel als stedelijk thema agenderen om het brede publiek te informeren over de wijze waarop onze voedselvoorziening georganiseerd is. Het in kaart brengen vormt één van de manieren om tot verduurzaming te inspireren. De verzamelde data kan leiden tot een (interactieve) kaart/website (zie voor inspiratie).

De student (een duo van twee is ook mogelijk) wordt begeleid vanuit WING, de projectleider van het Wetenschapswinkel project. De student schrijft een voorstel voor de begeleidingscommissie van het project over hoe de directe verkoop binnen een geografisch gebied rondom Arnhem systematisch in kaart gebracht kan worden. En voert dit onderzoek vervolgens uit. Op de fiets de regio in? Maar dan wel volgens een methode. We zoeken hiervoor een inventieve student die mobiel en ondernemend is.

Meer informatie:

Set-up vegetable farm: Internship at PeerGroup

Set up of small-scale vegetable farm in Donderen – Province of Drenthe

Location: the headquarters of the PeerGroup, Depot Donderen. The vacated ammunition Depot Donderen was built in the time of the Cold War and is working space of the PeerGroup since January 2011. The bunker complex sits in a small forest and has several ammunition buildings of varying sizes with open space in between. The PeerGroup shares the grounds with care farm Peest. The site, with the neighbouring farms is popularly called ‘Donderboerkamp’.

Commissioner: PeerGroup, a theatrical group that specializes in site-specific theatre in the northern provinces of the Netherlands working with themes of, in and for rural communities.

STA73745The PeerGroup is looking for a student who relates to the creative energy of the artist community of PeerGroup while bringing along collaborative skills, agro-ecology knowledge and an open mind for co-creation and learning. The student will be selected on the basis of an intake on the site. The student develops a plan and makes it happen with the support of the PeerGroup. The student can live on-site during the internship.

Applications with a motivation letter:

Master thesis possiblity on Insect Food Acceptance

As the world population is growing and increasingly urbanising – the UN (2009) predicts 69% of the population to be living in cities by 2050 – the question of how to feed the world is becoming critical. Meat consumption is more and more the focal point in debates about worldwide environmental degradation, food security in developing countries and health costs in developed countries. Momentum is building around the topic of insects as alternative protein source in the Western world and in the Netherlands more in particular (see the recent article in the NY Times).

Lots of research in bio- and food technology is currently taking place on insect protein, yet, it is unclear if and how consumers will accept the various possible foods from insects. At the moment, insects are not regarded food and responses of disgust are common in the Netherlands. Disgust responses may indicate a food taboo and a deeper culturally bound rejection which may form a barrier for the acceptance of radical innovations.

The Research

This Master thesis opportunity will focus on the cultural level that informs or interferes with the acceptance of insects as food. The thesis research possibility is part of a larger interdisciplinary collaboration between the chairgroups of Rural Sociology, Management Studies and the Agricultural Economics and Rural Policy group on food culture, institutional adaptation and consumer acceptance of insect food.

The student will work within the interdisciplinary team and take part in the development of a theoretical framework. From the hypothesis formulated the student will develop a survey in order to gather empirical data on people’s willingness or rejection regarding insect food. Fieldwork will be done in various cities in the Netherlands depending time and resources.

There is space for more than one student, and for each student to do its own independent research. More information;

Thesis possibility in Zambia

International Development Enterprises (IDE), in collaboration with Wageningen University and Research Centre and the University of Zambia, will assess the gender differentiated impact of low cost drip irrigation technologies on small scale farmers in Zambia. More than 50% of these farmers are women.

As in many countries, Zambia is a male-dominated society and women can be marginalized in accessing information, technologies and natural resources. Men and women living in the same household have different roles, responsibilities, and access to resources, as well as separate incomes and expenditures. The literacy and knowledge levels also vary and lead to a differentiation in the capacity of men and women to adopt new technologies and agronomic practices.

The Research

Household case studies will be developed and employed on basis of MSc research on the impact of the introduction of small-scale irrigation technology on gender relations that was conducted in 2010. Two in depth household cases will be investigated using an exploratory questionnaire, followed by in-depth interviews. Focus group discussions (with men and women apart) on the benefits and burdens after technology adoption will be held. Through intensive contact with these farmers, the most relevant issues for the target group (female farmers) will be identified; i.e. the obstacles and problems that they face on a day to day basis.

Financial support

The project can to some extent contribute to the students’ research and travel costs.

Contact Els Hegger for more information.