MSc Theses

Here are the profiles of some of the students I am currently supervising, and have supervised in the past.

Lisa Deijl
lisa.pngProposed thesis title:  Evidence for agroecology in policy

(Provisional) Description of  research: Since 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has organized several meetings under the title “Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition”. The scientific discipline of agroecology is relatively young and has strong ties to the peasant food sovereignty movement. In its academic form agroecology is about approaching farming systems as modified ecosystems, and from that perspective the discipline strives to develop production systems that are self-generating and resilient. Besides that, there is a branch of agroecology that works to change the food system as a whole, to better accommodate agroecological production.

The goal of this research is to describe the relationship between the practical reality of agroecology and its representation by academics at the FAO events. Agroecology as a science tends to make claims about overall societal improvement if agroecological production methods were widely adopted. My goal is to investigate how these claims are substantiated by research, and then how they are traceable in policy output.

Programme: Msc Organic Agriculture
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Flora Sonkin

floraThesis title: Municipal Goats: Exploring Agroecological Place-Shaping and Multiple Ruralities in Sierra de Guadarrama (Spain)

Description of  research: A theoretical shift towards a reconceptualization of place as a relational social construction which is plural and open allows us to move beyond an essentialist notion of space as bounded, being part of a movement to rethink how we live in relation to each other and our environment. Seeing rural space as a sphere of multiplicity opens the possibility of recognising multiple and contested trajectories in place. In the Mediterranean ecoregion, rural socio-ecological systems are facing particularly contrasting trends, namely abandonment of mountainous and less productive areas, and land-use intensification of fertile areas. However, in previous moments of economic crisis as in the current, a “back to the countryside” or “neo-rural” movement takes place in Spain. Initiatives aiming at the revitalisation of unproductive land or abandoned towns have been appearing all over the country, particularly in mountainous regions. Most recently, such kind of initiative are also being developed and fostered by what could be called agroecological municipalism.

This ethnographic research in Sierra de Guadarrama (Spain) is being developed through my participant observations as a goat herder for the Municipal Goatherd of El Boalo, part of the Red Terrae (Intermunicipal Network of Agroecological Territories). As an exploratory account, the aim of the research is to gain insight on how rural transformation is constructed through social practices that interlink rural-urban knowledge networks and social movements, sense of place and the relation with the natural environment, also giving attention to power and politics. Here the focus stems from the study of an agroecologically oriented project of a municipal goat herd, the diverse relations and contested practices that spread out from it. This is a research on multispecies assemblages. On the interplay between different power relations and social practices within an agroecological project and on its potentials and challenges for reaching its goal to promote place-based (and sustainable) rural development.

Programme: MSc International Development Studies – Rural Sociology
Status: ongoing
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Silja Heyland

DSC_1496Thesis title: Exploring Cultures and Practices of Community Supported Agriculture and Slow Food in Germany

Description of  research: Over the last two decades the food-sector in Europe has shown two contrary developments: food has become a global industrialized commodity and at the same time a variety of food networks have developed focussing on re-localization, embeddedness and value quality. The framework of industrial agriculture causes multiple problems, which have a long lasting effect on the planet and human well-being.

Key problems are perceived as: Unsustainable production methods, price dumping of commodities, requested standardized appearance of food, separation between consumers and their food, and extensive food miles. In response to these problems, diverse solidarity groups and networks developed under multiple names. Such networks, often called Alternative Food Networks (AFN), are increasingly emerging at different places around the world to build new food relations and to stimulate change at local level. Yet these groups differ in their organizational structure, in their activities and practices.

This research is focusing on two different AFNs: Slow Food Germany and Solidarische Landwirtschaft [Community Supported Agriculture in Germany]. Both have a national network and an international network. The networks understand themselves as grassroots organizations and have the overall goal to change the current food system. However, when looking at members’ level these networks have different practices and organizational settings. Through qualitative interviews and participatory observations I aim to understand how members of both networks interact and which practices they developed.

Programme: MSc Organic Agriculture – Sustainable Food Systems
Status: ongoing
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Joëlla van de Griend

joellaThesis title:  Participation of non-governmental actors in the food-policy of Ede (The Netherlands)

Description of  research: Food policy being an issue for the city-level is being acclaimed by more and more, proved by for example the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact and the number of food visions and strategies being created. This can be ascribed to the growing awareness that the issues of the foo system affect cities. One of the reasons is their dependency of food supply from outside, and the growing number of people that will live in cities in the future will make this an even more urgent matter. Besides this, cities have some unique characteristics that enable them to effectively deal with issues of the food system.

Food-policies of cities can be created in various ways. Because of the shift towards governance in the public management domain, it could be expected that non-governmental actors play a role in this food-policy making. There is no consensus on what participation of these actors means. Therefore it is relevant to understand how a municipality that is active in food policy, understands this participation. This results in insights in how these upcoming food policies are being shaped by the local government, market and society.

The municipality of Ede will be taken as a case study, to examine this issue more in-depth. Therefore the central question is how they give meaning to participation of non-governmental actors in their food-related policy making.

Programme: Master Health & Society

Status: Ongoing
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Completed MSc Theses

Josh Geuze

Foto Josh

Thesis title:  Effective strategies for civil society engagement in global food security governance

Description of  research: The world food price crisis of 2007/08 shook global food governance. Pressured to find solutions for unprecedented prices increase of led to the development of new global initiatives and the reform of old ones.  One of the most promising actions was the reform of the United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS), who transformed itself from “the most boring UN body of all” – in the words of an experienced diplomat based in Rome – to the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for food security, with substantive participation of different actors including member states, civil society and private sector.

That was 2009 and there was a general sense of urgency in addressing claims that over 1 billion people were going hungry worldwide. The reformed CFS became positioned in this debate, by giving voice to all actors, notably those most affected by food insecurity, and transitioning from an inactive talk-shop to a leading intergovernmental body. There is near unanimous agreement that the initial success of the CFS is due to the active participation of civil society actors who have organized themselves autonomously in the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM). The CSM has had many successes in shifting the terms and outcomes of the debates in the CFS. However, dealing with political global governance structures has proved itself to be promising and the extent to which civil society succeeded in successfully engaging in the CFS is varying widely.

Therefore the objective of this thesis is to understand and identify effective strategies for civil society engagement in global food security governance. On what points has the CSM been able to influence the CFS or block negative proposals and in what circumstances did the civil society not succeed in having any influence. This thesis identifies common point between civil society representatives of all constituencies, but also seeks to identify contradictions. The main focus will be to answer the question what makes civil society participation in global governance effective?

Programme: Master International Development Studies (MID)
Status: Completed
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Maria Vasile


Thesis title: Family farmers and the local government in the coproduction of sustainable City-Region Food Systems: the case of Porto Alegre, Brazil

Description of research: The development of a City-Region Food System can be grounded on a wide variety of initiatives supporting local food production and distribution. One way of differentiating these initiatives is to look at the type of state-civil society relation in which they are framed. The objective of this research is to analyse how the different modes of engagement between civil society (with a focus on family farmers) and the local government can influence the development of the City-Region Food System. The research also aims at identifying which of these linkages are more likely to foster the sustainable development of the City-Region Food System and under which conditions. The project is based on a case study in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Programme: International Masters of Rural Development (Ghent)
Status: Completed
Twitter: @MariaIda_Vasile

Picture_Franke.jpgChristine Franke

Title: The Multiplicity of Place- Constituting place through food in Galapagos

Abstract: This ethnographic account argues that Galapagos is not a static place that is solely bounded in its physical location and fixed in an image of a natural and ‘pristine’ archipelago without people and food. Instead, it argues for an understanding of place that is multiple and endless in its possibilities of enactments by social actors in and beyond place. Living with three farmer families of the rural highlands in San Cristobal, it is described how farmers relate to, produce in and enact place, which correlates to the relationships of which place is constituted of: meanings, materiality and practices. The feria, a local farmers’ market in the urban part of San Cristobal, is chosen as the analytical lens through which the constitution of place is made sense of. Within this space, farmers establish their identity of producing food for a market in Galapagos and find strategies to position their farm products against the imported commodities from the Ecuadorian mainland. Consequently, in their daily practices, farmers continuously produce and re-produce temporally and ever-changing relationships through creativity and contingency, while simultaneously an image of ‘fresh, healthy and natural’ island-based farm products is generated. Understanding this image as one of the multiple realities that co-exist, clash and overlap with others, it is argued that place is multiple and endless, and constituted through the interplay of social relationships in space.

Status: Completed
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emilydouganEmily Dougan

Thesis title: Bringing Value to Waste — How entrepreneurs are changing the ways we view and use food waste.

Abstract: The waste of edible food presents one of the most pressing issues we face in the 21st. Several entrepreneurs are innovating on ways to use surplus or wasted food, attempting to change how society views and uses it. Entrepreneurs are engaged in the valorisation of food waste or surplus to create new, marketable products, which not only save food, but create economic benefit. However, the practices these entrepreneurs use when valorising food and creating their business models are not well understood. This research applies literature on strategic niche management to the use of food waste to create new, value-added products. Strategic niche management (SNM) is used as a tool to construct and manage niche innovations in a way that helps guide them towards their full potential in replacing unsustainable practices or products. 11 innovators from food waste start-ups were interviewed, and their practices were compared to literature on strategic niche management. Barriers to their activities of start-ups were also identified. Finally, a reflection was made on the potential success of the innovations in scaling-up, and their future potential to change dominant practices around how food waste is used using literature from SNM. It was found that the respondents implement practices from SNM in their activities of valorising food waste and surplus. Specifically, respondents engaged in practices related to creating shared visions of how to use food waste and creating social networks. The use of these practices are of particular importance for future scaling-up of these innovations. However, learning practices were not as well implemented. The practices were found to be particularly useful in overcoming barriers to the valorisation of food waste, and in future scaling-up activities.

Key words: food waste, surplus, innovation, strategic niche management

Programme: MSc Management Studies

Status: Completed April 2016

Supervised with Dr. Stefano Pascucci


pictureLorenza Pasca di Magliano

Thesis title: Edible insects as radical innovation in the food landscape

Abstract: Edible insects have been studied by scientists as an alternative protein in Western countries as food and feed. The industry developed the idea by initiating the mass production of edible insects and the processing into innovative insects’ feed and food products. Furthermore, private and public stakeholders are involved in the value chain promoting entomophagy in Western countries. My research explores the innovation practices of edible insects’ rearers, edible insects’ food and feed manufacturers and facilitators by the study of case studies. The creation of an innovation picture offers reflection points on the responsibility and impact of these on the food system.

Programme: MSc Management Studies
Status: Completed April 2016
Linkedin: Lorenza Pasca di Magliano
Supervised with Dr. Stefano Pascucci
Read her thesis here: Lorenza pasca di magliano wur.


NicoleNicole van Riel

Thesis title: The impact of local food initiatives on sustainable diets. A case study: ‘Goei Eete’ in Tilburg, The Netherlands

Abstract: At this point, food has a big burden on environment and health. The food system as it is now is proven to be unsustainable. At the same time, the amount of local food initiatives is emerging. Often these initiatives are evaluated from an economic perspective, but because the initiatives are often based on volunteers, they have a low economic impact. However, little research has been done on the social perspective of such initiatives and the impact on making the food system a bit more sustainable. In this research, via a case study, one local food initiative, ‘Goei Eete’ in Tilburg, will be evaluated to determine the impact it might have on sustainable diets. ‘Goei Eete’ provides people in Tilburg with the opportunity to order food from local farmers on a website, whereupon the initiative picks up the food and brings it to central pick-up points in the city. Fifteen participants of the initiative were interviewed to identify why they participate, what meaning they bring to it and if they experience any change in knowledge, values and behavior due to participation. At the same time, participation observations were done to get a better understanding of the organizational aspects of the initiative. The results were put in the light of transition theory to get a better theoretical understanding of what is happening. It is complicated to determine if the local food initiative itself is more sustainable than the conventional food system. But all participants report some kind of change after they started participating. Also, all participants talk about the initiative with others, and the initiative shows itself on various places in the city. Taken this all together, the initiative might have an impact on perceptions of people on food and the food system, which creates room for a change towards sustainable diets.

Programme: MSC Health and Society
Status: Completed May 2015

Paola Montserrat Cetina García

Thesis title: The evolution odownload.jpgf entomophagy in the Yucatan Peninsula: a food cultures perspective

Abstract: Insect consumption has existed for a long time, it is a traditional alimentary habit that originated in the Paleolithic era (7000 years ago). Mexico is a country were insect collecting is an old practice, notable and typical of many rural areas. Many of the insects currently used have been consumed since pre-Hispanic times; there are more than 504 species of edible insects in Mexico.

Even though, entomophagy remains as something traditional in most of the country there are some regions, like the Yucatan Peninsula, were this practice has been abandoned. Considering the fact that insects have recently become a worldwide topic as a possibility of fighting food insecurity, this research focuses in the importance to understand why people in a country that has traditionally consumed insects for many centuries have ceased this activity.

Programme: MSc Food Technology; specialization in molecular gastronomy
Status: Completed August 2015


Florian.jpgFlorian Neubauer

Thesis title: New Opportunities and New Constraints: Understanding Changes in Land Tenure Livelihoods among the Pastoral Maasai in Southern Kenya

Abstract: Maasai livelihoods in southern Kenya are influenced and shaped by various recent developments and trends, first and foremost an increased privatization, commercialization and individualization of formerly communally held land. Analyzing Maasai households with qualitative and ethnographic research methods, this paper aims to address the question how changes in land tenure shape the pastoral livelihoods of Maasai. Access to land respectively pastures and food (in)security are hereby assumed to be crucial elements of pastoral livelihoods.

Keywords: land tenure, livelihood, household, actor-oriented approach, food (in)security, Kenya, Maasai
Programme: MSc International Development
Status: Completed December 2014


aaeaaqaaaaaaaav4aaaajdiwmtezmdhkltlmntktngu2zc1hodfmltu5n2fhowrhy2ewmaLara Sibbing

Thesis title: “Two times more with two times less”: Framing and reframing of Global Food Security at Wageningen UR

Abstract: Wageningen University & Research Centre (Wageningen UR) is one of the world’s leading education and research institutes in the area of life sciences, agriculture and food. One of the core areas of Wageningen UR focuses on food and Global Food Security (GFS). Today, food security is a term used for a broad issue, which is widely used in a broad variety of discursive contexts. The current debate on GFS is multidimensional and complex. At the present moment, no consensus of how to achieve it exists. GFS can hence be called a ‘consensus frame’. The way Wageningen UR currently frames GFS internally as well as externally determines the measures it perceives as necessary to achieve it. This framing may limit Wageningen UR’s ability to take advantage of the full range of solutions available. Not only can this existing frame limit solutions, but these solutions may not adequately address the key elements of GFS. The aim of this thesis was to investigate if Wageningen UR’s GFS framing adequately addresses GFS.

The theoretical framework of this thesis is framing theory. Framing elucidates how something is presented and the influence this has on people. An inductive frame package analysis was conducted, using four data sources: Wageningen UR’s website, speeches of- and interviews with members of Wageningen UR’s Executive Board, interviews with key informants and MSc and BSc course descriptions from Wageningen UR’s study handbook 2013-2014.

Wageningen UR’s main frame accentuates GFS as a future challenge; A challenge of increasing primary production of adequate and sustainable land-based food. A challenge, which emphasizes science and technology, focusing primarily on the ‘smaller level’ of products, organisms, cells and molecules in the natural sciences. However, both literature and interviews indicate that there is more than merely increasing the primary production of food and the production efficiency when addressing issues of GFS. Reframing is hence important. Grasping and defining what this more is however, is illusive, given the large variety in opinions.

There is great opportunity to include and emphasize additional topics in the Wageningen UR main frame. The existing overarching theme is twofold: the socio-cultural and the agroecological aspects of GFS. Finally, four aspects important for operationalizing a (new) frame at Wageningen UR have been identified: collaboration and integration between disciplines, a stronger sociocratic approach, a stronger focus on qualitative research and methodological pluralism, and enhanced collaboration with society.

Keywords: Global Food Security, Frame, Frame analysis, Reframing, Wageningen UR

Programme: MSc Organic Agriculture programme; secialisation, Agroecology
Status: Completed October 2014
Supervised with Professor Arjan Wals

Laura Cerrato

Laura.jpgThesis title: The Role of Civil Society Organizations and System Relationships Surrounding Participatory Organic Nutrient Waste Cycling: A case study exploration of De Zuiderhof’s community composting initiative in Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Abstract: In Europe, 75% of the population is urban which requires cities to be large importers of food also creating large amounts of organic waste. Civil society organizations (CSOs) have been a key player in addressing and alleviating issues that have stemmed from increased urbanization within the food system. However, the majority of these initiatives do not address the potential in organic nutrient waste cycling to increase sustainability in urban food systems. Organic waste management is instead treated by centralized large scale technocratic regimes which remove the participant connection to waste and also the potential to cycle nutrients. Therefore, the objective of this research is: to determine opportunities and barriers for CSOs to increase the development and adoption of holistic and participatory forms of organic waste management involving urban agriculture at the community level where there is an existing technocratic waste regime.

In order to accomplish the research objective a case study has been conducted in the De Zuiderhof allotment garden complex located in Rotterdam, NL which has a community composting initiative: Compoststraat. The theoretical framework used to conduct this exploration are systems thinking and agroecology. These theories embrace the complexities found in this urban community and help to identify its place within the supra-systems in the surrounding environment. Qualitative methods of data collection include semistructured interviews, field observation and document analysis. Findings of this research have been evaluated based on multiple system levels. CSOs should recognize the level of engagement necessary for successful implementation (as educator, organizer, motivator and moderator). The CSO must also act as a communication link between system levels (different scales of government, other CSOs and stakeholders). This provides the opportunity to not only create platforms of knowledge and resources, but also contributes variety which helps address and relate to issues concerning social, economic and environmental sustainability.

Keywords: Urban organic waste, Nutrient waste cycling, Civil society organizations, Agroecology, Participatory waste cycling

Programme: MSc International Development; Agroecology Master Thesis, Department of Plant Science (IPV), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

Status: Completed August 2014