Seeking synergy with social sciences

One of the great challenges in agricultural research is to design approaches that are effective in creating knowledge that is usable by farmers, either in the developed world or in the emerging economies. Approaches that have been designed to enhance this effectiveness include participatory approaches, co-creation of knowledge, action research, and trans-disciplinary approaches. They have in common that they involve scientists from very different disciplines. CSA wants to play its part in developing and applying these approaches and therefore seeks synergy with the social sciences. Within the theme there is some focus on genotype x physical environment x society interactions and seed systems.

Thesis subjects

Responsible innovation in the potato sector

Description:

The Dutch start-up company Solynta has developed a diploid potato capable of hybrid breeding which may resolve serious limitations of conventional potato-breeding and allow the rapid development of new potato varieties attuned to specific local or regional needs. However, this innovation will require new seed tuber production and cropping systems, involving a radical socio-technical transition which may have disruptive and controversial impacts on the sector. CSA is involved in a research programme aimed to guide this transition in a societally responsible way by involving relevant stakeholders from the sector, civil society, government and knowledge institutions in a dialogue focusing on various options for valorisation. The main research question of this programme is: How to create optimal conditions for a responsible development of hybrid potato breeding in ways that benefit the productivity, sustainability and diversity of the current potato production system. Historically, the development of hybrid breeding has been part of a comprehensive socio-technical transition of agriculture that can be characterized as the global emergence of agro-industrial production chains. This development has led to a strongly polarized debate about the merits and impacts of industrialized agricultural production. In the context of this debate, the new hybrid breeding technology raises important questions about its implications for the potato production system in the Netherlands and on a global level.

Types of research:

Within this programme there is room for participation of MSc students in field experiments in which different types of material will be evaluated (either in the Netherlands or abroad) but also for participation in analyses of the potato value chain and in analyses of impact of technology development as well as for involvement in research questions regarding responsible innovation.

Location:

The Netherlands or abroad

Contact:

For detailed information on potential thesis subjects contact Paul Struik (paul.struik@wur.nl)

Exploring opportunities for sustainable intensification and diversification of rice-based farming systems in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa

Description:

This study aims to understand crop and farm intensification and diversification in the great lakes region of central Africa as a major avenue to improving farmers’ livelihoods and will evaluate the potential of other staple crops (e.g. potatoes and sweet potatoes), pulses and vegetables as diversification options in rice-based farming systems. An extended introduction to the topic is available, following give insight in the work that is requested. In principle this is intended as Internship with AfricaRice but options for making this into a thesis can be discussed.

Given the political stability in the region not all sites are possible for Wageningen students, the most likely is Rwanda. Congo is not okay at present and will be covered in another way.

Objective:

The objectives of this study are to (i) characterize rice-based farming systems, (ii) identify constraints to rice production and use of wetlands, and (iii) explore opportunities for improving farmers’ food, income and nutrition security as well as environmental sustainability of wetlands through sustainable intensification and diversification.

Methodology:

The study will characterize current rice-based farming systems with multi-dimensional sustainability indicators consisting of domains of productivity, economic sustainability, environment sustainability, and human wellbeing, and social sustainability, and explore trade-offs and synergies for these five domains among different types of current rice-based farming systems. Indicators to be used will be jointly designed among students and staff involving in this project from different institutes (see below) based on Smith et al. (2016). Minimum common indicators will be determined for all the target countries for cross-country analyses.

Specific activities will include expert consultation, surveys and stakeholder workshops to collect bio-physical, socio-economic and nutritional information on rice-based farming systems, assess resource allocation patterns, and measure socioeconomic and environmental sustainability, as well as and human wellbeing. Collected information will be used for situation and scenario analyses to identify opportunities.

Locations:

One or two sites each in Burundi, Eastern part of DR Congo, and Rwanda

Study period:

Up to 3 months, starting from Sept-Oct 2017.

Involved institutes and institutional set-up:

AfricaRice, CIP, IITA, IRRI, Wageningen University, WorldVeg under the CGIAR Research Programs on RICE and Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

Contact:

Tjeerd jan Stomph (tjeerdjan.stomph@wur.nl)