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)

Forages seed systems study

Description:

CIAT’s Tropical Forages Program has been introducing diverse forages in South East Asia since more than two decades, aiming at providing a valuable source of livestock feed, help smallholder farmers improve meat and milk production and raise rural incomes. More than 500 forage species were tested in participatory forage trials, and selected species were multiplied by farmers. Forages technologies have spread beyond the original research sites, and it is not uncommon to spot them in farmer’s fields and government or NGOs owned demonstration plots in areas far away from any of the forages project locations.

The informal exchange of planting materials has been scarcely documented. On the other hand, more widespread adoption of appropriate forage seeds could be assured by having an updated picture of the actors and mechanisms involved in forage seed systems (markets, social networks). The objective of this study - ideally a MSc. thesis - will be to identify the multiple mechanisms facilitating and barriers hindering the delivery of quality forage seeds to smallholder farmers in Vietnam, and propose interventions for improvement. Forage seed systems, especially those attending smallholder demand, have be less studies compared to other crops.

This work will be supported by the Feeds and Forages flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock.

Methods:

Data collection through surveys and key informant interviews in the field with different stakeholders along the seed value chain, including informal production, exchange and markets (2-3 months). Data analysis using both qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Qualifications and skills required:

·       BSc in Agriculture or Food systems research

·       Strong analytical and problem-solving skills

·       Capacity to work independently in remote areas

·       Willingness to travel and to spend time in the field

·       Ability to work in interdisciplinary and international team

·       Good communication and networking skills

·       Excellent written and spoken English

We offer:

·       A stimulating work environment

·       Research support from a diverse team

·       Support for local travel and field work

·       Pairing with SE Asian students to overcome language barriers

Location:

International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Hanoi, Vietnam

Period:

6 months, starting a.s.a.p. but no later than September 2019

Contact:

Tjeerd Jan Stomph (tjeerdjan.stomph@wur.nl) or Paul Struik (paul.struik@wur.nl)