Organisation - September 29, 2015

New director wants to make sustainable development more concrete

Albert Sikkema

On the 1st of November Hedwig Bruggeman will start as the new director of the Centre of Development Innovation (CDI) of Wageningen UR. She knows the agriculture and development field well because in the last ten years she was director of AgriProFocus. She wants to see concrete results.

When Hedwig Bruggeman arrived in the Netherlands ten years ago, after spending 25 years working for development projects in Africa,  agriculture did not have a high priority in Dutch development policies. Education and healthcare were more important than nourishment. That is why the agriculture and development organizations set up the AgriProFocus club, to support entrepreneurship of small scale farmers in the tropics. In the past 10 years Bruggeman was manager of this network group. She knows the field of the CDI well. In fact, in the past years she regularly worked together with the CDI and other sectors of the Wageningen UR.

How does she assess the sixty employees working of the development unit of the Wageningen UR? She thinks the profile of CDI is currently not vivid enough. ‘The CDI needs to make choices. It is not a consultancy bureau, it has the vision to stimulate sustainable developments. And it has to name its strengths more clearly. For example, the centrum is strong in multi-stakeholder-processes, how to bring links together to solve problems. The CDI knows well how to supervise such a process, and which buttons need to be pushed. The skill of change is one of their strengths.’

She now wants to manage that. ‘I could have spent five more years managing the AgriProFocus, the work is very diverse, but I am ambitious. Now I can manage a bigger club, as part of a reputable university.’ She has been warned; Wageningen UR is a big organization with many internal processes. ‘I do not want to get trapped in that. I do not want to constantly be stuck in meetings, I enjoy working with people that take on the same responsibilities. But for that, the responsibilities need to be clear. I am good at bringing in assignments, I can sell the business, that is what I stand for.’

Bruggeman also wants to inform the global food systems. ‘We can make more connections between here and there. Here we are reducing the last five thousand pig farmers. Which developments in other countries are related to this? We need to know which Wageningen innovations can make a difference in the world, but we can also learn from innovations in other places. In Africa you can draw cash using your mobile phone, you no longer need a bank. This also effects the farmers there. And to feed the Chinese cities the internet company Alibaba arranged shorter trade channels between farmers on the Chinese countryside and the citizens. We and also the farmers in Africa can learn something from this. We must make the sustainable developments more concrete.’