At the end of this week a colourful collection of activist groups on food will meet in Wageningen on the Voedsel Anders (Food Otherwise) conference. Coordinator Jildou Friso of the Wageningen student organization OtherWise is organizing a part of the available workshops. What are their favourite themes?
Photo: The first Voedsel Anders conference two years ago in Orion
The Voedsel Anders conference, which will take place on the 12 and 13 February on Wageningen campus, wants to promote fair and sustainable food systems. During more than sixty workshops, attention is given to agricultural systems from ecological principles (agro-ecology), on land rights, on local food networks and on fair trade. Most of the presenters, such as the former UN rapporteur Olivier De Schutter and sociology professor Jan Douwe van der Ploeg, have strong criticism on the conventional intensive and industrial agricultural system. This needs to change, the organization of the conference thinks.
Jildou Friso from OtherWise who cooperated in the offered workshop. What are her favourite themes?
‘First the theme on food waste. There are many nice initiatives on combating food waste, for example on the campus and in hospitals. But there are also groups such as Humble Harvest that go to farmers and gardeners to pick up the surplus, they sell the products on the food market and return the revenue to the producers. And the Food Surplus Entrepreneurs Network makes the reduction of waste a sport. We want to gather and connect the initiatives in the workshops.’
‘My second theme is access to land. And with that I am not only talking about the small farmers in developing countries that are thrown off their land. Also in the Netherlands it is an issue, if you want to cultivate food or keep cows, if you have no family with land from whom you can take over the business. You quickly need a large initial capital to be able to take over a company. How can you start as young farmer from nothing with a few hectares, without money? The association Toekomstboeren (Future farmers) addresses this issue by matching land seekers to senior farmers. You can also think of community supported agriculture, in which you invest in a farmer, in exchange for fresh vegetables and a payment if the vegetables are sold.’
‘The accessibility of land also plays a role for sheep herds. We invited shepherds to the conference that also want access to land, in the form of payed assignments for nature conservation. They are seeking nature organizations that allow their herds to graze, in combination with meat production. Also here we want to bring various initiatives – also fishermen and farmers will come – together that form an alternative for customary agriculture. The participants want to learn from each other and maybe together they can also influence the food policies.’
The conference takes two days. More than five hundred people have signed up for both days, there is space for seven hundred participants. A ticket costs 25 euro per day, students pay half. The Wageningen rector magnificus Arthur Mol will open the Voedsel Anders conference.