In the current debate about the sustainability of global food production, many hopes are pinned on small-scale food production with an explicit orientation towards sustainability (“regenerative agriculture”). This form of agriculture is endorsed because it preserves the soil, enhances local food security and self-sufficiency, requires less inputs and less transport costs, etc. However, the current pace and extent of global environmental change will continue to pose threats to food production in any form, including this one. The PhD-project “Social learning and the climate crisis. Small-scale food production as an inspiration for a sustainable global food supply chain” is based on the premise that social learning about climate change is the key factor that determines whether small-scale food production will prove to be resilient. Social learning regarding climate change involves processes at multiple levels (the individual, the network, the supply chain). These processes and the conditions that drive them are as of yet poorly understood and the project seeks to ameliorate this situation.
The project has various ambitious goals to improve the current academic state of art. The first objective will be to systematically inventorize the current evidence and get a clearer picture of both the role of social learning in inducing resilient agricultural practices, and of the conditions that affect social learning in the face of climate disruption, building a tentative conceptual model. The second objective is to contribute fresh empirical evidence on social learning on climate-resilient agricultural practices at two levels: that of the individual farmers, and that of the networks and network organizations in which farmers operate and exchange insight in best practices. The third objective is to stimulate the exchange between small-scale regenerative food producers and large-scale food producers. Sometimes seen as antithetical, we assume that these two classes of food producers face similar challenges and can actually learn from each other. Therefore we will analyze both differences and commonalities in the way they learn about climate change and develop recommendations for both.
The PhD project is part of the “Innovating for Resilience” program at the Open Universiteit, and is a collaboration between the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Management with excellent supervisors from both Faculties. The PhD-candidate will:
- engage in supervised scientific research that will ultimately result in a doctoral thesis (systematic review, database construction, comparative analysis, and case studies);
- participate in the relevant activities of the “Innovating for Resilience” Program, the two Faculties involved in the project, the Department of Environmental Sciences and the Department of Marketing & Supply Chain Management;
- participate in the organization of scientific and practice-oriented events (workshops, conferences), in close collaboration with the supervisors;
- participate in the course program for PhD-candidates of the OU Graduate School and the National Research School SENSE;
- publish research results in the form of conference papers, contributions to peer-reviewed scientific journals, as well as through popular publications and presentations.
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