SOW-VU succeeded by the Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies2 January 2018
Since January 2017, SOW-VU officially no longer exists as separate entity. Instead, the VU has founded a new research institute: the Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies (ACWFS). The Centre is located at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and brings together researchers from various disciplines, including the former staff members of SOW-VU, who conduct research in food and nutrition security. Information about the activities and organizational structure of ACWFS can be found at its website acwfs.vu.nl.
The former staff of SOW-VU thanks the Executive Board of the VU, in particular former Rector Magnificus Professor Frank van der Duyn Schouten, for making this transition possible. The School of Business and Economics and the Faculty of Science are greatly acknowledged for overall support and integrating SOW-VU staff members in their ranks. We also thank the Board Members of SOW-VU, in particular the Chair, Professor Rudy Rabbinge, for all the efforts made in this process.This website will cease to exist in December 2018. You may contact the management team of ACWFS at email@example.com for further information.
Ben Sonneveld wins an NWO Grant from the Food & Business Global Challenges Programme25 February 2016
Ben Sonneveld wins an NWO Grant from the Food & Business Global Challenges Programme, 2015, with the Fast Track Research proposal ‘Enhancing urban food security through development of allotment gardens in and around the cities of Benin’.
Food insecurity of the urban poor constitutes a serious challenge in rapidly urbanizing Sub-Sahara Africa, and for Benin in particular; 45 per cent of its population lives in fast growing cities, where the poorer segments, especially female-headed households, lack access to healthy foods. A research consortium with local counterparts Centre d’Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable and the University of Abomey - Calavi, and the VU as lead agency aims to address these concerns by creating an integrated framework for allotment garden development. The gardens should provide the urban poor access to fresh foods and some additional income. A site selection tool will optimize the allocation of the urban gardens, accounting for water availability, fertile soils, vicinity to markets and safety guarantees for women, the gardens’ principal custodians. Jointly with urban associations a trans-disciplinary study will assess the appropriate organizational and incentive structures for successful cooperative garden management. Comparing survey results of two pilots with a baseline study will reveal the impact of allotment gardens on the food security of the urban poor.
The picture shows women harvesting leafy greens in Kalale-Benin. Credits: ICRISAT / Photo by Dov Pasternak.
Towards concerted sharing in the Jordan River Basin10 November 2015
Last month, the project `Towards concerted sharing: development of a regional water economy model in the Jordan River Basin' organized in Jordan the 4th workshop of this calendar year to discuss the progress of activities with all partners.
The workshop (October 21-22) was held near the Dead Sea with participation of three SOW-VU researchers along with 2 participants from each partner institution viz.: the American University of Beirut, Lebanon; the Al Quds University, Palestine Territories and the Jordan University of Science and Technology, Irbid, Jordan. On the first day, SOW-VU staff members presented the current state of the regional water flow model and its balances. Feedback from the partners is currently being processed. On the second day, the collection of economic data was addressed. Missing information was identified and partners agreed to fill the gaps before November 15, 2015.
Prior to the workshop, the team participated in the SIDA session (October 20) at the Water and Development Congress of the International Water Association. Team members presented the concerted sharing project showing an overview of project rationale and objectives, as well as two case studies: one on the refugee related pressure on water resources in the Mafraq Governorate in Jordan, the other on the potential for water reuse on the West Bank.
The Regional Project `Towards concerted sharing: development of a regional water economy model in the Jordan River Basin’ is an agreement between SOW-VU and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the principal sponsor of the project. The participating institutes are: American University of Beirut (AUB), Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), Al-Quds University (AQU) and Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD).
For more information on the project visit its website here.
Improving the resilience of the inland fishery in Benin: Training the enumerators3 November 2015
The Project ‘Improving resilience of inland fisher communities and aquatic systems to overfishing and water resource degradation in Benin’ (IRIF), organized on 3 October, 2015 a training for 20 enumerators at the ACED premises, Cotonou. Enumerators with university backgrounds in agricultural sciences and aquatic resource management will conduct a survey among a thousand members of fishery communities located around Lake Nokoué and the Porto Novo lagoon. SOW-VU designed the questionnaires and the program that automatizes data storage. A final version of the questionnaire was completed after feedback from local partners during the test phase was processed. The questionnaires were designed separately for fishermen and women active in the fishery communities and for community leaders. The questionnaires will reveal the functioning of prevailing institutions among fisher communities concerning the use and sharing of water resources. Questions cover an inventory of main constraints for a sustainable development of the inland fishery sector, which is increasingly confronted with higher stress levels due to a growing population, pollution from urban areas and changing climatic conditions. The project studies and tests whether current regulations among fishery communities are sufficiently resilient to cope with the new challenges or that policy interventions at a higher level are required.
The project is funded by the Food & Business Applied Research Fund of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and implemented in partnership with Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable (ACED), the Centre for World Food Studies of the VU University Amsterdam (SOW-VU) and the Laboratory of Hydrobiology and Aquaculture of the University of Abomey-Calavi (LHA-UAC). Principal Investigator of the SOW-VU is Ben Sonneveld.
FoodFirst conference ‘The Future of Farming and Food Security in Africa’24 June 2015
On June 22, Lia van Wesenbeeck participated in the FoodFirst conference ‘The Future of Farming and Food Security in Africa’ at the Rabobank’s head office in Utrecht. The conference was organized by the Rabobank Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, Wageningen UR, Cordaid and Socires. The issues discussed at the conference were: How to make African smallholders more efficient: farming, food and finance? How to invest in food security in post conflict regions and fragile states? How to provide careers for young men and women in the agro-food sector?
Her Majesty Queen Máxima of The Netherlands visited the conference as the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development. Participants were mainly African students who are enrolled in various Dutch agricultural training courses. Keynote speakers at the conference were Mr. José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, Ms. Sharon Dijksma, State Secretary Agricultural Affairs of the Netherlands, and Dr. Akinwuma Adesina, former Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria.
Lia van Wesenbeeck was one of the speakers on the ‘Afternoon Talk Show’. The topic of her presentation was: farming and food security in fragile states and post conflict situations.
Videos of the keynote presentations are available on the the conference page.
The picture shows HM Queen Máxima, presenter Andrew Makkinga, and VIP-students © Irene Vijfvinkel / Rabobank.
Kick-off workshop ARF/NWO inland fishery project21 May 2015
The Project ‘Improving resilience of inland fisher communities and aquatic systems to overfishing and water resource degradation in Benin’ held its kick-off meeting from 15 to April 17, in Cotonou, Benin. Members of the projects’ research consortium, Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable (ACED), the Laboratory of Hydrobiology and Aquaculture of the University of Abomey-Calavi and the Centre for World Food Studies of the VU University Amsterdam (SOW-VU) presented the project objectives and the working plans for the coming three years. Principal Investigator Ben Sonneveld (SOW-VU) presented the project approach that integrates knowledge of local institutions with biophysical assessments on fish production to analyze constraints and possibilities of the inland fishery sector. The project is sponsored by the Food & Business Applied Research Fund of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
The kick-off enjoyed the company of representatives of various fishery communities, the Department of Fisheries, the Ministry of Agriculture, and various NGO’s. The kick-off workshop was formally opened by the Ambassador of the Netherlands, Mr Jos van Aggelen. In the afternoon there was ample room for discussions between stakeholders that resulted in valuable suggestions for the projects’ working program.
For an impression of the workshop on Youtube, click here
Are we confusing poverty with preferences?13 May 2015
The paper “Are we confusing poverty with preferences?” by Bart van den Boom and Alex Halsema (SOW-VU) and Vasco Molini (World Bank) was published in the Policy Research Working Paper series of the World Bank, see WPS7247. The paper investigates the popular idea that modifications of the national poverty line to the context of observed consumption patterns of the poor would be more consistent with their preferences. The paper provides theoretical and empirical evidence that the contrary holds and that the national poverty line is more appropriate for comparing living standards among the poor, at least under prevailing conditions in Mozambique and Ghana. The problem lies in the risk of downscaling the burden associated with cheap-calorie diets and the low nonfood component of the rural poor. The paper illustrates how observed behavior may neither reveal preferences nor detect heterogeneous preferences among the poor. Rather, the consumption pattern is the upshot of the poverty condition itself. Poverty is confused with preferences if observed cheap-calorie diets are seen as a matter of taste, whereas in fact they reflect a lack of means to consume a preferred diet of higher quality, as food Engel curve estimates indicate. Likewise, a smaller nonfood component is not a matter of a particular distaste, but an adaptation to the fact that various nonfood items (such as transport) and basic services (such as electricity and health) are simply absent in rural areas.
Food for thought on the complexity of soil chemistry8 April 2015
A new report of Roelf Voortman (SOW-VU) and Prem Bindraban (VFRC) has been published by the Virtual Fertilizer Research Center (VFRC) under the title ‘Beyond N and P: Toward a Land Resource Ecology Perspective and Impactful Fertilizer Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa’.
The often disappointing yield impact of N and P fertilizers in Sub-Saharan Africa is frequently attributed to low soil fertility. The report starts with dismantling this common myth by showing that Sub-Saharan soils are not systematically very acid and low in P, N and Total Exchangeable Bases, while P-sorbing properties and Al toxicity are not of common occurrence. In fact, African soils are far more fertile than for instance the Brazilian Cerrados.
Therefore, there is good reason to argue that essential plant nutrients other than N and P, are deficient and that alternative fertilizers, when finely tuned to local soil chemical properties, can be effective in raising crop yield. Consequently, the report uses a land resource ecology perspective to determine which factors govern the ecological diversity of soils and vegetation and their spatial patterns, obviously with soil chemical properties at the center stage. Hereto, the report presents results of trials with multiple nutrients and construes initial indications for the existence of complex nutrient relations under field conditions.
Workshops of the Jordan River Basin project in Beirut and Irbid18 March 2015
In February and March, the project “Towards concerted sharing: development of a regional water economy model in the Jordan River Basin” organized workshops in Lebanon (Beirut, February 23 – 27) and Jordan (Irbid, March 1 – 5).
The project, sponsored by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, brings natural resource specialists and economists together to improve their understanding of the water economy and cross border related water problems in the Jordan River Basin. Jointly, partners will develop a spatially explicit model with water as focal commodity.
The workshops were moderated by Ben Sonneveld and Wim van Veen on behalf of SOW-VU. Partners of the American University of Beirut and the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands participated in the Beirut workshop; partners of the Jordan University of Science and Technology and the Palestine Al-Quds University came together in Irbid.
The workshops focused on a review of the model’s empirical basis. Discussions were held on organization and harmonization of data compiled from various sources. Water balances prepared by SOW-VU showed availability and use of water in the Jordan River Basin and their distribution across districts and seasons. Technically, the data organization is implemented via a central program in GAMS that was shared with all partners, capitalizing on earlier GAMS-training sessions of the project.
The next workshop is scheduled for June, when the calibration of the water flow component of the model will be addressed.
The stabilization of supplies and prices on Indonesia’s food markets: a tailor-made training17 February 2015
From January 19th to February 6th a group of 16 researchers from the Indonesia Ministry of Trade participated in a 3 week tailor-made training at SOW-VU, in collaboration with CIS-VU and sponsored by NUFFIC-NESO Indonesia. Most participants were commodity specialists at the Trade Policy Analysis and Development Agency (TRECYDA) responsible for advising the Minister on the stabilization of supplies and prices of the 10 basic foods across the archipelago. The training included theoretical lectures and hands-on workshops on a range of topics, including the role of the various private actors in the determination of the price margins in the food value chain (farmers, processors, traders, consumers) and the impact of the domestic and international trade policies. Trainees were also taught how to construct a comprehensive data base for the monthly food prices, link these to the international prices and display price patterns on a map of the 33 provinces. The course further included guest lectures by the Common Fund for Commodities and study visits to the Port Authority and the CARGILL palm oil processing plant in Rotterdam and to Rabobank International, Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory in Utrecht. During the closing day the Head of TRECYDA and the Director General of Domestic Trade came over for a monitoring visit and for discussing further collaboration in capacity building and research into Indonesia’s food markets.
SOW-VU receives ARF/NWO grant for inland fishery project29 January 2015
The project ‘Improving the resilience of the inland fisher communities and aquatic systems to overfishing and water resource degradation in Benin’, has been awarded a research grant from the Food & Business Applied Research Fund of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The research consortium formed by the Centre for World Food Studies of the VU University Amsterdam (SOW-VU) and Beninese partners Actions pour l’Environnement et le Développement Durable (ACED) and the Laboratory of Hydrobiology and Aquaculture of the University of Abomey-Calavi will conduct the research program for a period of three years. The kick-off workshop is planned in the first half of April. Dr. Ben Sonneveld will be the focal point and principal investigator of SOW-VU. ACED is the lead agency.
The project explores the vulnerability of coastal inland fishing communities to increasing pressures on water resources caused by fast growing population, pollution from urban areas and changing climatic conditions. The project studies the functioning of prevailing institutions among fishermen and tests if regulations are sufficiently resilient to cope with the new challenges. Special attention is paid to women’s access to fish processing technologies that contributes to income and increases food security. See also NWO's news page.
Consortium coordination meeting of the ’Building on Fertile Ground’ project in Burundi12 November 2014
On 4 November a coordination meeting was held for the project ‘Building on Fertile Ground’ at the ZOA premises in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands. The project is funded by NWO (the Dutch National Science Foundation) and is under implementation since March 2014 in the Mabanda and Vugizo districts of the Southern Makanda province of Burundi. The project is coordinated by ZOA, a Dutch relief and development NGO, with a representative in Bujumbura. Other participants in the consortium are Alterra (Wageningen), Agrifirm (a Dutch private company), SOW-VU (Amsterdam), and the Faculty of Agronomic Sciences of the University of Burundi, with further involvement of various local experts and students.
Burundi is a densely populated country, a fact that by itself requires high crop yields to sustain the population with sufficient food. On top of that currently many refugees, who fled to neighboring countries during the period of civil unrest, return from abroad. They often find their holdings occupied by the people who remained. The only way to solve the emanating problems is to further raise crop yields, also on less favorable soils.
The objective of the project is to develop input technologies that are effective under the different agro-ecological conditions (climate and soil). SOW-VU (Roelf Voortman) has the lead in developing the methodology for the agro-ecological zoning and advices on how to improve soil fertility and on the use of impactful fertilizer inputs. The other partners supervise and conduct the field activities. Initially, the project struggled to import particular fertilizer types, but these logistical problems have been solved by now, witness the picture showing one of the field trial sites where people apply inorganic fertilizer, manure and compost.
Commodity market review to contribute to Indonesian trade policy31 October 2014
The Trade Policy Analysis and Development Agency of the Ministry of Trade (TRECYDA-MOT) of the Republic of Indonesia has asked CIS-VU and SOW-VU to provide a tailor-made-training to strengthen its research and advisory capacity, with a focus on the supply-demand and price of basic foods like rice, sugar, chili, palm oil, soybean and meat. TRECYDA-MOT is in a process of transformation, in response to the complex issues and the rapidly changing domestic and international trade patterns. The ability to keep up with the current condition is a big challenge for TRECYDA-MOT, especially in view of the increasing demand for commodity market reviews, the limited number of researchers (11) and the shift from long-term trade policy analysis to more medium-term and short-term issues. From 13-17 October 2014, a team of CIS-VU (Mike Cantrell) and SOW-VU (Bart van den Boom) visited TRECYDA-MOT to assess the priorities and needs jointly with TRECYDA’s management (the director Mrs. Tjahya Widayanti and her deputy Mr. Frank Kandou). A program was designed for a 3 weeks follow-up training at the VU University early 2015 for which 16 out of 27 applicants were selected.
ClimAfrica project final meeting17 September 2014
The EU-sponsored Project “ClimAfrica” held its final annual meeting on September 6 and 7, 2014, in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. This meeting was preceded by a stakeholders’ meeting on September 5th. SOW-VU is one of the 18 institutes participating in this project, which aims at improving climate change predictions for the African continent and assessing the impact of climate change on vulnerable groups. At the annual meeting, Lia van Wesenbeeck presented the results from a spatially explicit model describing permeation of local climatic shocks through the use of social networks and other coping mechanisms.
Workshop Jordan River Basin project1 September 2014
From August 18th onwards, SOW-VU hosted a two-week workshop in the framework of the project “Towards concerted sharing : development of a regional water economy model in the Jordan River Basin”. In this project, water and natural resource specialists and economists work together in order to improve their understanding of the water economy and water-related problems in the Jordan River Basin, both locally and across borders. Together, they will develop a spatially explicit regional model with water as focal commodity.
Apart from SOW-VU staff, scientists of the Jordan University of Science and Technology, the Al Quds University, the American University of Beirut and one participant representing the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands took part in the Amsterdam workshop. The workshop focused on establishing a spatial and temporal data platform for organizing and harmonizing quantitative information from various sources. At the same time, the participants were acquainted with SOW-VU’s dedicated software for processing and analyzing spatial data sets (the GRCP software) and familiarized themselves in data organization using GAMS, while former SOW-VU director professor Michiel Keyzer gave a series of lectures on the specification of the water economy model. Ben Sonneveld of SOW-VU coordinated the workshop.
Analysis of Policy Coherence for Ghana18 August 2014
The final report of the Policy Coherence Study for Ghana, conducted in the period May 2013 – March 2014, has been published by IOB (Policy and Operations Evaluation Department of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) under the title of Autonomy, partnership and beyond. The study is co-authored by a team from SOW-VU (Lia van Wesenbeeck, Bart van den Boom, Wim van Veen), a team of Ghanaian researchers (Amoah Baah-Nuakoh, Kwadwo Tutu, Daniel Sarpong) and IOB evaluator Antonie de Kemp. It discusses Ghana’s recent economic development and addresses the coherence of domestic and foreign policies in terms of their impact on growth and distribution in the country. In particular, the study relies on counterfactual analysis to reach conclusions on the likely impact of (in)coherence of EU and/or Dutch aid and non-aid policies. In this analysis, qualitative information has been combined with quantitative outcomes from model simulations over the period 2006-2011. The study concludes that – with the exception of EU migration policy – negative effects of incoherence are generally limited, but that at the same time development partners’ non-aid policies have only limited bearing on the challenges that Ghana is currently facing. The full report with accompanying newsletters is available on the website of IOB. The main report can also be downloaded here.
Royal honor for Michiel Keyzer1 July 2014
On 27 June, after his farewell lecture, Michiel Keyzer was awarded a royal distinction (Officier in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau) presented by the deputy mayor of Amstelveen. Professor Keyzer received the honor "for the extraordinary achievements in his scientific career", "his active participation in national and international policy discussions on poverty alleviation and food security", "the benefits for society at large in a considerable number of countries" and "the vision and personal engagement over a period of more than forty years that made all these results possible". Click here for the news page of the city of Amstelveen (in Dutch).
Farewell lecture Michiel Keyzer1 July 2014
Last Friday 27 June, Michiel Keyzer delivered his farewell lecture "De honger in de wereld, kun je daar wel veel aan doen? (World hunger, can one do much about it?)". The lecture in Dutch can be found here. For the English translation click here.
Seminar for Michiel Keyzer1 July 2014
Before Michiel Keyzer delivered his farewell lecture, SOW-VU organized a Seminar in his honour. The Seminar "Development in theory and practice" was attended by some sixty people from various institutes from the Netherlands and abroad. The program of the Seminar can be found here.
Farewell lecture by Michiel Keyzer10 June 2014
On 27 June at 15.45 hours Michiel Keyzer will deliver his farewell lecture (in Dutch) on the occasion of his retirement as Professor of Mathematical Economics and as Director of SOW-VU. The title is “De honger in de wereld, kun je daar wel veel aan doen? Interventiemechanismen en beleidsruimte in de voedselvoorziening (World hunger, can one do much about it? Intervention mechanisms and margin for maneuver in seeking food security)”. Click here for the official Invitation and here for a synopsis in English. A written translation of the speech in English will be made available at the beginning of the lecture. The venue is the Aula of the VU University. Drinks are served after the lecture.
Matching China’s agricultural supply and demand data12 January 2014
At the annual conference of the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA), January 3-5 in Philadelphia, Wim van Veen presented the paper ‘Matching China’s agricultural supply and demand data’ in a session organized by the Chinese Economic Society. This paper, a product of joint research of SOW-VU and the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP) in Beijing, investigates the quality of the official grain and meat statistics of China for the period 2000-2012. On the basis of literature reviews and mutual consistency checks, the paper concludes that the official output figures of meat are still considerably overestimated, in spite of recent downward adjustments by the National Bureau of Statistics of China. For grains, supply and demand data have long been compatible but in recent years supply of rice and wheat is growing significantly faster than demand. On the presumption that the supply side is correct, either the decline in human consumption of these staple foods must be overestimated or the share of output used as animal feed must have become larger than one generally assumes. The conference presentation can be found here.
Seminar Coherence of Donor Policies, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra10 December 2013
On December 5th the Policy and Operations Evaluation Department of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (IOB) organized the seminar “Coherence of Donor Policies” in Legon, Ghana (click here for seminar document). The seminar was hosted by the University of Ghana and the audience consisted of Ghanaian policy makers, Members of Parliament, representatives of civil society and development partners. A team of researchers from the University of Ghana and from SOW-VU presented findings of a study on the question whether aid, trade, tax and migration policies of donors are in line with development objectives for Ghana, both qualitative and quantitative. Dr Kwadwo Tutu (University of Ghana) presented the results of a survey among Ghanaian stakeholders and linked these results to the broader perspective of donor influence on Ghanaian policy making in the past decades. Dr. Lia van Wesenbeeck (SOW-VU) presented quantitative outcomes of counterfactual scenarios for aid policies and five non-aid policy areas, focusing on alternative choices that could have been made by the EU and the Netherlands. A panel of discussants – Prof. Kwadwo Asenso-Oykere, Prof. Augustin Fosu and Prof. Michiel Keyzer – gave comments and suggestions for the finalization of the report, early next year.
Workshop Spatial Platform for Vulnerability and Poverty Analysis in Mozambique; Seminar on Policy Response of Poverty Patterns5 December 2013
From November 25 to November 29, 2013, Bart van den Boom, Alex Halsema and Boualem Rabta gave a training workshop at 'Universidade Eduardo Mondlane' (UEM) in Maputo. The workshop was the first of three in a project sponsored by the World Food Program (WFP) in Maputo. The project aims at the establishment of a spatial platform for poverty and vulnerability analysis. The platform will bring together the various data from the partner institutes ('Instituto Nacional de Estatística', 'Secretariado Técnico de Segurança Alimentar e Nutricional', 'Institutio Nacional de Acção Social', 'Ministerio da Planificação e Desenvolvimento', WFP, and UEM) to produce new information for the partners, both at the national and the sub-national levels of Provincia, Distrito and Posto Administrativo, to improve the targeting, monitoring and evaluation of interventions.
In the week of the training, on November 28, Bart van den Boom also presented “Is context-specific poverty a good guide to see where and who the poor are?” at a policy seminar Policy Response of Poverty Patterns in Mozambique sponsored by the Embassy of the Netherlands. Click here for Seminar Flyer.
Job opening: Full Professor, Director SOW-VU25 October 2013
In July 2014, the director of the Centre, Prof. M.A. Keyzer, will retire. In view of this, the selection committee that has been established by the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration of the VU University is inviting applications for the position of Full Professor, Director SOW-VU. Please click here for more information.
Annual Report 20127 October 2013
In September the Centre issued its 2012 Annual Report, which is now available on-line. The report presents an overview of the world food situation and a summary of the past year’s research highlights and upcoming projects. The cover photo points at the introductory section of the report entitled ‘Changing course’. While mandate and mission of the Centre remain the same, the sources of its finances have changed substantially over the past years, and so has its international orientation. Read more about this here.
Biofuel mandates of the EU to be preserved by legislative deadlock?12 September 2013
Yesterday, the European Parliament adopted an amendment of the biofuel directives that introduces a cap on the level of food crop based biofuels in transport as percentage of total fuel use. In the course of the debate, the initially proposed cap of 5.5% was raised to 6%. Furthermore, crops that compete for land with food crops have been excluded from this cap until 2020. This means that the expansion of palm oil plantations for biofuel production can continue. Now, the amendment has to be approved by the European Council. If not, a next round of amendment and approval will follow, and if this round does not lead to agreement either, a final conciliation procedure must be initiated. If this also fails, the political deadlock implies that the cap will not be introduced and that the room for expanding biofuel use from food crops remains.
In this context, SOW-VU has written a policy brief reviewing the latest developments in biofuel policies worldwide with special reference to the EU as well as to the US, where a lowering of mandates has been announced for 2014 in view of technical difficulties in blending higher ethanol percentages. Overall, the surge of biofuels seems to be faltering, as policy makers have come to appreciate the drawbacks on many fronts but the possibility of a revival cannot be excluded.
Sustainable natural resource management in rural China6 September 2013
At the international conference on ‘Sustainable natural resource management in rural China – governing markets?’ in Nanjing, 26-28 August 2013, Wim van Veen presented the paper ‘Can China’s overuse of fertilizer be reduced without threatening food security and farm incomes?’, co-authored by Huanguang Qiu, Michiel Keyzer and Roelf Voortman. The paper addresses the widespread overuse of chemical fertilizer in China’s agriculture, leading to nitrogen and phosphate surpluses that seriously pollute water, air and soil, and contaminate food and feed. On the basis of the agronomic literature on China and simulations with the Chinagro welfare model, the paper argues that a drastic reduction of these surpluses can indeed be obtained without harming food security and farm incomes. The main challenges, therefore, are (a) to induce the farmers to improve their fertilizer management and (b) to induce the fertilizer industry to offer a larger variety of nutrient mixes. The presentation at the conference can be found here.
Website for Afar project launched20 August 2013
SOW-VU has launched the website for the project "Improving Pastoral System's Drought Resilience in Afar State in Ethiopia". This project is sponsored by the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and is a cooperation between SOW-VU and the Institute of Pastoral and Agropastoral Studies of the Haramaya University (IPAS-HU) in Ethiopia.
Joint publication of IFPRI and SOW-VU6 August 2013
IFPRI has published the report "From Subsistence to Profit - Transforming Smallholder Farms" in its series of Food Policy Reports. The report was co-authored by Shenggen Fan and Joanna Brzeska of IFPRI and Michiel Keyzer and Alex Halsema of SOW-VU. To read the Executive Summary and download the report click here.
High growth, North-South divide and foreign ownership in the Ghanaian economy19 July 2013
Upon invitation by the rector of the Kumasi Polytechnic, Bart van den Boom gave a lecture on “High growth, North-South divide and foreign ownership: outcomes of a micro-macro simulation model of the Ghanaian economy”. The seminar was organized to raise issues on the economy and expose faculty members to the economic dynamics confronting the nation. It was argued that, although the economy is currently enjoying a period of high growth, Ghana’s Shared Growth and Development Agenda is confronted with two main challenges. The first challenge is the persistently low level of local investments in rural area, especially in the North, and the other challenge is the increasing foreign ownership, especially in the oil and gas sector, but also in terms of land ownership. The lecture was well attended and received a wide coverage from the local media:
Modeling policy coherence for development19 July 2013
The Policy and Operations Evaluation Department (IOB) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs has asked SOW-VU to analyze the extent to which different Dutch and EU policies have affected Ghana. The study focuses on the combined effects of aid and non-aid policies, driven by the concern that incoherence, for instance between trade and development policies, may reduce the effectiveness of development-oriented interventions. Parallel to this study of SOW-VU, a team of Ghanaian experts of the University of Ghana, Legon, has started a qualitative analysis of the influence of donor countries on the Ghanaian policy and development agenda. A mid-term meeting of the two teams and IOB was held at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Accra, Ghana, on 8 and 9 July, 2013. On behalf of SOW-VU, Lia van Wesenbeeck, Bart van den Boom and Wim van Veen participated in this meeting. Read more...
Report on stockholding5 July 2013
Stock adjustments can reduce price variability by bridging the gap between continuous food demand and periodic supply. Since the second half of the 1980s the public stockholding activity dropped significantly, due to the high cost of such operations and increased reliance on international trade. However, with the price hikes of recent years concerns about world food security have re-emerged inspiring a series of proposals to coordinate stockholding at international level. At the request of the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the Netherlands, SOW-VU has reviewed these proposals against the background of empirical evidence. Plans for keeping physical stocks appear to be too costly and have failed to mobilize critical support. This may not be that surprising since stockholding can much less than in the past be dealt with as a policy variable. While globalization via international trade and improved logistics makes it possible to save on stockholding, it also limits the scope for interventions through public stocks. The full report can be found here.
ClimAfrica27 June 2013
The EU-sponsored Project “ClimAfrica” held its second annual meeting on 19 and 20 June, 2013, in Mombasa, Kenya. This meeting was followed by a stakeholders’ meeting on 21 June. SOW-VU is one of the 18 institutes participating in this project, which aims at improving climate change predictions for the African continent and assessing the impact of climate change on vulnerable groups. At the annual meeting, Lia van Wesenbeeck presented the results from a spatially detailed statistical analysis of location and characteristics of the most vulnerable populations in two selected groups of countries, one in West Africa and one in East Africa. At the stakeholder meeting, she presented the main conclusions to a forum of African policy makers and representatives of civil society. Read more...
Rural development in Ukraine7 June 2013
In 2011 and 2012 the Centre executed the project "Prospects of the farming sector and rural development in ENP-countries: the case of Ukraine". The synthesis report, "Making dualisation work", co-authored with the director and senior staff of the Institute for Economics and Forecasting of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, has now been published by JRC-IPTS, the funding agency of the project. It can be downloaded from the website of JRC-IPTS or read here.
Policy Response of Poverty Patterns in Mozambique: Workshop at SOW-VU26 April 2013
From April 8 to Friday April 19, 2013, SOW-VU hosted a two-weeks workshop to strengthen capacities of staff from the Instituto Nacional de Estatística and from the Ministerio da Planificação e Desenvolvimento to study poverty patterns in Mozambique. The project is supported by the Dutch Embassy in Maputo. A first workshop (see SOW NEWS-item of 10 July 2012) was held last year in Maputo. Both workshops featured a variety of presentations, lectures, theoretical introductions and hands-on computer instructions.
As this workshop was held at SOW-VU’s premises, the participants were given the opportunity to learn about the views on development issues of the Director and of the staff and, at the same time, to gain knowledge of modeling approaches from various disciplines. Moreover, during a visit to the Netherlands' Central Bureau of Statistics, participants learned how Dutch statistics on income, living conditions and health are produced.
Towards concerted sharing in the Jordan River Basin18 February 2013
The Regional Project “Towards concerted sharing: development of a regional water economy model in the Jordan River Basin” held its kick-off meeting from 11 to February 12, 2013, at the Days Inn Hotel in Amman. The regional project is an agreement between SOW-VU and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the principal sponsor of the project. The kick-off enjoyed the company of representatives of all its participating institutes: American University of Beirut (AUB), Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST), Al-Quds University (AQU) and Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD). Read more...
Letter to Parliament on food price volatility24 January 2013
Last week, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs sent a letter to Parliament about price volatility on agricultural commodity markets, reflecting the discussions at an expert meeting in October 2012. At this meeting, SOW-VU delivered the opening address, emphasizing that the world should be prepared for a structural increase in price volatility since weather shocks are likely to become more extreme and food demand is getting less price-responsive. Although increased price volatility should not be seen as something entirely negative, since it is partly caused by an increase of average consumer income in the world that makes overall food demand less price-responsive, it poses a serious threat to the poorest population classes. Therefore, governments worldwide should take structural measures to mitigate the direct impact of weather shocks on agriculture, by investing in maintenance and expansion of irrigation and drainage systems, and also refrain from market policies that exacerbate the price impacts of shocks. The latter calls in particular for prudence in setting blending mandates for biofuels and prudence in imposing export bans when world market conditions are tight.
The letter to Parliament can be found here (in Dutch).