Agri-food and food shortages on the agenda as Massey links with Wageningen

Social scientists from New Zealand and Europe have joined forces to tackle urgent global issues such as food shortages, the environment and humanitarian aid.

The Mordor Accord, referencing the Lord of the Rings film scenery where it was signed, resulted when researchers from the Sociology of Development and Change group at Wageningen University in the Netherlands visited New Zealand earlier this year. They were hosted by Massey University’s School of People, Environment and Planning.

Under the shadow of Mount Ngauruhoe (which doubles as fictional Mount Doom in Sir Peter Jackson’s films) the team developed a work plan for collaboration addressing issues from the environment, food, political economy and development studies.

The head of Massey’s School of People, Environment and Planning, Professor Glenn Banks, says the Mordor Accord title started as a bit of fun “but it seems to have stuck”.

Massey and Wageningen have been working together for a number of years, he said.

Both lead their respective countries in the agriculture rankings.

More recently a discussion between social scientists at the two institutions was started.

“We are essentially tackling the same sorts of challenges coming out of very similar agricultural institutions, but also we have a lot to offer each other in our respective areas.

“We find ourselves asking similar political questions about agriculture, the environment, development aid, and similar issues that are becoming critical issues in today’s world,” Professor Banks says.

“The main objective of the collaboration is to kick-start joint teaching, research, grant development and to help strengthen and broaden the relations between the two universities.

“We are looking to gain from their strength in Latin America and Africa, where they do a lot of work, but they also get a lot from us in other areas like the Pacific and Asia where they are looking to expand their research and are seeking networks and joint opportunities.”

Both schools are nvolved in new areas of academic activity and debate within the social sciences, including agri-food and agricultural development, the relations between development and extraction, conservation and resource management, and tourism.

The intention is to translate these initial meetings into more concrete work programmes with joint publications, research grant development and applications, and staff and student visits and exchanges.

Some of these are already under way: a Sociology PhD student Stella Pennell is leaving in mid-year for a three-month visit to Wageningen as part of her study.

Moreover, a group of Massey staff from the School of People, Environment and Planning have been invited to attend a conference on sustainable development goals to eliminate global hunger in late August to coincide with Wageningen’s Centennial celebrations.

Source: Massey University

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