Partner 1 –– Co-ordinator

Wageningen University
Rural Sociology group

Hollandseweg 1
6706 KN Wageningen
The Netherlands

Tel: ** 31 317 484507
Fax: ** 31 317 485475

Web site:

About the Rural Sociology Group

The Rural Sociology Group was established in 1946. During the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s education and research focused on the modernisation of agriculture and rural society, and the main themes were the diffusion of innovations and the social-cultural predispositions of farmers and rural people to accept change. Rural Sociology produced expert knowledge which increasingly came to be considered as important as that produced by the technical agricultural sciences.
In the late 1970s it became clear that a reorientation of the discipline was needed since a new set of issues had emerged within the agricultural development agenda, especially: the growth of agribusiness, the subsequent loss of farmers' autonomy and the emergence of the question of the survival of family farming, the role of women in agriculture and rural development, and the environmental problem. These were soon followed by theoretical developments and empirical research relating to heterogeneity, farming styles, endogenous development and regional problems.
At present the research programme of the Rural Sociology Group is oriented – both empirically and theoretically – at transformation processes in rural areas and in the food supply chain. Specific attention is paid to the different levels at which these transformation processes occur and are shaped, as well as to the different actors and institutions involved. The Rural Sociology Group studies and analyses these transformation processes from an interpretative-explanatory sociological perspective, combining qualitative and quantitative research methods. A common denominator is the focus on heterogeneity, agency, micro-macro linkages and the differential dynamics of (agricultural and non-agricultural) practices and processes of institutionalisation. An important feature of its research is the multidisciplinary approach, based on a well-established co-operation between sociologists, economists, agronomists, animal scientists and technicians. Equally relevant is the close collaboration with (organisations of) stakeholders. Research activities, which are increasingly carried out as part of European projects, focus on the following three key themes:
1. Multifunctional agriculture: the socio-economic dynamics, impact and potentials of multifunctional agriculture at farm and regional level;
2. Food production and consumption: the organisation and co-ordination of food production and consumption in food supply chains, with special attention for the social construction of food quality, food safety, sustainability and trust;
3. Social structure and identity of the countryside: the role and meaning of non-agricultural actors and counter-urbanisation processes on the use, governance and livability of the countryside, with special attention for the changing social and cultural identity of rurality, the role, interests and perceptions of non-agricultural residents and changing rural-urban relations.
PhD research and training is mainly carried out in programs, which are endorsed by the Mansholt Graduate School (social scientific research school). Rural Sociology also provides an important input into the educational programme on International Development Studies, which is a unique multidisciplinary and problem-oriented programme that prepares students for careers in rural development.

Role in the project

The Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University is co-ordinator of the SUSCHAIN project, and the workpackage co-ordinator of workpackage 7 (Recommendations). As scientific co-ordinator of the project they will collaborate with the co-ordinators of the other workpackages.
Further they are responsible for developing, maintaining and updating the Suschain website. Together with P6 they will write the dissemination plan and in collaboration with P5 they will organise an international conference, which will especially be oriented at Commission representatives and policymakers/ stakeholders’ organisations from the participating countries. Also they will, together with P5 and P6, edit a scientific book, which will discuss the potential role of new food supply chains in sustainable rural development. Finally, they will write the final report.

Scientific personnel involved

Prof. Dr. Ir. Han Wiskerke
Ir. Rudolf van Broekhuizen
Ir. Pieter Jan Brandsma
Ir. Henk Oostindie
Ir. Henk Renting
Dr. Ir. Dirk Roep
Ir. Jo-An Wiersum