Urban Food Plus Summer School on “Building and Sharing Knowledge in Urban Agriculture” at University of Goettingen

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Between the 21st and 23rd of June 2017, University of Goettingen hosted the fourth annual Summer School of the BMBF-funded project UrbanFoodPlus (UFP). Close to 50 participants came together at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Conference Centre at the Observatory for three intensive days of presentations, workshops, discussions and planning sessions. The summer school facilitated exchange between German and African researchers based in Germany and the project’s African and international partners.

Focus on Production and Sharing of Knowledge

The aim of UFP is to enhance resource use efficiency, improve food security in urban and peri-urban agriculture of West African cities and to share this knowledge with a broad range of relevant stakeholders: policy-makers, city officials, farmers and NGOs. The thematic focus of the summer school lay on this building and sharing knowledge within and outside the project. The first keynote session by Pay Drechsel  from IWMI used a debate role play as a way of learning how to transmit knowledge generated within the project to a lay audience. This session did not only reflect on the complexities of such exchanges and the question of how research from UFP can impact on urban food systems but it also offered young scholars the platform to test their debating skills. The second keynote by Stephen Ndzerem from SHUMAS elaborated on urban and peri-urban agriculture in Bamenda, the city where most research attention will focus in the last year of the project.

Presentation of Research Results

Researchers from all sub-projects presented their findings and on-going projects in more than 8 posters and 19 presentations. Topics included the development and operation of wastewater treatment systems (SP5), the agronomic effects of wastewater, biochar and gypsum on crop production (SP 2 and SP 4), the adoption potential of biochar and wastewater from the perspective of farmers and consumers (SP 7) and the utilisation, efficiencies and conflicts in urban livestock systems (SP3). Furthermore, the presentations considered the food flows, trade and policies in rural-urban food systems and the impact of the current political situation in Bamenda (SP8) and the social practice of urban food production including gender dynamics and politics (SP 6). From the Goettingen team of social anthropologists, Barbara Löhde and Imogen Bellwood-Howard have shown what insights can be gained by considering intra-household dynamics as an essential part of urban food production and by understanding gender as a practice. Eileen Bogweh Nchanji has highlighted how social institutions can be mobilised by actors to pursue their own ends of making a living and gaining access to land or technology. Finally, Lea Stöver has given an overview of her research design on cattle and meat production in Bamenda.

Planning Sessions

The Summer School provided time for six planning sessions concerning overall project aims, research activities in Bamenda and the final summer school of the project. Furthermore, partners and researchers worked together in activating sessions aimed at discussing the project’s role of transmitting research outputs to non-academic stakeholders such as policy-makers and farmers. Participants reflected on the intricacies of multi-stakeholder engagement processes as experienced in Tamale and Ouagadougou and the impact of their own research. Building on these lessons learnt participants set a time frame for activities in Bamenda.


Promoting Academic Skills of Young Scholars

In view of the project’s aim to promote the academic qualification of young scholars, the Summer School offered a workshop on the management, publication and citation of data. Unfortunately, another planned workshop on publication strategies had to be cancelled on short notice due to a personal emergency of the invited presenter. As a novelty, the Summer School also offered a session for Postdocs on lessons learnt and potentials in data management within the project. Both workshops were given by the eResearch Alliance of University of Goettingen.


Guided Tour of the Ethnographic Collection

The Summer school offered the opportunity to engage with Social Anthropology as a discipline through a customised guided tour of the Ethnographic Collection – one of the most significant teaching and research collections in the German-speaking sphere. The tour gave insights into the embeddedness of food production in social and cultural systems and it highlighted the collection process through expeditions – in their own ways early interdisciplinary enterprises.


Way Forward

The summer school has offered profound insights into urban food production in West Africa with research results from Ouagadougou and Tamale and preliminary results from studies in Bamako and Bamenda. It presented a platform for interdisciplinary discussion and exchange and it laid emphasis on the project’s aim to have an impact beyond academia and science. With several personnel changes in the project, the summer school also gave new members a chance to interact with other project members, their work and research. The end of the summer school means also the beginning of the final project year, in which researchers from several sub-projects will focus their research efforts on Bamenda. While the stakeholder dialogue will continue in Tamale, meetings at the summer school have helped set on track the process for Bamenda.

For further information on the project please visit http://www.urbanfoodplus.org.