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Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies Education

Through inter- and transdisciplinary education the ACWFS aims to strengthen research capacity for global food and nutrition security.

With a minor program global food security we focus on education at bachelors level. This minor is open to students from all faculties and universities. We also offer thesis and internship opportunities for master students. Vacancies are placed on the website. Similarly when we have a vacancy for PhD research this will also be posted on the website.

The ACWFS is not only internationally active in research related to nutrition and food security, but also in fostering the improvement and strengthening of curricula related to food and nutrition security, sustainable development and others at beneficiary universities and teaching institutes across the globe. By partnering with these organizations, the ACWFS contributes to their education development through initiatives such as enhancing staff quality and quantity, improving the richness of curricula, helping establish sustainable financing mechanisms and more. Read more below about some ongoing and recently completed education development initiatives.

EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT

  • WATER POLICY AND GOVERNANCE IN TRANSBOUNDARY BASINS (WaSec)

    Since 2019, ACWFS participates in the EU-funded WaSec project that promotes innovations in water education programs for the Eastern Mediterranean area, in particular Jordan and Palestine. In this context, Ben Sonneveld and Wim van Veen have developed a 13-week course on Water Policy and Governance in Transboundary Basins, inspired by the experiences in the earlier ACWFS project on concerted sharing of water in the Jordan River Basin.

    Ensuring a fair distribution of water and maintaining the environmental quality of river flows are the two major goals of transboundary water governance. However, policy making faces problems of three kinds. The first problem is economic since indivisibility and non-excludability of the water resources make it hard to allocate property rights to individuals or even to communities. This may lead to free riding behavior: enjoying the benefits of the water without paying an adequate price and without liability for environmental damage. The second problem is geographical since upstream countries have a natural bargaining advantage over downstream countries. A third problem may come from differences in economic and military power across the riparian countries.

    Given the problems above, water allocation in transboundary basins is a potential source of huge conflicts. International law sets general rules but nothing more than that. Therefore, policy making in transboundary basins needs objective knowledge on water availability and water use in the basin if it wants to achieve maximal welfare for all stakeholders, now and in the future. How to obtain this objective knowledge is the primary aim of the course.

  • LINKING SPATIAL PLANNING TO AGRIBUSINESS AND PUBLIC POLICY DEVELOPMENT IN GREATER WESTERN KENYA (SPADE)

    The project builds on ongoing research in Kenya on “sustainable livelihood improvement through innovative agricultural practices” (ASALI project) implemented by VU Amsterdam in collaboration with Moi University and South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU)

    Time span of the project2017 - 2020
    Contact person
    Dr Denyse Snelder (project coordinator)
    Project directorProf dr Jacqueline Broerse (Athena Institute, Faculty of Science)
    Project partnersFaculty of Science, SBE, ACE, SPINLab (VU); DASUDA (Netherlands); RVO (Netherlands); Moi University (Kenya); School of Planning and Architecture, Maseno University (Kenya)
    Project sponsorEP-Nuffic

    The Centre for International Cooperation of VU Amsterdam (CIS-VU) has been awarded a grant worth €1.780.000 to implement a project on Spatial Planning for Agribusiness and Public Policy Development in Kenya. The grant is part of the Netherlands Initiative for Capacity development in Higher Education (NICHE), a Netherlands-funded development cooperation programme.

    The main beneficiaries of this project will be the staff and students of the School of Planning and Architecture at Maseno University (MU-SPA). In addition to the provision of 6 PhDs (2 VU and 4 local) and 8 Masters (all local), the project will contribute to curriculum development, interdisciplinary research, and tailor-made training and counselling services in the field of spatial planning for agribusiness and policy development.

    The contributions will be a joint effort of Dutch and Kenyan partners from scientific, business and governmental institutes, including the VU Amsterdam represented by CIS-VU, Athena Institute, Spatial Information Laboratory (SPINlab), Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship (ACE), and Amsterdam Centre for World Food Studies; Dutch Alliance for Sustainable Urban Development in Africa (DASUDA); Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO); and Moi University in Kenya.

    SPADE encountered some delay in the implementation of project activities due to the political unrest in and around Kisumu, after the elections last August and October 2017. MSU was closed during these months and is currently affected by strikes which, altogether, have caused a delay of more than two months in the provision of educational programs at MSU. SPADE activities planned for October – November 2017 were postponed and are scheduled for May 2018. The project management team visited Maseno University in Kisumu last February 2018 for conducting preparatory work on SPADE’s annual report 1 (submitted on 30 April 2018) and the planning of project activities 2018.  In April, preparations were made for a multi-stakeholder workshop on platform development to be facilitated by RVO and DASUDA in May 2017. The workshop will also include sessions on GIS and spatial analysis for agri-hub development, i.e., activities aimed at building capacity among MSU staff on the provision of MSU services to the counties and other stakeholders in Western Kenya.

    The project director is Prof Jacqueline Broerse, Athena Institute, VU. The project builds on ongoing research in Kenya on “sustainable livelihood improvement through innovative agricultural practices” (ASALI project) implemented by VU Amsterdam in collaboration with Moi University and South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU) .

  • SUSTAINABLE TOURISM BASED ON NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT WITH GENDER BALANCE TOWARDS WOMEN (STRONGBOW)

    The STRONGBOW project has been specifically designed to contribute to research and capacity building in Ethiopian Higher Education Institutes within the fields of natural resource management, tourism and ecotourism

    Time span of the project    2011-2017
    Contact person
    Dr Denyse Snelder (project director)
    Project director
    Dr Denyse Snelder
    Project partners
    CIS-VU (lead organization), ACE/SBE, Faculty of Science; Horn of Africa Regional Environment Centre and Network (HoA REC/N, Ethiopia), KU Leuven (Belgium), Central University of Technology (CUT, South Africa), Addis Ababa University, Jimma University, Arba Minch University, Mizan Tepi University, Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources at Hawassa University;   
    Project sponsorEP-Nuffic

    The STRONGBOW project has been specifically designed to contribute to research and capacity building in Ethiopian Higher Education Institutes within the fields of natural resource management, tourism and ecotourism. 

    The project has provided funding for 6 PhD studies and supported up to 50 Master research projects. The main objectives of this project are as follows: 


    • Formulate and develop multi‐disciplinary training and research plans with the beneficiary universities 


    • Enhance staff quality and quantity at the beneficiary universities in the field of natural resource management and (eco‐)tourism 


    • Improve curriculum and training approaches at the beneficiary universities 


    • Supervise research and improve research skills at the beneficiary universities by introducing interdisciplinary demand‐driven action research 


    • Help establish sustainable financing mechanisms at the beneficiary universities 


    Enhance institutional networking and coordinating capacities at the beneficiary universities and associated institutes

  • LAND USE MODELLING CAPACITY BUILDING IN THE GREATER MEKONG SUBREGION

    The Mekong land use change modelling – capacity building project aims to build a the experience and knowledge in selected universities and governments in this region to conduct model-based land change assessments.

    Time span of the project    2014-2017
    Contact person
    Dr Ir Jasper van Vliet
    Project partners
    Faculty of Science (VU)
    Project sponsorAsian Development bank
    Project websitehttp://www.environmentalgeography.nl/site/projects/mekong-capacity-building/


    The Mekong land use change modelling – capacity building project aims to build a the experience and knowledge in selected universities and governments in this region to conduct model-based land change assessments. 

    Land change in this context manifests itself at the interface between food production, biodiversity preservation, and economic development, and as such faces the challenges of an increasing competition for land. This capacity allows the local government to support land use planning and policy making by assessing the impacts of ongoing developments as well as specific policies in advance, and potentially develop mitigation measures.

  • TOWARDS CONCERTED SHARING: DEVELOPMENT OF A REGIONAL WATER ECONOMY MODEL FOR THE JORDAN RIVER BASIN

    The project ‘Towards concerted sharing: development of a regional water economy model in the Jordan River Basin (JRB)’, has been completed in September 2016; the project has been executed by a team of water and natural resource specialists and economists from Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestine Territories and a regional research center, who worked jointly with SOW-VU staff to improve their understanding of the local water economy and cross-border related water problems in the JRB

    Time span of the project    2013-2016
    Contact person
    Dr Ben Sonneveld (project coordinator)
    Project partners
    American University of Beirut; Al-Quds University (West Bank); Arab Center for Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD, Damascus); Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST, Irbid); Centre for World Food Studies (SOW-VU)
    Project sponsorSwedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)
    Project websiteconcertedsharing.org

    The project ‘Towards concerted sharing: development of a regional water economy model in the Jordan River Basin (JRB)’, has been completed in September 2016; the project has been executed by a team of water and natural resource specialists and economists from Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestine Territories and a regional research center, who worked jointly with SOW-VU staff to improve their understanding of the local water economy and cross-border related water problems in the JRB.

    The current situation in the JRB is characterized by water scarcity and a history of water-related disputes and conflicts. Interregional agreements on managing water supply and demand may be a remedy, but need to be based on a deep understanding how combined actions by riparian states affect water availability.

    Hence the project’s first aim was to develop a spatially explicit regional water economy model and underlying database that accommodates spatial and temporal detail of water dynamics; balances in- and outflows of natural and controlled water flows; and characterizes water quality using various indicators.

    The second aim was to show how changes in water availability affect the local economy; this is illustrated through a set of scenario’s, that represent pressing concerns of the regional partners. Four examples are i) the impact of climate change on water availability and recharge of aquifers, ii) the influence of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon on water availability and agricultural production value, iii) the potential benefits when improving the technology of irrigations system in Syria, iv) an overarching scenario that aims to find a more equitable water allocation in the JRB based on sustainable groundwater extraction rates.

    Capacity building was another highlight of the project:  the regional team is now experienced in setting up model based scenarios backed by narratives on their water-related concerns, using in-depth insights and knowledge of local conditions; at the concluding workshop a number of high-level policy makers emphasized that the database and model developed in the project could provide valuable objective information for national policy making as well as for international negotiations.

  • A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH TO LIVELIHOOD IMPROVEMENT (ASALI)

    The project’s overall aim is to contribute through research and education to the development of sustainable and innovative methods of livelihood improvement for local communities. The focus hereby is on disadvantaged groups such as small-scale farmers, women and youth in the vicinity of the partner universities in western and south-eastern Kenya

    Time span of the project    2014 – 2018
    Contact person
    Dr Denyse Snelder (project director)
    Project director
    Dr Denyse Snelder
    Project partners
    CIS-VU (lead organization), Athena, SBE/ACE, Faculty of Science; Moi University (MU, Kenya); South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU, Kenya)  
    Project sponsorLegacy of Ms Grietje Wille

    The ASALI project is funded through the legacy of Late Ms Grietje Wille for the education of people from developing countries wiling to serve society and contribute to the development of their country. The project is coordinated through the Centre for International Cooperation (CIS), on behalf of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU). ASALI aims at supporting the research and education capacity of two partner universities in Kenya: Moi University (MU) in Eldoret and South Eastern Kenya University (SEKU) in Kitui. 

    The name “ASALI” is the abbreviation of “A Sustainable Approach to Livelihood Improvement”. The project’s overall aim is to contribute through research and education to the development of sustainable and innovative methods of livelihood improvement for local communities. The focus hereby is on disadvantaged groups such as small-scale farmers, women and youth in the vicinity of the partner universities in western and south-eastern Kenya. ASALI’s specific objectives include: 

    1. To develop sustainable natural resource management strategies to enhance water and food security for sustainable livelihoods of smallholder farmers 

    2. To examine the influence of value chain development and entrepreneurial opportunities and innovations on poverty alleviation and livelihood improvement among women and youth; 

    3. To explore the use of sustainable renewable energy and its contribution to entrepreneurial job creation options for youth and women; and to examine nutritional behavior and its effects on health among women and children. 

    Research is a joint undertaking of the partner universities, including 4 PhDs and at least 4 staff-student research projects conducted by the different teams at the partner universities in Kenya, supported by CIS and VU staff through trainings, workshops and seminars.

    In the reporting period, the project management team visited the partner universities last February 2018 in Eldoret, Kenya, for making the necessary preparations for the upcoming ASALI conference, planning project activities 2018 and starting preparatory work for a proposal on Enhancing Postgraduate Environment – Erasmus Plus Capacity Building for Higher Education (EPE) due in 2019. In addition, the Centre for International Cooperation (CIS) of VU Amsterdam co-organized the ASALI conference on Kenya Vision 2030: Towards Food security, Sustainable Energy and Successful Entrepreneurship from 10-12 April in Eldoret, Kenya. The conference was organized to present and discuss the project’s research outputs and provide a platform for stakeholders, active in similar fields, to share their views and knowledge. The conference venue was packed to capacity with a diverse audience listening to over 15 paper presentations and more than 20 pitches by local stakeholders, university staff, and graduate and postgraduate students. VU students, who were in Kenya for research within the framework of ASALI, assisted with conference logistics. Colleagues from Maseno University in Kisumu, our partner in the Nuffic-funded 

    SPADE project, also actively participated in the conference. Prof. Enno Masurel (FEWEB) was part of the opening panel and gave a warm welcome to the delegates on behalf of VU. Prof. Verburg (IVM) gave an inspiring key note address on multi-scale trade-offs as a pathway to global sustainability, followed by other ASALI team members Prof Jacqueline Broerse (Athena Institute) and Dr Ralph Lasage (IVM) who gave interesting presentations on Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture and Farming Household Drought Vulnerability respectively. The sessions were closed off by Dr Denyse Snelder with a reflection on the current status of the project, in terms of its contribution to sustainable livelihood improvement, followed by the closing remarks provided by Prof Richard Mibey, the former Vice Chancellor of Moi University. The conference was concluded by a one-day field trip to 4 sites closely related to the ASALI’s priority thematic areas: natural resource management; sustainable entrepreneurship; renewable energy; and health and food and nutrition security. After the conference, Dr Ralph Lasage travelled to SEKU (ASALI partner university), Kitui, to follow up research on water management conducted by a VU student in collaboration with ASALI staff and SEKU students. Dr Snelder provides (ongoing) support to MU and SEKU staff with data analysis and publication writing.

VU PROGRAMMES

  • Summer School on food and Water Security

    This summer school organized by the ACWFS provides an interdisciplinary approach to addressing the complex problems surrounding food and water security. The course is at an advanced Bachelor’s/Master’s level, but it is open to Ph.D staff and professionals. This course enables students and professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds who have an interest in food and water security examine different concepts and approaches related to this topic, from international policy agreements to community-based activities. Theory is mixed with practice through lectures, discussions, and excursions to provide concrete examples of how relevant issues are being analysed and addressed in various regions, at multiple levels and by various actors from science and society. The summer school in 2019 will be held from the 22nd July and will end on the 2nd of August 2019. Find information about course organization, content, tuition and registration here.

Student Research Opportunities

  • Student Research Opportunities

    Are you a student conducting a research project or thesis related to food and nutrition security? Would you like support for conducting your project? Apply for an ACWFS Centre Projects Grant! 

    The ACWFS Centre Projects are part of an initiative to foster interdisciplinary cooperation in research, education, and outreach. These small grants are available for project proposals of BSc/MSc or PhD candidates for research, organizing workshops, to develop proposals for external research calls, or any other activities that support the ACWFS objectives- all in the fields of food and/or nutrition security. Centre projects are meant to be flexible and proposals may be submitted continuously through the year, so no stress! If you’d like more information on the guidelines, eligibility criteria, or on how to submit an application, email info.acwfs@vu.nl.