Sustainability Transitions Summer School

An Eurasian response to global food system challenges

Project Description

Natural resources are at the heart of global sustainability and ecosystem health. On the one hand, sufficient access to natural resources is important for our well-being. On the other hand, human decisions and changing economic preferences impact on the state of ecosystems. Current sustainability challenges, such as food scarcity, energy poverty, environmental degradation and social inequality are complex phenomena that cannot be explained using linear thinking and causalities. These symptoms are properties of acutely or chronically unhealthy systems. In future, natural resource management must become more sustainable and fair – and it must respect natural boundaries. For that, we need coordinated changes in economic, social, cultural and political domains. Experts who can develop scientifically sound and value driven pathways towards sustainability will be essential to facilitate such changes. The Sustainability Transitions Summer School is designed to contribute to the training of those change agents.

Framework and Objectives

The Summer School is established as an initial three-year project running from 2015 to 2017. Each year, the Summer School will address a pressing issue in the field of natural resource management, where fundamental change processes are either urgently required or already taking place. The participating universities will take turns in hosting the training course. An alumni network will enable participants to stay in touch with each other and form a global network of change experts.

The overall objective of the Summer School is to promote change towards sustainable natural resource management by increasing the number of university graduates with relevant theoretical and practical understanding of socio-ecological change. Guided by this objective, the course will achieve three interrelated results:

  1. Per year of implementation, thirty-two graduate students from Asia and Europe will develop competencies in guiding change in natural resource systems.
  2. University staff at Southeast Asian and European universities increase their capacity to facilitate multi-stakeholder learning, especially regarding global change processes.
  3. A global network of change experts is developed and maintained, encouraging exchange between universities, supporting creativity and innovation, and promoting new didactic approaches.

The Focus 2015: The Future of Rice

More than half of the world’s population depend on rice. But not all rice cultivation is ecologically sensitive, and rice trade is not always fair. Southeast Asian countries are struggling to meet growing demands when rice accounts for up to three-quarters of their population’s caloric intake.

Being subjected to global market dynamics further means that even European or American consumption patterns influence the rice production systems in Indonesia and elsewhere, making this a challenge of global relevance. Furthermore, the effects of rice cultivation on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change suggest that fundamental changes are required to meet global demands in a sustainable manner. The 2015 Summer School was hosted by Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta and focused on “The Future of Rice.” Trainers and participants explored how we can make the shift to sustainable and resilient rice cultivation. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was discussed as a possible option to achieve this goal.

The Summer School enabled participants to describe the rice food system in its complexity. They analysed underlying patterns and rules of the system to discover leverage points for change towards sustainability. The learning design of the Summer School combined e-learning, inputs at the university and participatory action research in the field. By learning from and together with relevant stakeholders, the students got an in-depth insight into the rice food system. They worked in transdisciplinary teams of European and Asian students, farmers, and stakeholders around Yogyakarta. Finally, they shared their insights with a broader audience at a public conference.

We wanted each participant to graduate from the Summer School with a vision of how he or she can contribute to a sustainability transition.

The Focus 2016: Sufficiency Economy

The sustainable management of natural resources and food systems will demand changes of production and consumption patterns in general. The late King of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, introduced the concepts of Sufficiency Economy and the New Theory of Agriculture. Around the principles of moderation, reasonableness and self-sufficiency, the New Theory proposes a farm layout and agronomic strategies for the average Thai farm household. The New Theory is propagated by training centers throughout Thailand. The 2016 Summer School was hosted by Kasetsart University in North Eastern Thailand and compared the theoretical concept of the Sufficiency Economy with realities on the ground.

Didactical approach

Didactically, the Summer School combines principles of problem-based, team-based and transdisciplinary learning. For both learning cases in Indonesia and Thailand, the participants described a regional food system in its full complexity. The students analysed ecological, economic and social dimensions of the system to discover leverage points for change. The learning design included e-learning, inputs at the university, and participatory action research in the field. By learning from and together with relevant stakeholders, the students got an in-depth insight into real-life challenges. They worked in transdisciplinary teams of European and Asian students, farmers, and other stakeholders. At the end of the Summer School, they shared their insights with a broader audience at a public workshop.

Management

The project is a joint initiative of Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia, Kasetsart University in Thailand, Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia, and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Austria. The universities jointly manage the preparation, implementation and follow-up of the Summer School. Every year of implementation, a committee of all four universities will collect and evaluate students’ applications and select 32 students (8 students per country) according to pre-defined criteria. Every university will delegate at least one university trainer to the course which ensures a coordinated implementation. External trainers will be selected by the steering committee to facilitate courses during the two-week core training phase. A follow-up to the two-week Summer School will be organised by all universities back in their respective home countries.

Prospects

The project was initiated by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Austria, Gadjah Mada University in Indonesia, Kasetsart University in Thailand, and the Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia. The universities have jointly managed the preparation, implementation and follow-up of the Summer School. Starting in 2017, the Summer School will be opened for the Master Program “Food Security and Climate Change”, integrating more students and trainers and thus increasing the outreach significantly. The core team of the Summer School will continue to coordinate the program, and 40 participants will be selected according to pre-defined criteria. Every university will delegate at least one university trainer to the course which ensures a coordinated implementation. External trainers will be selected by the steering committee to facilitate courses during the core training phase.

Project Coordinators:

Dr. Francis M.C. Sigit Setyabudi
Faculty of Agricultural Technology, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia
francis.setyabudi@gmail.com

Dr. Lorenz Probst
Centre for Development Research, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria
lorenz.probst@boku.ac.at

Dr. Mom Seng
Vice Rector, Royal University of Agriculture, Cambodia
mseng@rua.edu.kh

Dr. Hathairat Chokthaweepanich
Faculty of Natural Resources and Agro-Industry, Kasetsart University, Thailand
hathairat.ch@ku.th

Project Details

  • Date March 23, 2016
  • Tags Biology

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