Ghent 2023

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Future Urban Agricultural Heritage

The International Student Programme in Ghent

Ghent University is partnered with the city in the development of its food strategy. The IP focused on the expanding role of local urban governance in accelerating the sustainable transition of agricultural production on the peri-urban fringe towards more locally oriented and sustainable forms of farming. The intensive programme was hosted in the context of the ‘Stadsacademie’, an existing collaboratorium and living lab of the city, civil society and academic partners. The aim of the ‘Stadsacademie’ is to create the context for transdisciplinary knowledge exchange in light of concrete sustainability challenges the city of Ghent is facing. The workshop will build on existing explorations of the urban food question within this context.

Through a focus group methodology engaging peri-urban farmers, specific inputs were collected during a series of master and doctoral theses. These formed the basis for a speculative planning exercise aimed at the development of new land management tools, the development of innovative forms of infrastructure aimed at supporting sustainable farming beyond the level of the farm, and innovative forms of governance to nourish new urban-rural linkages and solidarities. The local context was the Ghent Region with the food policy Ghent en Garde. Within the framework of the Ghent living lab, there was a focus on the role of public land in enabling a transition to an agroecological food system, following the recent debate on access to land and the sales of land owned by the city. The participants worked in six teams which developed three lines of policy: 1. Public land positions in a geographic puzzle: Thinking nature farming collaboration within a regional geography (city/province); 2. Land for the public and neighbourhood food infrastructure (public bodies, neighbourhoods, villages) ; 3. Land and infrastructure in support of economic livelihoods (city/Vlaamse Land Maatschappij).

The participants worked in international teams composed of students from various countries and staff of Universities and NGOs of various countries. Each team had a combination of different disciplines. The IP worked within the framework of participatory action learning and research approach as defined during the first session of the seminar. That means that students and tutors alike took part in the activities and worked together in the teams. Teams ensured that every voice is heard and that they engaged together to address the challenges and aim for achieving a transformative action. The aim of the assignment for the participants was, based on what we learned in the seminar to link the agroecological transition and public land management and to inscribe the question of public land management in a broader outlook on the future of the city region's food system.

The aim of the intensive programme is to develop transition strategies and back them up with public land management policies. First, by looking at potential entry points for an agroecological transition in Ghent. In the second phase, by exploring different policy perspectives with different public actors in the lead. At the final stage of the workshop, the teams presented received feedback from a representative of the Flemish Research Institute and the city of Ghent. The results will be used for a debate in Ghent which starts in the second half of 2023.

The booklet of the LTT in Ghent can be viewed here.


Day 1: Friday, July 7, 2023: Travel to Ghent

Day 2: Saturday, July 8, 2023: Seminar on public farmland

Introduction - Michiel Dehaene (Ghent University) Public farmland: an asset or a common good? - A longitudinal study in the South of France Coline Perrin (PhD, Senior researcher, INRAE, UMR Innovation, Montpellier, France) Ghent Land: a Historical Perspective - Esther Beeckaert (STAM Gent) Urbanising the Agroecological Reproduction of Soil Fertility: a Matter of Land Policy - Hans Vandermaelen (ILVO, Ghent University) Agroecological Urbanism from a Public Policy and Investment Perspective - Michiel Dehaene (Ghent University)

Day 3: Sunday, July 9, 2023: Starting up


Introduction assignment

Film - voices and places which presents the views of the various stakeholders

Group division and questions

Working session

Group feedback of the day

Lecture Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes Continued - Andre Viljoen (University of Brighton)

Day 4: Monday, July 10, 2023: Study trip 8h30 - 19h00

Departure at bike rental

ILVO, Lemberge – introduction by Koen Willekens (ILVO) on composting and activities of ILVO for agroecology

Oude Kale Nature reserve with agricultural functions – introduction by Toon Spanhove of Natuurpunt

Museum Guislain and hospital, introduction with Simon Allemeersch (Ghent University)

Day 5: Tuesday, July 11, 2023: Exploring the lines of thought

Introduction to the lines of thought Formation of groups Each group analysed further one of the four lines of thought.

Day 6: Wednesday, July 12, 2023: Analysis and generating ideas

Studying existing policies, linking up to stakeholders, creating stakeholder maps

Day 7: Thursday, July 13, 2023: Interim presentations

Interim presentations and feedback on first lines of thought.

Day 8: Friday, July 14, 2023: Lines of public policy

Working on the development of the policies: goals, vision, strategy, and timeline of the process.

Day 9: Saturday, July 15, 2023: Study trip

Finalising presentation and essay Final presentations and feedback Evaluation of the programme

Day 10: Sunday, July 16, 2023: Travel day