CAP: The questionable use of the biggest EU budget
Good4You boxes for our study community!
Our team has found each other over shared values and interests in the injustices of the food sector. While doing research into this complex area, we found out how the current policies harm farmers on different scales and lead to negative environmental implications, biodiversity loss and pollution being only two of them. We were finally fixed on the topic after reading a UN report about the devastating results of subsidies and how policymakers, year after year, fail to make sufficient changes within the system, even though its importance has been backed up by research. Thus, despite scientists publishing highly detailed proposals to change the system, hoping to positively influence decision-makers behind agricultural policies in the EU, little has, and is changing. Our team was naturally left wondering why people in power seem to not bother and, instead, effectively keep harmful patterns running.
After discussing several issues within the food and agricultural sector, reaching from food crime to land grabbing, we finally decided to investigate on hidden structures of harmful policies. Following, we had to further narrow down the topic, and eventually focused on the malfunctions and (missed) opportunities of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the EU. During the exploring phase, we examined why exactly issues arise, and what consequences they bear. We found the area to be highly interconnected and hard to address, due to its extreme wickedness. It therefore also didn’t take us long to be convinced that this field is operating in severely obsolete ways, being in urgent need of change. By looking into how these issues were approached in the past, we found that environmental scientists and activists have been trying to initiate sustainable change for a long time, yet, together with other heavily impacted stakeholders, such as consumers and producers, were not heard, which is why we aimed to find out where the communication stopped.
After recognising the scope and severity of the issue, we started to map out the relevant parties, and investigated their connections and impacts in a living document. By following this process, we were able to identify several stakeholders on international, national, and regional levels. These were not only politicians but also farmers and farmer associations, as well as scientists, activists, and consultants, who represented many different viewpoints and were able to give us valuable insights into internal communication and execution barriers. Through these contacts and several interviews, we were able to better understand the complexity of the issue at hand. Recognising the strong opinions and different challenges faced by our respondents, it was especially important to determine who needed to be involved at what stage, to which extend. While our network was growing, we were in contact with scientists who supported us by helped us to visualize a realistic outcome that tied in on the different ends of the value chain.
During the elaborating phase, the goal was to clarify what kind of action needed to be taken to finally introduce changes for the better. Following this, we had to determine what kind of product would have the biggest positive impact, and what would be realistic within our relatively short timeframe. Through constant feedback loops with our network partners, we were able to develop a final value product idea. To maximize the value, we chose a bottom-up approach which aims to empower actors of the value chain that otherwise do not hold much power, which in our case were farmers and consumers. This approach was mainly inspired by the stories and experiences of our stakeholders, who therewith provided us with first-hand insights. Also, by developing a product that delivers a local solution to an EU-wide problem, we hope to give back autonomy to those who are substantially pressured by regulations and restrictive political policy instruments. Additionally, we created a blueprint which can function as a guide to help setting up such initiatives also at other universities and/or organisations. By doing this, we hope to carry positive impact further and make the concept easily approachable for others. This aspect is hoped to support and empower farmers and consumers on a bigger scale in the long run.
Over the past months, we gained countless new insights about several topics reaching from political systems and corruption to scientific backgrounds and activism in the agricultural sector. We were able to make many important connections with contacts all over the world and are grateful to still be working with some of them. During the next month, depending on the pandemic, we are looking forward to launching our Good4You box at the Windesheim Honours College. This product will be of value for farmers and consumers, which, in our case, consist of students, lecturers and staff members. It will enable customers to bypass political barriers that force farmers to operate in ways that are eventually harmful to the environment and affect their economic viability. Through the Good4You initiative, we can offer a system that is calling for innovation, autonomy, and creativity, while delivering local and organic fruits and vegetables to our study community. The long-term value thereby heavily relies on a collaboration with our farmer network and extra-curricular teams, which is why we are looking forward to further working with students that help us to maximize the impact beyond this semester.
We would like to end this blog post by sending out a warm thank you note to everyone that supported and contributed to our final value creation.
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