Reflection “Behind the image of the WUR: stories of conflicting visions”

7th of December 2020 marked a day of events surrounding the first birthday of Unilever on the campus. Extinction Rebellion Wageningen organized a (f)un fair in front of the Unilever building, with games like fishing for dead fish in a pool of plastic, a limbo of how low Unilever has gone with regard to human rights and environmental impact.

image by XR Wageningen

In the later afternoon, Boerengroep, RUW, ASEED and XR organized a webinar where we shared different perspectives on the collaborations between the WUR and multinationals, and the impact it has on both research and education. We heard stories from three different speakers: Elske Hageraats, a WUR alumnus, who is now an small-scale, agroecological farmer at the Ommuurde Tuin. She told about the cases she has come across, how organizations that are involved with peasants, who produce 70 percent of the global food, are heavily underpresented in the WUR, and how her farm has a lot of research questions, but no money to pay for research like Unilever can. Then we heard the perspective of Maimouna Kante, a Master student in Organic Agriculture and she told us about the neo-colonial practices of Unilever in particular in Africa, relating it to the WUR itself and showing clearly how a simplified image of Africa that portrays African farmers as backwards, is still very present in different courses in the WUR. The last speaker was Mark Vicol, who gave a general reflection of the branding of the WUR, seen in the slogan “gateway to smart food in a green world”, which is far from presenting everyone’s view in the university. He also related it to the history of the WUR as a technological institution, and a more global reoccurrence of private interests in research.

There were about 45 participants. They reacted to these stories with nuanced points of view, and their own experiences. People also shared interesting documents, which are or will be shared below the recording.

You can watch the webinar, until the breakout rooms, here:

Documents that were shared during the webinar:

Nigten, Anton. “Censuur in de wetenschap

Hageraats, Elske. “Onderzoek van de WUR is gestuurd

Bernaz, Nadia and Rao, Madhura. Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights in Assam
Tea Plantations: A Business and Human Rights Approach.