Reflections on the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative Meeting

Julius Kanubah, the chairperson of NFGL Local Network SLU Uppsala, shares what he has learned at the annual meeting of the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI) in Stockholm.

Reflections on the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative Meeting
Photo: Members of SI-SLU Local Network

The link between migration, agriculture, and rural development remains one of the most debated topics in the academic and policy worlds, especially because of its impact on food security and human development. 

The history of humankind is a history of migration. But the conditions under which migration takes place have varied considerably across time and space. Some migrations are voluntary, while others under forced conditions. The SIANI Annual Meeting 2019, held on 23 January, focused on the contemporary dynamics of migration and the implications for food security and rural development.

Photo: Jean Bosco Bihinda and Julius Kanubah report on the round table discussion of their group.

Participants at the SIANI annual meeting explored issues of migration mostly in the context of the dynamics of violent conflicts and the socio-economic factors of poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, and lack of social protection. Additionally, there was the issue of environmental problems such as climate change, natural resource depletion and degradation and deforestation as well as natural disasters.

Broadly, all of these constitute the “push” factors of migration. For instance, violent conflict leading to political instability in places like Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Afghanistan pushed nationals and other inhabitants of those countries into other comparatively stable neighbouring countries. Some take the route to Europe and other developed regions of the world. As put by Sigrun Rawet, Deputy Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), unless the increasing trend of conflict in the world is prevented, issues of migration and hunger will remain a global challenge.

Aside from the issue of conflict, in other places such as sub-Saharan Africa, people seeking better lives are attracted to migrating into more economically developed regions such as Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States. In this instance, when unskilled or skilled people in a specific country choose to leave their country of origin to seek greener pastures or better living conditions elsewhere, the triggering factor for migration might be related to the “pull” factors of the targeted country of destination.

These “pull” factors might relate to better economic and political conditions including employment opportunities and respect for human rights. These points were highlighted and discussed during the event. For example, in a presentation on “mobility, migration and rural development in West Africa” with specific reference to Senegal, Jesper Bjarnesen, Senior Research of the Nordic Africa Research Institute, noted that “migration is a means to an end.” This implies that “migration is not only voluntary”, but rather “it is a first choice” for some people in economically underdeveloped regions.

With the push and pull factors of migration triggering more movements of people in contemporary settings, especially in politically unstable and economically underdeveloped countries, the impacts on agricultural productivity and food security are inevitable. Hence, the need to mitigate such migration flows by addressing some of the proximate causes of migration is crucial.

Photo: Participants of SIANI Annual Meeting 2018

One possible measure is to focus on addressing development constraints in politically stable but underdeveloped and low-income countries in a bid to generate employment and reduce the issues causing people to migrate.

This perspective was advanced by Ingela Winter-Norberg, Senior Policy Specialist of Migration and Development at the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). She noted that with 250 million people considered to be migrants in the world by the United Nations, SIDA was now operationalising a new strategy that looks at how migration can contribute to global sustainable development. Questions were then raised about how to include migrants in development and how to view migrants as development entrepreneurs.

Beyond the focus on migration and migrants, two presentations centred on agribusiness and agroforestry in the context of advancing policy and practical solutions to economic growth and development in the developing world.

In a presentation, titled, “agripreneurship -making agribusiness appealing for youth”, Steven Carr, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder of Agripreneurship Alliance, emphasised the need for training young people in agribusiness to enable them to work and utilise the benefits of agriculture, which is crucial for employment, economic growth and development.

For Ingrid Öborn, of the Department of Crop Production and Agriculture Cropping Systems at SLU, it was essential to focus on improving agroforestry, because it has the potential to contribute to increased crop production and economic gain.

During the meeting, roundtable discussions were also held where participants shared ideas and came up with recommendations the future direction of SIANI in the context of the topic of migration, agriculture and rural development. One recommendation was for SIANI to work on changing perceptions on farming by creating and increasing awareness of and engagement in youth agribusiness as a means to highlighting the benefits and significance of farming to food security, income generation, economic growth and development.

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Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.