Co-developing a cereal network in Pajottenland, Belgium : a participatory action research to empower farmers within a region
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- Master's theses (IPV) 
In Belgium only 15% of wheat for human consumption and less than 4% of barley used by national breweries are grown on Belgian territory. In order to overcome this shortage, farmers and processors joined hands in the region of Pajottenland, Belgium, to shape a cereal network and reorganise the local food system. Through the means of participatory action research, we studied the involvement of the farmers in co-developing the incipient network in such a way that would answer their needs and help them to overcome the lock-ins they are confronted with. The methodology was structured in three parts: learning from the past, experimenting in the present and preparing for the future. Therefore, a Farming History of Pajottenland was co-constructed with key informants, a Farmer Field School was set up and networking activities were organised. The identified lock-ins are of technical, institutional, economic, social, psychological and cognitive nature; but in addition numerous interlinkages were observed, laying bare a cluster of intertwined lock-ins within the dominant industrial food system. Different pathways to overcome these lock-ins were defined together with the farmers. Some of these were directly put into practice within the emerging cereal network, such as farmer to farmer collaboration and knowledge exchange, improving social interactions, re-establishing trust among farmers and processors, strengthening the region’s identity, and a better remuneration for all stakeholders in the cereal chain. Through our research we have shown the potential for creating a cereal to the benefit of the participating farmers and we have documented the first steps in doing so. However, after one year, we notice the vulnerability of the network in its initial phase, being highly dependent on the commitment of its early participants and its coordinator.