Sigrid Kaag, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, visited Wageningen University & Research on 23 September. The Minister took questions from students, toured the campus and spoke with Wageningen researchers on subjects such as circularity and technology.
In her introduction, minister Kaag praised WUR, an institute she admires and readily visits. She called WUR an important university and ‘a centre of excellence and learning’.
The day started with a college tour, during which a select number of students were offered the opportunity to ask Sigrid Kaag and executive board president Louise Fresco questions. WUR alumnus Jente Fabriek acted as moderator. The students came from different fields of study, among which were International Development Studies and Climate Studies.
The first few questions related to the corona pandemic and the impact thereof on the food supply. The Minister stated that there was much unity and solidarity between people at the onset of the crisis, but that the mutual trust is now slowly fading. Regaining this trust requires leadership, the Minister stated. She also stressed that we must look beyond the current crisis and that developing a long term perspective is equally important.
The corona crisis has severely impacted the food supply, especially in developing countries. According to the Minister, local production is needed to guarantee food security. Furthermore, investments in information on healthy eating habits must be increased. Scientists should actively inform society on these issues, Kaag says.
At the end of the college tour, the Minister complimented the students on their engagement and critical questions. ‘You are the next generation. Stand up!’ After the session, students expressed enthusiasm over their meeting with Kaag. ‘I am impressed that a Dutch minister has taken the time and trouble to talk to students’, says Alessandro from Italy.
After the discussion, it was time for a walk over the campus. The Minister met with representatives from Unilever and Kubota, two businesses on Wageningen Campus. Unilever collaborates with partners on global issues such as food waste and obesity in the global foods innovation centre, otherwise known as ‘the Hive’.
Kubota, which has recently set up shop in Plus Ultra-2, received minister Kaag to explain why it has settled within the Wageningen ecosystem, and how it plans to contribute to the development of sustainable and responsible agriculture. Kubota develops applications and products such as farming and building machines, motors, water management products and robotics.
Agriculture was also addressed in the concluding discussion with Wageningen directors and scientists. Jack van der Vorst (managing director Social Sciences Group), Ron Mazier (Corporate Director Strategy & Accounts), Saskia Visser (programme leader Circular and Climate Neutral Society) and Ernst van den Ende (managing director Plant Sciences Group) discussed issues that are high on the international agenda with the Minister. Circular agriculture, for example, and the importance of technical innovation. Ria Hulsman (account manager Latin America and the Caribbean) spoke briefly on the opportunities in the region, and in Surinam in particular.
Before departing, minister Kaag received a publication by Ivo Demmers, programme leader Food Security and Valuing water. The publication focuses on research on food systems, a topic relevant to both the Minister and WUR.