'The North remembers - wild product foraging in Europe'

International Institute of Social Studies
University of Latvia
Start date

Thursday, 26 Apr 2018, 16:15

End date

Thursday, 26 Apr 2018, 17:30

International Institute of Social Studies
Mikelis Grivins
Mikelis Grivins

Development Research Seminar by PhD in Sociology dr. Mikelis Grivins a researcher at Baltic Studies Centre Latvia


Edible wild product picking and hunting are the oldest methods of human food provisioning. However, over the centuries domesticated agriculture has moved towards ever greater efficiency and stability, which has allowed farming to supplant foraging and has framed wild product gathering as archaic, inefficient and incapable of supplying a sufficient amount of food to feed a growing global population.

Despite wild product picking declining in significance, it has continued to exist. However, due to the disbelief in possibilities of foraging, it is relatively little known about foragers and foraging communities.
Typically in academic literature, the reliance on wild products is associated with the Global South, and more precisely, with the livelihoods of communities living in rural territories that maintain a lifestyle that ties them to nature. In contrast, economically prosperous European countries are not seen as places where foraging could be anything more than a recreational activity of a few enthusiasts. Still, scattered pieces of evidence reporting on foraging in Europe allow identifying a vibrant sector that plays a notable social, economic and cultural role in many rural communities and has a substantial effect on health, environmental conditions, well-being and other characteristics of these communities.

The lecture reports on the role that wild products have in Northern Europe (with a particular focus on the Baltic States) taking a holistic view of the sector by connecting cultural and economic aspects of foraging and micro and macro levels of wild product trade. The lecture addresses four questions: first, should we pay attention to foraging in Europe? In this section, the scope and theoretical models that can be used to interpret foraging are discussed. Second, what historical, structural and environmental aspects explain the prevalence of foraging in Northern Europe? This section juxtaposes wild product picking with the shortcomings of modern food systems. Third, what is the shape of the sector today? Here the supply chains of wild products are analysed. And finally, what is the potential future of wild product foraging and why it is essential to keep an eye on what is happening in wild product trade?

About the speaker

PhD in Sociology dr. Mikelis Grivins, is a researcher at Baltic Studies Centre in Latvia. Grivins has been involved in studying foraging, agro-food systems and sustainability transition in Central and Eastern Europe. His current research addresses the role of wild product gathering and untapped potential of non-timber forest products in the European countryside. Grivins is the chair of Latvian Sociological association and the convenor of pan-European research study group “Alternative food supply networks in Central and Eastern Europe”.