The University of Reading staged its first Land Symposium on Friday 1st December 2017, to discuss issues relating to the land struggles of the 21st century.

The event was organised by a committee of three doctoral students from the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (SAPD) and brought together industry experts, academics and students to create a platform that aimed to foster coordination and engagement between researchers and professionals dealing with different aspects of land related research. 

Sarrok Talhada, one of the event's organisers said: "The Symposium was an opportunity to showcase innovative research conducted at the University of Reading and beyond, and to explore interdisciplinary strategies as an approach for understanding and adapting to global challenges."

He explains: "The symposium created a platform for tackling fragmentation on land research with a focus on three intertwined thematic sessions. The first was on land and justice, which was chaired by Professor Rosa Freedman, who is an expert in international human rights law at Reading. Delegates engaged with questions concerning the link between land and other rights, such as subsistence, peasants and human rights, and rights to other natural resources."

Sarrok continued: "The second session focused on land and development, and dealt with issues such as women and gender. According to the keynote address by Dr Stefanie Lemke, Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Nutrition and the Right to Food from Coventry University, one of the recurrent topics on land-related research is gender and the role women play as users, guardians and managers of natural resources, and their crucial contributions to the food security of their families and communities. Stefanie explained that while development projects claim to address gender, they are often not inclusive of diverse voices and specific needs, and promote a distorted focus on empowering women while failing to integrate men. The final session, chaired by Professor Elizabeth Robinson, an expert in environmental economics in SAPD, featured land and environment. Her session focused on issues around natural resource use, biodiversity and the implication of research on land as a productive resource."

Delighted by the success of the event, Sarrok commented: "As one of the organisers of the first land symposium, I firmly believe that the event created an opportunity for the University to state its position in relation to land struggles of the 21st century. We hope that future events will encompass additional themes and involve researchers with different backgrounds thereby bringing land research initiatives within the university and beyond into a unifying platform." 

The Land Symposium was funded by the Global Development Research Division and attracted contributions and interest from numerous Schools, including The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, the School of Law, the Department of Geography and Environmental Science, and researchers from the University of Groningen, Coventry University and the University of Toronto.

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