Team Member Spotlight: Board Advisor Flip van Koesveld and EWS-KT’s Partnership with WUR
As Advisor to the East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation (EWS-KT) Board of Trustees, Flip van Koesveld plays a pivotal role in the enduring technical collaboration between EWS-KT and its longtime partner Wageningen University & Research (WUR) in the Netherlands.
Flip’s extensive career spans over four decades in sustainable agriculture and tropical vegetable production, and he has advised the Board of Trustees since EWS-KT’s inception in 2016, contributing his in-depth knowledge of farmer extension services in Asia and Africa.
Building a Career in Agriculture
At WUR, Flip oversees International Project Development, focusing on initiatives that address climate change impacts and agricultural challenges across diverse regions. His emphasis on practical, research-driven solutions highlights the importance of sustainable vegetable farming practices integral to EWS-KT’s approach.
“When I was young, agriculture fascinated me deeply; it was all about plants and animals. My family’s history in agriculture within the tropics, particularly in Indonesia, sparked my interest in this field,” shared Flip, who pursued studies in tropical agriculture. His initial work in Africa with the Dutch global development agency SNV, focusing on tropical vegetables, laid the groundwork for his later involvement with EWS-KT. Following his engagement with SNV, he entered the Dutch extension sector and then joined WUR, where he worked closely with East-West Seed on knowledge transfer matters.
“I strongly believed in the philosophy of ‘seeing is believing,’ engaging with farmers and learning directly from them. Collaborations and discussions with influential figures at East-West Seed like founder Simon Groot emphasized the importance of extension advice for farmers,” he explained. Before East-West Seed established EWS-KT as a separate foundation dedicated to farmer training, Flip played an advisory role in guiding East-West Seed’s integrated knowledge transfer efforts in multiple countries in Asia.
Ongoing Collaboration Between WUR and EWS-KT
Transitioning to the WUR field crops team solidified Flip’s focus on sustainability within agriculture. “Climate change and burgeoning populations present challenges and opportunities. Population growth signifies increased demand, but access to finance remains a hurdle in agriculture. To counteract these effects, EWS-KT and WUR are focused on developing sustainable practices, notably reducing fertilizer and pesticide usage,” he noted.
“For instance, WUR, the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, and EWS-KT are now in the process of developing green manure recommendations. We are doing so by conducting trials in India and Uganda, where we test green manure crops. These crops harness nitrogen from the air, potentially minimizing fertilizer dependency.”
EWS-KT and WUR are also working together to test green manure options in Ghana. These and other collaborative efforts contribute to creating “future-proof” farming solutions that improve farmers’ resilience to climate change and extreme weather.
The Fruits of Partnership
Collaboration remains fundamental in addressing sustainability and other complex agricultural issues. Flip highlighted the extensive network and local connections forged through the partnership between WUR and EWS-KT in 10 countries, emphasizing their contribution to continual learning and data-driven adaptations benefiting smallholder farmers.
“Our collaboration with EWS-KT grants WUR deep insights into agricultural practices at the grassroots level,” he noted. “There is still a lot of potential to continue gathering, analyzing, and applying data effectively, continuously learning and adapting to benefit smallholder farmers’ needs.”
The information and solutions gained from this collaboration are incorporated by EWS-KT into training protocols for field staff, reflected in print and online learning materials, and brought back directly to smallholder farmers by EWS-KT field teams. EWS-KT also relies on WUR’s broader scholarship and technical knowledge to advise farmers. The strong partnership between EWS-KT and this premier academic institution provides EWS-KT with an extra layer of expertise and access to the latest advances in horticultural production.
Emphasis on Sustainability
In addition to working with knowledge partners like WUR, EWS-KT partners with organizations, companies, and other funders to reach more smallholder farmers. For potential partners interested in engaging with EWS-KT, Flip stresses the importance of sustainability. Aligning partnerships to provide practical, climate-smart solutions while prioritizing farmers is essential for successful projects. “The core principle of addressing farmers’ actual needs, of making ‘seeing is believing’ a reality, has been a guiding force throughout EWS-KT’s journey,” he said.
Our thanks to Flip van Koesveld and Maya Muller for their contributions to this post.