Upland farming expert Dr Lois Mansfield has secured a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to explore what lessons Britain can learn from the Far East.
Dr Mansfield is today (7 March) unveiled as one of 150 people from across the UK to be awarded a 2019 Churchill Fellowship.
It will allow Dr Mansfield, the director of the Ambleside campus of the University of Cumbria, to spend four weeks in Japan.
In July Dr Mansfield will learn more about Japan’s approach to rural development.
Churchill Fellowships are awarded to people who are recognised as being ‘uniquely qualified by their real-life experience’ to head overseas to learn about issues affecting the UK.
Carrying out a research project of their choosing, Fellows are instructed to ‘travel to learn, return to inspire’ and bring important insights home, sharing findings with policymakers, communities and others.
Originally from Kent, Dr Mansfield, who lives near Kirkby Stephen, said: “I’m very honoured to receive this Churchill Fellowship.
“I’m going to look at the cultural capital in rural development of upland farming systems in Japan. This isn’t an academic project; it is about making a difference to society and has real-life relevance.
“I will be investigating rural development in some of the remotest areas of Japan. The country is very similar to the UK; they are an industrial country, and situated with a coast close to where they are dominated by another economy, not unlike our forthcoming change in European status.”
Dr Mansfield plans to meet with agriculture and environment ministers, and academics. Accompanied by a translator, she then will visit remote farming communities for most of her trip. She hopes to discover more about the grassroot initiatives that are shaping Japan’s rural development and building its resilience.
Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, is to be Dr Mansfield’s second stop on her four-week trip before she visits farmers in the Yoshino-Kumano national park in the south west.
“It’s very similar to the Lake District,” said Dr Mansfield. “The national park I’ll be visiting has mountainous uplands, marginalised hill farmers and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site so I’ll be looking to draw parallels and see how they have approached issues in the Eastern culture.
“It is exciting to be able to go and learn more about schemes and methods they have introduced that may not have permeated into the western world.”
University Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell said: “Lois’s appointment as a Churchill Fellow is excellent news and reinforces the professional standing of Lois and her work. It is also a wonderful example of the impact our academics have in addressing real-world issues and challenges here in Cumbria and on a global stage.
“I have no doubt that Lois’s project will have significant impact and she will gain much from her experience not only in furthering the work and ambition of our Centre for National Parks and Protected Areas, but in feeding into policy shaping and our work with our Cumbria communities and stakeholder groups.”
Dr Mansfield intends to host a series of lectures and produce a toolkit about how to value social and cultural capital on her return to the UK.
A respected voice of authority on farming, the environment and rural and land management, Dr Mansfield has worked in higher education in Cumbria for 20 years.
Appointed campus director last autumn, Dr Mansfield is looking forward to welcoming prospective students to Ambleside for an open day on March 13.
There will also be a Campus Showcase on 27 April with a variety of hands-on activities and talks demonstrating the range of programmes and research that the University conducts.