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RAAS Conference: Best Practices and Experience in the Eastern Partnership
Rural and Agricultural Advisory Systems (RAAS): Best Practices and Experience in the Eastern Partnership 15 – 16 April, 2015, Riga, Latvia
Venue: Bellevue Park Hotel Riga, Slokas iela 1, Riga, Latvia
The international conference was organized by the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commission in the framework of the Eastern Partnership (EP) Panel on Agriculture and Rural Development
The Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Latvia organized the conference together with:
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia;
- European Commission;
- Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre which serves Latvian Rural Network.
The conference provided a platform for sharing of the experience and best practices on advisory and extension systems in rural areas, discussing their different organisation structures, ways of setting-up, sources of financing.
The main outcomes of the conference were:
- Joint statement by the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine on support for the development of rural and agricultural advisory systems for forwarding it to the organisers of the Eastern Partnership Summit in May 2015;
- Strengthening the cooperation between the decision makers and stakeholders involved in rural and agricultural advisory in EU Member States and Eastern European partner countries (Republic of Armenia, Republic of Azerbaijan, Republic of Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine).
These were the main topics’ discussed during the conference:
- Preconditions for successful development of rural and agricultural advisory systems (RAAS);
- Success factors in development of sustainable and efficient RAAS;
- Benefits and opportunities for cooperation between RAAS within the Eastern Partnership.
The conference was opened by Mr Jānis Dūklavs, Minister of Agriculture, Republic of Latvia. The minister noted that the cooperation with Eastern Partnership has always been the priority for Latvia. He confirmed that sufficient investments must be provided for education and advisory in order to ensure the profitability of agriculture and cooperation between farmers. Advisors also serve as a link between farmers and policy makers. Rural advisory must promote development of small and medium farms, improving sustainable and effective land use. He wished the discussions of the conference to foster the future cooperation.
The 1st session on the role of rural and agricultural advisory systems was opened by Mr Mario Milouchev, Director for Rural Development Programmes in DG Agriculture and Rural Development, European Commission, with presentation on The role of rural and agricultural advisory services in rural development and promotion of agriculture.
Mr Mārtiņš Cimermanis, Chairman of the Board, Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre provided a presentation The role of advisory service in sustainable development of Latvian rural areas. The presentation was started with a brief introduction of the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre (established in 1991).
Ms Irina Pilvere, Professor, Dr.oec. Rector of Latvian University of Agriculture, provided a presentation The role of higher education and science in the development of agriculture and rural development.
The 1st session was concluded by the ministers’ Panel discussion on Implementation and possible adjustment of available EU instruments to improve rural and agricultural advisory services in the East European partner states to promote agricultural economic development, moderated by Mr Aivars Lapiņš, Deputy state secretary, Head of Latvian Presidency team for Agriculture, Food, Veterinary, Forestry and Fisheries. The ministers presented their opinion on the topic of the conference and the needed improvements in the EU support mechanisms for the EP.
2nd session Preconditions for successful development of rural and agricultural advisory systems was opened by Mr Erich Waldmeier, Delegate of International Academy of Rural Advisors (IALB), with presentation on Theories and models of advisory services – advisory and extension.
Mr Henry Jørgensen, Senior Adviser, Business Development. SEGES, Denmark provided presentation The sustainability of advisory services - experiences, instruments and approaches. In the presentation he provided an overview of the Danish agriculture and Danish Agricultural Advisory Service and its historical development, financing and regulatory tools.
Mr Kaspars Žūriņš, Member of the Board, Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre provided a presentation Development of rural advisory system in Latvia: challenges and changes. In the presentation, he provided a few basic facts about Latvia and Latvian agriculture, history, mission, organizatory structure and work directions of Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre, recent participation in projects.
3rd session Success factors in development of sustainable and efficient rural and agricultural advisory systems was opened by Ms Barbara Odrobińska, The Chief Specialist in the Agricultural Advisory, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Poland by presentation Arrangement of the Agricultural Advisory System in Poland. Mr Henryk Skórnicki, Director of Agricultural Advisory center in Brinow, Branch in Radom finalized the presentation by telling about the advisors training and certification in Poland.
Mr Michael Kuegler, EUFRAS (European Forum for Agricultural and Rural Advisory Services) gave a presentation Agricultural and rural advisory services -challenges for Eastern European partner countries.
In the 4th session Benefits and opportunities for cooperation between rural and agricultural advisory systems within the Eastern Partnership, the representatives from Eastern Partnership countries provided information about the national rural advisory systems and outlook into the future.
Rural advisory services in Armenia and outlook into the future
Mr Gagik Sardaryan, Director of the Centre for Agribusiness and Rural Development foundation, Armenia, presented the situation in Armenia.
Mr Eldar Guliyev, Head of the Department, Ministry of Agriculture, Institute of Economics and Organization of Agriculture of Azerbaijan, presented the situation in Azerbaijan.
Mr Alexei Bogdanov, Head of the Department for Foreign Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Republic of Belarus, presented the situation in Belarus.
Mr Zviad Bobokashvili, National Scientific Research Center, Georgia, presented the situation in Georgia.
Mr Gheorghe Cainarean, Deputy director, National Agency of Rural Development (ASCA), Moldova, presented the situation in Moldova.
Mr Roman Korinets, President of Association, National Association of Agricultural Advisory Services of Ukraine, presented the situation in Ukraine.
During the coffee break Mr Jan Žukovskis, Assoc. prof., Aleksandras Stulginskis University, Lithuania presented a poster Farm Advisory System in Lithuania.
The discussions of the 1st day of the conference were concluded by summarizing the future project needs, ideas and topics for development of rural and agricultural advisory services that emerged from the presentations and panel discussions.
- Advisory systems are not established in an empty space and local characteristics play an important role. The decision makers must take into account the local conditions when deciding on the advisory system (small family farms in Georgia, huge state farms in Belarus). “One size fits all” will not work!
- The projects must cooperate between themselves and must complement the previous activities.
- State co-financing is crucial for sustainability of development of advisory services!
- Local knowledge is important for creditability and independence of advisors.
Ideas for future co-operation and projects
- Technology and tools for advisors and farmers (incl. data collection and benchmarking, information for policymaking).
- Support system for cooperation.
- Cooperation between advisory services in different countries (incl. training of advisors in “more developed” advisory organizations).
- Integration of the existing advisory bodies in functioning system.
- Support system for training of private farmers.
- Certification and accreditation systems of advisors – also a possible seminar topic.
- Generation change in agriculture.
- Cooperation with NGOs in provision of advisory services.
- Promotion of farm advisory and improvement of advisors creditability.
- Quality and marketing of agricultural products.
After the presentation of the above mentioned ideas the participants recommended to extend the list with the following ideas:
- Involvement of upstream industry (resource providers) in advisory is important to improve the quality of the products.
- Finding the correct balance between the public and private funding and advisory is important for sustainability.
- Regional approach for IPARD programmes should be applied.
- Countries have a lot of expertise worth sharing, but this must structured via appropriate policy framework.
- Some EA partnership countries are interested to learn more about organic agriculture and advisory services in rural development in its broader sense.
Mr Mārtiņš Cimermanis closed the 1st day of the conference by saying that agriculture and forestry will be the main driver to keep the population in countryside. Income from agriculture and forestry and not subsidies must provide attractive income for rural inhabitants. For this, the advisor has an important role. The other direction for the development will be organic agriculture. Each country must find its own way and make the correct decisions – the donors may provide the necessary support, but they will not do our work!
On day 2, Thursday, 16 April, the participants had a chance to take part in a study tour, visiting farm Mežacīruļi in Zemgale region and the central office of Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre. (Participants’ program). Mežacīruļi is a multidisciplinary farm: dairy farming, biogas plant, vegetable gardening, and wetlands. Farm "Mežacīruļi" is winner of an international competition "Farmer of the Year in the Baltic Sea Region 2014". During the visit in Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre the participants had a chance to meet with different experts and advisors working in the Centre. A tour around the premises of the Centre and leveley discussions with the staff provided the conference participants a good overview of the advisors daily work with farmers, rural businesses and communities.
Photo Galery by Andrejs Terentjevs, Dainis Arbidans, Maija Sirvide
Department of Projects and Development
Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre