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ENRD at Agricultural Knowledge, Information and Innovative Systems (AKIS) and Advisory Services in the EU, PROAKIS Regional Workshop
7 March 2014, KrakĻŒw, Poland

Summary of the agenda:

The workshop was organized by PROAKIS. PRO AKIS is an EU FP 7 project that investigates agricultural advisory services within the context of Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS). During the first year, the project team compiled an inventory of AKIS institutions in 27 EU Member States with a focus on the functions of advisory services. This workshop was concentrated on a region of 9 Member States, with the main aim to :

  • present, evaluate and complement findings on AKIS and advisory systems in selected countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovakia
  • confirm results, identify controversies and discuss challenges for AKIS and advisory systems with AKIS stakeholders from the respective countries
  • discuss and develop policy recommendations

Main findings:

The Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems in the different Member States will have a significant role to play in the next programming period particularly since their function will also significantly affect and contribute to the agricultural EIP. A key point that was confirmed by the workshop was that there is no unified AKIS system in the different Member States. In each of the Member States there are significant differences (e.g. legislation, structure of education, sources of financing, characteristics of farms etc.) that determine these systems. The inventory that has been compiled by this research project offers a detailed overview of the actors and organisations that constitute these systems. The inventory is structured by types of advisory services and their relations with other institutions within the AKIS. Another key element of this work is that it also looked into the formal and informal interactions between the various actors and organisations.

The findings of the AKIS overview and the discussions held during the workshop confirmed that although there are some similarities for comparison particularly on topics, at the same time there are different priorities and significant differences in terms of structures and funding sources. The discussions highlighted that a key factor shaping the developments in the AKIS is also the fact that the financial resources available are continuously reduced and a consequence the AKIS systems need to evolve and adapt their operation in order to offer good quality services with reduced resources. In addition public administrations need to justify the use of the limited resources available. When however there is a need for soft type investments (raising awareness, education, etc.) it can be a challenge to assess and evaluate their impact, thus such actions may not be prioritised. Another controversial issue discussed was the public versus private AKIS which is also context specific. For instance, it was highlighted that in the Netherlands where the AKIS is entirely market oriented, issues such as small farms or public goods are not addressed by the AKIS systematically. As research and the services offered by the Dutch AKIS are commercially oriented there is no extensive focus on such issues. Overall, the workshop reinforced the message that a comprehensive and well-functioning education and advisory service system is a critical determinant for agriculture and rural development. The effectiveness of its operation is dependant on the linkages with all parts of the system, internal collaboration and spread of know-how.

The content and the scope of the workshop were very relevant to ENRD activities. The ENRD has already been active in identifying various actors that are part of the AKIS systems in the different Member States through the Knowledge Transfer & Innovation Gateway. In view of future ENRD activities it is strongly encouraged to continue and monitoring the developments on the different systems, identifying existing and new AKIS actors and proactively disseminate this information to the ENRD stakeholders. Exploiting the services offered and expertise of the stakeholders of the AKIS can support addressing issues that are of interest for rural development such as for example young farmers, environmental services etc. as part of its mandate to contribute in improving RDP implementation for 2014-2020.