The Prefecture of Chania is located in Crete corresponding to 1.8% of the territory and 1.7% of the agricultural land of the country. Its economy is dependent on the agricultural sector and services, notably tourism and trade.Tree crops cover almost 85% of the agricultural land with olive trees corresponding to 90% and citrus to 7% of the total land covered by tree crops.
Despite the fact that the cultivation of avocado covers only a small area not exceeding 1.3% of the total land cultivated with tree crops, the recent years it has been massively adopted even in marginal areas. The dissemination of avocado in Chania in combination with the challenge of climate change locally and its increasing financial importance globally made the exploration of this innovation in the framework of the Agrilink project interesting and worthwhile.
The study focuses on the role of local AKIS actors and the interactions developed among avocado growers aiming at the exchange of information and knowledge throughout the innovation process. The advisory landscape in Chania was formed by some public and farmer based organizations and, mainly, by many nurseries and input supply shops (private agronomists).
The involved research institutes initiated the innovation by raising farmers’ awareness with their role being recognized as more crucial during the assessment of the innovation, when farmers sought guidance and reliable information to support their decision-making. On the other hand, the influence of the local input suppliers as advice providers to avocado growers increased during the implementation of the innovation, indicating a return of farmers to their previous dependency upon them. A number of avocado growers was connected with some of the available advice suppliers but many others relied more or exclusively on peer-to-peer interactions. Common perceptions on farming, personal preferences, friendships, family bonds and traditions played an important role in the relationships among farmers and advisors. The main collective activity of the key advice suppliers was their engagement in an informal working group aiming at promoting proposals, which the regional government was called to accept and realize. However, this activity has not produced tangible results for avocado growers due to the lack of official support.
Altogether, the study reveals a gap in the production and adaptation of relevant knowledge a fact that, in many occasions, led avocado growers to repeated crop failures due to inappropriate propagation material and incorrect cultivation practices. The advice providers were not always able to provide proper answers to growers’ questions and the seminars that were sporadically organized by public entities were not enough to guide the growers to solutions on cultivation problems.
Agricultural University of Athens
Agricultural University of Athens (AUA) is the third oldest university in Greece with significant contribution in the agricultural and economic development of the country. The Laboratory of Agricultural Extension, Agricultural Systems & Rural Sociology, which is involved in the Agrilink project, has long experience in EU and national projects on advisory services, extension education and innovation, including the projects PRO AKIS and Agrispin.