AgriLink The introduction of the cultivation of stevia. - AgriLink

The introduction of the cultivation of stevia.

Greece, Karditsa
Region

The Prefecture of Karditsa, located in Central Greece, is a half mountainous-half plane area covering the 2% of the territory and the 3% of the total agricultural land of the country. Arable land corresponds to the 90% of its total cultivated lands with cotton crops covering 45% of the cultivated areas and 66% of the irrigated ones. At organizational level the primary sector in Karditsa is organized around small- and medium-sized farms.

Region map.

The introduction of stevia in Karditsa aimed at alleviating severe competitiveness problems of traditional crop farmers, which were exacerbated by the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2010. The case study attracted the scientific interest and was examined at first in the framework of the Horizon 2020 AgriSpin project (https://agrispin.eu/). The research focused on the support services and the resources mobilized by adopters in order to realize especially the part of the innovation related with the stevia-processing unit. In the framework of Agrilink research re-focuses on the cultivation of stevia and re-examines the case in the light of the concept of farmers’ micro-AKIS.

Study focus

The study focusses on the flow of (scientific) knowledge from researchers to farmers as well as among the stevia cooperative farmers involved in assessing and adopting the cultivation of stevia in Karditsa.

The advisory landscape in Karditsa was characterized by the absence of a structured support service system and the collapse of the traditional cooperatives. Input suppliers, collaborating with input industries, provided farmers with advice, ‘integrated’ into their inputs sales’ practices. In the case of stevia the key actors were researchers acting mostly on their own initiative and farmers-members of the stevia cooperative.

Farmers’ awareness derived from dissemination activities initially organized by public (research and education) institutes and later by local groups. In the process innovation assessment farmers again based their decision on information and knowledge they acquired from researches and discussions mostly with other members of the stevia cooperative – but also with their families and friends. During the implementation farmers supported each other, disseminating knowledge and experience they got in the previous stage, especially through pilot fields. The cooperative dealt with the cultivation challenges through organizing processes of experimentation and dissemination of knowledge thus strengthening collegiality among its membership. However, though the cooperative encouraged knowledge exchanges among its members, it did not invest in the enhancement of their knowledge base through intensive interaction with knowledge centres.

Full report is available here: part 1 and part 2.

Partner and responsible person contact

Agricultural University of Athens

Alex Koutsouris, koutsouris@aua.gr

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.

Lessons learned
1 Farmers have the ability to innovate even in the absence of an advisory organization supporting their efforts.
The study shows farmers’ ability to innovate, while trying to utilize scientific knowledge, even in the absence of an advisory organization supporting their efforts. Instead, the farmers engaged in the cultivation of stevia took on an advisory role and restructured their micro-AKIS environment by organizing learning by doing activities and building on team work and collegiality thus proving themselves as valuable sources of knowledge to each other. Τhey were resilient vis-a-vis difficulties arising from the inability of putting into operation the stevia processing unit that hindered their access to the markets by expanding their collaboration to other crops as well.
2 They failed to create space necessary for the development of alliances with external knowledgeable actors.
Nevertheless, the cooperative was trapped due to the temptation to only look inwards with its members confining themselves in interactions among themselves; thus, they failed to create space necessary for the development of alliances with external knowledgeable actors and a framework for sustained collaboration. This, in turn, deprived the cooperative from the opportunity to leave its mark in the regional advisory landscape, emphasizing the need for sustained and multi- actor engagement throughout the innovation processes.

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