News: Envisioning a future for better advisory services: A Sociotechnical seminar (STS) in Chania, Crete
The Agricultural University of Athens organized a scenario workshop (Work Package 5) in collaboration with growers and local actors involved in the cultivation of avocado. The workshop took place on 14 June 2021 in the Mediterranean Institute of Chania with 13 participants, coming from policy, the public administration, research institutes, farmers’ organizations and advice providers. It aimed at exploring the role that farming advice can play in the future to help realize more sustainable agricultural systems on the basis of a future vision to which the participants agreed to move towards.
The future vision emerges from the current situation in the cultivation of avocado, which is characterized by:
- High demand for avocado globally and increasing global competition, both creating opportunities for the growth of the local production as well as risks for the local farmers.
- The rapid expansion of the cultivation in marginal areas at local level. New entrants often have no agricultural background, no agricultural education and no willingness to act collectively and participate in cooperatives or producers’ groups.
- Research advancements globally have contributed to the expansion of the cultivation of avocado in previously unsuitable areas. New varieties and propagation material that are resistant to adverse environments have been developed. However, at local level there is lack of well-adapted varieties.
- Increased use of agrochemicals locally.
- Inefficiency of local water recourses and need for a water management plan that addresses the problem. This is a source of tension with tourism – consisting, along with agriculture, the most important pillar of the local economy.
- Climate change has made itself felt in the area with excessive rainfalls and prolonged periods of high temperatures.
- Lack of land available for cultivation, due to residential expansion locally.
The workshop explored the challenges of the current advisory system, pointing to:
- the lack of a robust extension/advisory system in Greece,
- the poor links between advisory and research services,
- the lack of a regulatory framework that will ensure advisers’ credibility and reliability, and
- the impact of structural shortcomings pertaining local agriculture (such as land ownership and competition for land) on the competitiveness of the avocado cultivation.
The participants’ suggestions for a sustainable future concern improvements of both the local and the national AKIS, including:
- The establishment of two mutually supportive systems: First, a system providing producers with continuous flows of information, and second, a comprehensive agricultural educational system initiating farmers into basic knowledge on farming.
- Improvements in the certification system of the front-line advisors.
- The establishment of procedures that facilitate the ‘translation’ of knowledge.
- The establishment of local coordinating bodies of advisors per crop.
- Proactive action and coordination among research, advisory services and producers.
- Utilization of the potential provided by the CAP to fund actions related to the provision of advice.