Numerous representatives of agricultural extension services from all over Europe followed the invitation of the Agricultural University of Athens to the annual general meeting of the European Forum for Rural Advisory Services EUFRAS from 24th to 25th of February 2020.
With Tom Kelly, EUFRAS president since the foundation of the network in 2013 and Michael Kügler, another EUFRAS founding board member, two main actors who have significantly influenced the association no longer stood for election, as they are going to retire in the course of the year. In her keynote speech, Inge van Oost from the EU Commission gave an outlook on the role of adisory services in the next budget period of the EU. The young advisors from YEUFRAS reported from their side event, the three-day CECRA seminar and the introductory workshop on the EU project i2connect.
EUFRAS President Jussi Juhola of ProAgria from Finland welcomed more than 40 colleagues to the 2020 Annual General Meeting of the European network of rural advisors. EUFRAS is registered and has its office in Latvia, therefore according to Latvian law the General Meeting is always held in the first quarter, hosted alternately by the institutional members at different locations in Europe. This time the host was Prof. Alexandros Koutsouris, Professor of Agricultural Extension and Education from the Agricultural University of Athens, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Picture 1: Prof. Alexandros Koutsouris welcomes as host the participants of the EUFRAS-GM 2020 at the Agricultural University of Athens (AUA). Left: EUFRAS President Jussi Juhola
Regulations on AKIS in the EU from 2021: Innovation support service becomes mandatory
Inge Van Oost from the EU Commission gave the keynote address, focussing on the new report of the Standing Committee on Agricultural Research (SCAR) on the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS). https://scar-europe.org/index.php/akis-documents. Van Oost announced the expansion of the EU funding opportunities in the European Innovation Partnership EIP-Agri, for Operational Groups (OGs) and via Horizon, Erasmus+, Measure 2 for the next budget period 2021-27. This is remarkable against the background of the BREXIT and the foreseeable cuts in direct payments for farmers.
Picture 2: Inge van Oost from the EU Commission presents the 4th SCAR-AKIS report and informs about the strengthened role of extension services in EU agricultural policy from 2021
The report reflects a further developed understanding of advisory services, emphasizing the importance of interactive innovation processes, which innovation support services need to accompany, be it in EIP-funded operational groups or many other forms. Art. 13 of the EU draft regulation on CAP strategic plans foresees a mandatory establishment of an agricultural extension service, which should also cover innovation support services.
New EUFRAS members introduce themselves
The EUFRAS network continues to grow. Since the last EUFRAS meeting in summer 2019 on the occasion of the IALB-EUFRAS-SEASN conference in Salzburg the following institutions have become members:
EUFRAS General Meeting decided new membership-fee structure and establish Council
The General Assembly at the EUFRAS General Meeting in Athens in February 2020 discussed a proposal of the board for the adaption of the memebership fee structure and voted unanimously on a version elaborated and refined during the General Meeting. The aim was to reduce the wide range of fees. In future, the fees for EUFRAS Membership is as follows:
The assembly also voted for the creation of a Council with an advisory function. The Council as additional formal body allows a better representation of the members and sub-networks within EUFRAS and is intended as a place where strategic discussions can be lead. Also the budget was approved, the internal audit has been done by the Lithuanian advisory service LAAS.
Picture 3: Edgars Linde, EUFRAS Vice president guides through the regalutory part of the General meeting 2020
Re-election of the EUFRAS board
Tom Kelly was EUFRAS President from the network's foundation in 2013 until mid-2019. The Director of Knowledge Transfer of the dynamic Irish agricultural extension service Teagasc is retiring from the board after six years at the head of the extension network for age reasons. Michael Kügler, also a founding member of the EUFRAS board, has, as the representative of the German agricultural Chambers in Brussels, tirelessly raised awareness of the importance of agricultural extension services at EU level. Due to his imminent retirement, he did not stand for re-election. Both, Tom Kelly and Michael Kügler were key players who had a decisive influence on the association and the way advisory work is seen today. Jacek Wieciersky from Poland had already resigned from his position on the board in the course of 2019. For the next two years, the new board is partly the old one, new members of the board are Ulrich Ryser (CH), Aurelia Bondari (Moldova) and Alexander Bomberski (Poland), as representative of the young advisors of YEUFRAS.
Picture 4: The newly elected EUFRAS Board on February 24, 2020 in Athens. From left to right: Alexander Bomberski (YEUFRAS, WODR, Poland), Pablo Asensio (FüAk, IALB, Germany), Jussi Juhola (Proagria Finland) President, Aurelia Bondari (Agroinform, Advisory Service Moldova), Liga Cimermane (EUFRAS-Office), Edgars Linde (LLKC Latvia) Vice-President, Anton Jagodic (LWK Slovenia), Ueli Ryser (AGRIDEA, Switzerland)
|Picture 5: Jussi Juhola bids farewell to the parting EUFRAS President Tom Kelly, who has headed the network of consultants since the founding of EUFRAS 2013 and has played a key role in shaping it.||Picture 6: Jussi Juhola and Michael Kügler. With Michael Kügler one of the founding fathers of EUFRAS says goodbye. Since the foundation of EUFRAS in 2013, Michael Kügler has been a member of the EUFRAS board. As EUFRAS-Ambassador in Brussels he faught for the important role of rural consulting on EU level.|
Young advisors from all over Europe met in the first Young-EUFRAS CECRA advisory methods seminar. The CECRA Module 2, communication and relationship building in consulting was selected. The 18 participants came from 10 countries. The seminar of February 21-23 was a side event of the EUFRAS Annual General Meeting. Trainer team Pablo Asensio (FüAK, Bavaria) and Eleni Zarokosta (AUA Greece).
Picture 7: Participants from 10 countries work on their communication skills in the first Young-EUFRAS seminar in Athens 21-23 February 2020
Dr. Eelke Wielinga gave a four-hour introduction to the innovation methods of the i2connect project for YEUFRAS. In the i2connect project, agricultural and forestry consultants are trained in innovation support methods. Dr Wielinga has developed the FAN approach (FAN stands for Free Actors in Networks) and considers networks as living organisms (www.toolsfornetworkers.nl). With his field research on innovation projects he significantly influenced the current EU-EIP agricultural policy. Together with the participants Annick Spaans (ZLTO, NL) and Karoline Schramm (AELF Schweinfurt, DE) he presented the workshop results at the EUFRAS-GM.
Picture 8: Dr. Eelke Wielinga presents innovation support methods for rual advisers from the EU project i2connect in the YEUFRAS workshop.
CECRA TTTs announced and EU projects presented
Pablo Asensio, EUFRAS Board member, presented the train-the-trainer qualifications planned for 2020: the five-day FastTrack 8-12 June 2020 in Ireland and the advisor methods training of trainers, the CECRA TTT 20/21, which starts in Slovenia in September. You find more information and application forms here!
The EUFRAS General Meeting is also an important platform for EU projects where rural advisors are involved. The following projects with EUFRAS participation were presented: i2connet, EURAKNOS, Best4soil, IPM Decisions, FairShare, Erasmus+ funding opportunities. Find all of the presentations stored here:
Don’t miss the next networking event for rural advisors: The Latvian advisory service LLKC hosts the annual advisor conference in Jurmala, Latvia, October, 4-8 2020. It is a global event as G-FRAS is inovlved this year at the GFRAS-EUFRAS-IALB-SEASN conference „Preparing the advisor fort he digital era“.
Text and Photos: Pablo Asensio