The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform 2014-2020 foresees the strengthening of three long-term objectives (viable food production, sustainable management of natural resources and balanced territorial development) under current economic and other challenges, which call for improved competitiveness and an increase of agricultural productivity in EU. Moreover, the reform focuses on new policy instruments to reward farmers that deliver services to the wider public (protection of landscape and biodiversity, etc.), promote resource-efficient and cost-effective new trends and technologies and aid young farmers start-up their own business.
The project aligns with the above provisions and addresses the promotion of the essential skills for the transition towards a more competitive agricultural economy, depending less on direct payments and focusing on rural development schemes. It also addresses the need to foster a green, sustainable agricultural economy as promoted by current EU policies, but also as a means for stimulating economic development and growth in agriculture, reducing unemployment and improving job and product quality and the attractiveness of agriculture as a viable work alternative.
Recent fact-sheets as well as surveys for EU countries, coming from similar initiatives (see for example http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/statistics/rural-development/2013/full-text_en.pdf, http://www.act-now.eu/sites/act-now.eu/files/pictures/D1.1_DeskResearch_Result_GB_Complete.pdf), outline a demand for new farmer skills and competencies in all four areas of agricultural business management, marketing/promotion/networking, technology, sustainable/organic cultivation.
SKIFF responds to the above needs and mobilizes field experts and key stakeholders from Greece, Netherlands, Lithuania and Turkey, aspiring to develop a sustainable, multilingual training program under the e-learning and m-learning paradigms, covering six (6) important thematic areas that cut-across most of the above requirements: 1. Organic Farming, 2. Rural Development, 3. Agricultural Markets, 4. Farming Management, 5. Biobased Economy, 6. ICT in Agriculture. Four (4) main project outcomes are foreseen:
1. A sustainable, full-fledged www-based platform to provide multilingual (in the native languages of the participants plus English) training courses and consulting under the e-learning paradigm: flexible and friendly authoring mechanisms, rich content delivery, self-teaching and assessment capabilities, course and trainee management, e-fora and other communication tools, rich statistics and reports, etc.
2. A pilot on-line training session to take place in all participating countries, offering prospective trainees the opportunity to take the courseware modules, evaluate our methodology and material and receive an ECVET-compliant certification upon successful completion.
3. A cut-down version of the training material as well as other useful applications and alerts (weather forecasts, RSS feeds, official alerts, etc.) in the form of m-learning modules, suitably customized for Android and IOS users.
4. A generic e-commerce platform as well as continuous guidance that will be offered to prospective farmers that would like to further customize the platform and establish their own e-shop facility, in a friendly manner.
The training modules were selected according to their significance and universal character: a) there is no major geographic variation in the involved countries, b) the different national regulatory and legislative frameworks are similar, as far as the proposed modules are considered, c) the designated thematic areas pertain to horizontal EU policies, under common rules and techniques. Thus, project outcomes are equally applicable to all participating countries and even to the rest European countries.
Our target group consists of two main categories: (a) farmers with at least high school education, (b) agronomists, vets, agriculture officials and professionals who wish to enhance their skills through appropriate IT tools and also obtain a relevant certification.
We employ mainstream ICT technology and tools, commonly available to most of our foreseen target groups, and aspire to reach a wide audience of prospective trainees and potential users, through the involvement of key stakeholders in the consortium (please also refer to the following sections), qualified by role and official expertise to densely disseminate project results and make the best possible use under current national policies and training programs. Project partners exhibit complementary backgrounds, in terms of expertise but also in terms of the degree of the achieved penetration and maturity of EU promoted policies in each country. Through a closely synergistic approach, we expect that the exchange of best practices will benefit all the involved stakeholders and enhance the progress of national policies that pertain to the suggested thematic areas.