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This volume of the REU Technical Series (RTS 63) is the fourth on organic agriculture research in Europe. The first in this series are the proceedings of the expert consultation on Biological Farming in Europe, held in Basel from 30 September to 1 October 1990 (RTS 12), followed by a review of the status of Organic Farming Research in Europe in 1997 (RTS 54). The third volume on this topic (RTS 58) was the proceedings of the first workshop of the new Working Group on Organic Farming Research of the FAO Sustainable Rural Environment and Energy Network (SREN) held at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Frick, Switzerland, 30 September to 3 October 1998.

SREN is part of the European System of Cooperative Research Networks in Agriculture (ESCORENA), a voluntary collaboration effort promoted by the FAO Regional Office for Europe since 1974 ( All publications can be found at

The current volume of the REU Technical Series presents the proceedings of the second workshop of this SREN Working Group. The overall focus of the workshop was directed towards the application and development of participatory research approaches which give useful results for the holistic, integrative approach so significant for organic agriculture in general.

It is hoped that, as happened previously, the present activities of this Network spawn many new initiatives which bring the seeds planted during this Workshop to fruition.

The generous organizational and financial support from the International Centre for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies Bari (IAMB) is greatly appreciated. It furthermore created an opportunity to bring together Mediterranean NGO representatives with the research members of the Network and further strengthened the resolve for organic agriculture networking in the Mediterranean under the guidance of IAMB.

Claude Forthomme
Regional Representative for Europe



This Second Workshop of the Sustainable Rural Environment and Energy Network (SREN) Working Group on Research Methodologies in Organic Farming, was hosted by the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute, Bari (IAMB, The theme of the Workshop, On-Farm and Participatory Research in Organic Farming, had been decided according to those thematic groups which had been most active since the first workshop of the Working Group in 1998 in Frick, Switzerland (for proceedings of the Workshop held in Frick see REU Technical Series 58, or //../rts58.doc). The hosting institution and co-sponsor is actively promoting collaboration and development of organic agriculture in the Mediterranean basin and collaborated in a very successful regional EU-sponsored organic agriculture development project (Biopuglia, The Workshop date was chosen to coincide with IAMB’s sponsored Workshop of the Mediterranean Organic Agriculture Network, facilitating also the members of that Network who were not all researchers, to participate in the SREN Workshop. The Workshop started on Sunday, 5 September 1999 in order to reduce travel costs.


A total of 51 participants from 20 countries[1] joined the plenary sessions and group discussions. A banquet with regional specialities and live entertainment supported the group spirit and facilitated integration of new members for improved participation and interaction. In addition, a local tour was organized impromptu for those participants not leaving before late Tuesday, 7 September. A list of participants can be found at the end of this publication.

The first morning of the Workshop entailed presentations reviewing the Mediterranean situation and general themes related to on-farm participatory research. Mrs Scialabba’s (SDRR) presentation of related FAO activities was well-received leading to more global contacts and evidenced the global involvement of many of the Network members.

The following three half-days involved parallel discussion groups on:

These discussions were briefly interrupted by a tour of the excellent IAMB training and research facilities. Presentations of conclusions were completed on the Tuesday morning. Detailed reports will be published in the proceedings to be jointly produced with IAMB as a REU Technical Series.

A common thread throughout many of the discussions, was the recognition that not enough research is oriented to benefit the farmer; this is not necessarily due to the classical division of basic and applied research, but more so due to the research topic selection and the lack of proper integration of farmer knowledge and participation. Some of the major research benefits to the farmer were seen as:

Since one of the problems of on-farm research in general and organic farming research in particular is its limited “geographical” applicability of results, the joint and in-depth elaboration of methodologies at least permits linking the different regions. Another limitation is the almost automatic selection of only or predominantly good farmers as research partners.

The pilot farm group discussed the benefit of a survey/review of different farm types and produced checklists of issues and criteria to consider in the development of each farm type: Demonstration Farms, Development Farms, Evaluation/Performance Farms. Research priorities will be different for specific crops and eco-conditions, but also for preferences according to each countries, e.g. focussing on animal welfare criteria development in Austria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom and long-term economic monitoring in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Possible project and/or SREN activities in this context could refer to training people on how to set up pilot farms. A project concept was developed for the Assessment of Organic Farming in Mediterranean Countries.

The strategy discussion group gave most emphasis to the quality aspect of organically produced food in order to improve farm income, while farm production level and environmental impact were considered the next important aspects with major needs for knowledge improvement. The development of concepts and proper guidelines (incl. social and environmental quality aspects) perhaps through a research network and their enforcement and communication to the consumer were seen of prime importance. In this context it was suggested to build a research network on the communication between and behaviour of different market components/actors and the social value of organic products

The environment group pointed to the need of thorough environmental evaluation also for organic agricultural methods and discussed further details.

Several project ideas were outlined in the discussion groups. Together with IAMB a project proposal was discussed on the review of the stage of organic agriculture in Mediterranean countries with one of the outputs being a list of research priorities for different crops and eco-systems. Other discussions and recommendations are listed under point 3.

A preliminary offer was made by IAM Chania, Greece, to organize and host the Third SREN Workshop on Research Methodologies in Organic Farming.


Criticism of the Workshop was very constructive. The major points were as follows:

It was mentioned that the Workshop presented a welcome opportunity for several participants (> one third) to discuss in-depth, two research projects which were intended for presentation to the EU before mid-November 1999 (organic agriculture and food security and coordination and dissemination of organic agriculture research).

The Workshop participants suggested, while aware of the logistical difficulties, that group facilitators should have met one day prior to the Workshop to better organize and structure the discussions.

It was also suggested that SREN activities should/could include training workshops or courses (IAMB collaboration) but separate from technical workshops.

Some research interest in previous thematic groups was re-expressed, such as in plant breeding for organic agriculture, criteria development for permitted inputs, on-farm participatory research, etc.

A few priority research topics were mentioned which could also be given attention to by this Working Group:

It was decided at the time of the final discussions to leave the Working Group programme more open-ended than the last time. Members will determine working group activities and priorities during the coming months.

Close ties should be maintained between the SREN WG and the Mediterranean Organic Agriculture Network by the Secretariat with IAMB and between coordinators.

Collaboration with IAMB and also IAM Chania can be widened for research collaboration as well as other organic agriculture topics.


The organization of the Workshop was made possible by the extraordinary and voluntary efforts of the working group coordinator and the staff of IAMB in Bari. FAO and IAMB jointly supported the Workshop financially to permit the participation of researchers who otherwise have no opportunity to participate in this collaboration. All other participants had contributed their own resources in the true sense of the ESCORENA cooperative spirit. To all of them the secretariat of ESCORENA expresses its gratitude for this successful collaboration.





0830-0900 hours

Registration of Participants

0900 hours

Welcome Speech

M. De Cristofaro Regione Puglia, Italy

0915 hours

Opening of the Workshop

C. La Cirignola CIHEAM/IAMB, Italy

0930 hours

FAO and Organic Agriculture

N. Scialabba FAO, Rome, Italy

0945 hours

R&D in Organic Farming in Mediterranean Areas

C. Testini CIHEAM/IAMB, Italy

1000 hours

Coffee Break


1030 hours

Introduction to the Workshop

R. Zanoli University of Ancona, Italy

1040 hours

Review of Current On-farm Research in Organic Farming

W. Lockeretz Tufts University, USA

1100 hours

A Simulation Approach for Organic Farming Guided by Farmers: a Participatory Approach to Agricultural Policy Research

A. Haering University of Hohenheim, USA

1120 hours

The Changing Role of the Researcher/Adviser in Agriculture: Implications for Organic Farming

F.M. Santucci University of Perugia, Italy

1140 hours

“Optimization of Research Structures in Organic Farming”: a Proposal for the Fifth (EC) Framework Programme

U. Zerger/O. Schmid SOEL/FiBL, Germany/ Switzerland

1200 hours

Open Plenary Discussion

1300 hours

Lunch Break


1430 hours

Meeting of Parallel Group Sessions

Improving Organic Farming Techniques to Reduce the Environmental Impact

L. Phillips

Networking and Organic Pilot Farms

O. Schmidt

Strategies for Higher Producer Value in Organic Farming Systems

F. Ansaloni

1700 hours

Coffee Break

1730 hours

Parallel Group Sessions continued

1900 hours

End of Group Work

2000 hours



0900 hours

Parallel Group Sessions - continued with Preparation of the SWOT Report

1030 hours

Coffee Break

1100 hours

Parallel Group Sessions - continued with Preparation of the SWOT Report

1200 hours

Meeting of Facilitators and Rapporteurs for Preparation of the Summary Report of the Sessions

1300 hours


1400 hours

Visit of IAMB

1600 hours

Coffee Break

1630 hours

Reports of Parallel Group Sessions

1730 hours


1830 hours

End of Group Work

2000 hours



0900 hours

Review and Future Programmes of the Working Group: Objectives

1030 hours

Coffee Break

1100 hours

Review and Future Programmes of the Working Group: Organizational Aspects

1230 hours

End of Workshop

1300 hours


[1] Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Palestine, Poland, Slovenia, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States of America.

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