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September 2005

ICT needs for ecological and organic agriculture
in Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo

This study was commissioned by the FAO Regional Office for Europe and the Research and Technology Development Service,
FAO Research, Extension and Training Division

The objective of this study, commissioned by the FAO Regional Office for Europe and SDRR, is to analyse the status of and future needs for information and communication systems of private and government organizations in the national agricultural research system and its relevant partners with respect to agro-ecological and organic production in Bulgaria, Serbia and Kosovo. Basis for analysis have been personal interviews with organizations active in the field of ecological farming and information provided by national experts in the countries studied. Network analysis has been chosen as the basic methodology to identify the level of cooperation and information exchange.

The situation with respect to ecological farming systems like organic agriculture is varying in the countries studied. While in Bulgaria the government announcing and supporting organic agriculture as model for modern environment friendly farming systems and organic agriculture so far has gained some importance for exports, we found recognition of and support for organic agriculture at its very initial stage in Serbia and almost not existent in Kosovo.

In all three countries, low-input farming systems fit well the current situation of the agricultural sector with limited financial resources by both of the government and the farmers and can open opportunities for access to European Union markets. As organic agriculture is much more than just not applying synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, developing know-how and competence are of major importance.

While in Bulgaria, both government and private organizations are quite important and developed, in Serbia and Kosovo, the state has so far not recognized organic agriculture to be of significance. In the latter two countries, organic agriculture is developed through private organizations (Serbia) or internationally funded agricultural projects (Kosovo).

In general, the level of cooperation and information generation and flow in all the countries studied needs improvement, again with Bulgaria having the most developed sector but still requiring a better institutional setting for organic agriculture. In Serbia and Kosovo, institutional development is at its very beginning or its need still needs to be recognized.

International information is the most important source of information in Serbia and Kosovo. In order to make this information accessible and acceptable, it needs to be translated and adopted to the national situation of the agricultural sector. Basic information on what organic agriculture is about is lacking in Serbia and Kosovo while information about organic production techniques are lacking in all countries studied.

A key-issue in all countries is improving the competence in modern ecological farming techniques of current research, extension and administration staff as a prerequisite to be able to transfer know-how to farmers. Therefore, also the curricula of academic education should include ecological farming methods as subject matters. Furthermore, projects should support access to internationally available information and access to international academic networks. To improve the level of competence at general agricultural administration and extension services, twinning-programmes with Western-European countries are suggested.

Projects to support the development of environment friendly farming systems should address the reported deficiencies in cooperation among research institutions and universities by introducing an institutionalized information system on organic agriculture research and fora on organic agriculture. Electronic media initiatives could help learning how modern information technology could be applied for provision of information about environment friendly agriculture.

In Serbia and Kosovo, where environment friendly farming systems are in an initial phase, universities and research centres should provide their scientific competence in supporting and accompanying private initiatives which develop information material, curricula and training courses. Furthermore, high profile demonstration farms could contribute to get a better understanding on how organic agriculture is functioning and which options it could offer to agricultural sectors in transition.

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