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Enhancing COoperation amongst FARMing entrepreneurs
Start date: Nov 1, 2016, End date: Apr 30, 2019 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Agricultural markets & farming have changed considerably over the last decades across Europe and agricultural production faces more & more social & environmental challenges. Family farms are a central element of EU agricultural policy & the viability of many family farms is under threat. For example, only 37% of Irish farms are considered as economically viable; 31% are sustainable due to the presence of off-farm income; 32% are economically vulnerable (Teagasc). Cooperation provides opportunities to secure the future of these farms. In a submission to the Irish RDP, UCD, stated that the difficulties facing agriculture in Ireland include small farm size (average size 33 ha.), fragmentation of landholdings (28% of farms have 5 or more land parcels), ageing farm population (average age 56 years) & lack of new entrants (6.2% less than 35 years). Co-operative farming is seen as one possible way to overcome some of these constraints to growth though it is not widely practiced in Ireland & at the present time. ... the current low level of partnerships…is due to … a number of factors including financial issues… as well as social & cultural barriers.A similar situation exists in many countries in Europe.The benefits of cooperation may be obvious to potential collaborators but having the confidence & the necessary skills to effectively work together in a cooperative enterprise needs to be developed. Co-operation amongst farming entrepreneurs offers an opportunity to address some of the issues the sector faces. However, farmers & other rural entrepreneurs need to be trained in the principles of B2B co-operation. Agricultural education levels of farmers in Europe is generally low. Eurostat figures show that 80% of farm managers in Europe have practical experience only & that less than 10% have full agricultural training. A major challenge for the agricultural sector is to enable farmers to develop their entrepreneurial skills. It may well point to the fact that if the sector is under as much strain as many would suggest, then farmers of all types will require economic support & greater emphasis on education & training may be necessary. The aim of this project is to develop & implement a training programme which will provide farmers with the knowledge & skills necessary to work in a co-operative environment. This programme will be very practical in nature & will aim at enhancing the capacity & willingness of the target groups to co-operate at a farm level. The knowledge & skills gained will be applied in a number of different environments & the learning from the experience of such application will be used to amend the teaching programme. This work would build on the discussion group model which has proven to be very effective for the provision of advice and sharing of information. Co-operation in the reduction of production costs/ unit, optimisation of energy/ resources input in agricultural production, increase of share of added value for farmers in marketing of products, sharing of farm work-loads & purchasing & participating in the benefits of the processing of the raw materials supplied by farm enterprises will be the focus. The main project product, which development will follow the OER approach, will be a web-based Training App compatible both with desktop and mobile devices.The main elements of the training app will be:- A Summary Report about the State of the Art of cooperation amongst farming entrepreneurs in Europe and in the involved countries;- A set of 30 case studies gathering best practices relate to cooperation processes in the involved countries;- Interactive training modules providing the knowledge needed to start and implement a cooperation initiative.The training materials (in English, German, Spanish, Slovenian, Czech, Italian and French) will be fully available free of charges on the project webpage and will be also uploaded on the Open Education Europa ( portal and to other OER repositories making them available to an even wider audience.The CO-FARM consortium is made of the following partners:LIT (IR): A college of Higher Education which Development Unit has been involved in Rural Development for over 15 years.HuL (DE): An independent private consultancy focused on consulting of agricultural and rural family enterprises. OnP (ES): A project managing and project evaluation consulting enterprise.COAG (ES), APF_CR (CZ) and CIA (IT): Farmers associations. BTC_Naklo (SI): A public educational institution working in these fields: Agriculture, Rural Development, Horticulture, Floristic, Dairying, Nature Preservation, Organic Farming, Stockbreeding and Renewable Energy. They are an important actor within the Slovenian VET system.ELO (BE): A federation of national associations from the EU28, which represents the interests of the landowners, land and forest managers and rural entrepreneurs at the European political level.
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