It is a training course offered by an university and opened at all interested people where the teachers are producers, processors, advicers and lecturers.
Navarra is a region in the north of Spain where agri-food industry is very important at national and international level. In the last years the organic products demand has increased considerably. Currently the supply of organic products in the region does not reach the industry demand. Regional economic studies shows a bigger economic profitability in organic production than in conventional agriculture, however producers do not decide to convert, due to lack of trust on technical issues.
Currently, in the region there is a University that offers undergraduate studies in Agriculture very well valued at European level, but does not include organic farming subjects. On the other hand there is an agricultural services company that advises producers and processors in conventional agriculture, food processing, and also including advice on organic farming, it is called Institute for Agri-food Technology and Infraestructure of Navarra (INTIA).
The growing demand for organic food by Society and the demand for the food industry, made the Public University of Navarra make a proposal, through its foundation, with the aim of training experts in Agroecology to advise producers and processors. So, the existence of those advisers would improve the confidence of producers in the future and it will probably improve the people involved in conversion towards organic food production. Finally, the industry will be able to increase the purchase of ecological raw material in our region.
The human resources for this training course were 52 teachers, 4 staff people and a lecturer as Director. The cost was 26.730 € and all of this quantity was funded by registration fee of the students.
Evidence of success
According to the surveys done by participants, the satisfaction related to teaching was high, 8.6 points out of 10 for the first module. But finally, from a quantitative point of view there is an objective indicator, the course was offered for a maximum number of 35 students. The first week was filled. Finally it was decided to admit 41 students, leaving more than 10 on the waiting list.
After the implementation of the practice, the first challenge that we have found is the lack of internships. So, we are currently working on developing an agri-business incubator, such as I took the opportunity to see in one region of the SME ORGANIC project. So we could offer it, in the future.
Potential for learning or transfer
It is believed that the learning obtained with this practice is important because many universities do not have enough professors who are experts in this subject, to carry out a course about organic food production and processing. Perhaps it was the main cause of the lack of organic university advicers. In the official university subjects only university professors are allowed to teach. However many universities around the world have foundations or institutions, actually are part of them, that allow to offer specific training courses for specific sectors of the Society. This is a clear example where it is possible to take experts with different backgrounds, taking advantage of the acquired experience in their companies and farms, add the knowledge from the university lectures involved and so there is already enough staff to carry out it. Spanish university legislation allows it, provided that the number of university lectures participating was more than 30%.
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