AGROMIX Policy Workshop: Solutions for the CEE Region

Experts and farmers meet to discuss the transition to agroforestry and mixed farming systems across the CEE region

The second AGROMIX multi-stakeholder policy workshop within the CEE region took place online on the 27th of July, following a successful first workshop in Zebegény and Nagymaros, involving a variety of stakeholders from Hungary.

The primary goal of the workshop was to facilitate the transition to agroforestry and mixed farming systems across the CEE region, including through the creation of policy recommendations which will be disseminated in an EU-level MF/AF policy white paper and summit. To this extent, the workshop involved a series of presentations, including: the utility of agroforestry in mitigating and adapting to climate change; mechanisms to increase agroforestry uptake within Hungary; practical AGROMIX case studies into the development of agroforestry practices within Serbia and Poland; and an interactive session discussing agroecological transitions for a variety of farms.

To start the event, Linda Magyar (CEEweb) introduced the online workshop and the outcomes of the AGROMIX project so far. Following this, Ádám Varga (CEEweb) elaborated on the Policy co-development work package within the AGROMIX project, outlining key takeaways from the first workshop series across partner institutions. The main take-away messages included the need for awareness raising and education; the importance of cooperation and communication; and the current benefits and challenges presented by the new CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) green architecture framework. The presentations provided participants with a solid understanding of the AGROMIX project as a whole, and how their attendance and contributions within the workshops helped to facilitate policy co-development.

The first expert presentation was given by Paloma Gonzalez de Linares, a PhD student at MATE and expert from CEEweb, who discussed the potential development of agroforestry systems in CEE countries and the ability of agroforestry in climate change mitigation and adaptation. Paloma outlined the potential for agroforestry systems in biomass production and carbon sequestration, as well as emerging challenges across the CEE region, including soil erosion, changes in green cover and bumblebee loss. Further, a number of systems were suggested to be implemented in specific CEE locations, including forest gardens, shelterbelts, windbreaks and hedgerows, alley cropping, and orchards with poultry or grazing. The presentation provided compelling evidence for the utility of agroforestry systems within the context of the climate crisis, as well as practical advice as to where agroforestry systems should be implemented.

Suggested implementation of agroforestry measures

Suggested implementation of agroforestry measures. Credit: Paloma Gonzalez de Linares, CEEweb

Following on from Paloma, Adrienn Gyenes (policy expert) and Ildikó Dósa (forestry expert), represented the Hungarian Chamber of Agriculture to discuss how to bring agroforestry systems closer to farmers. Adrienn Gyenes introduced the primary challenges and barriers to the implementation of agroforestry systems within Hungary and the wider CEE area. Currently, implementation of agroforestry systems is limited within Hungary, despite increased funding availability over the past few years. Low uptake is associated with lack of knowledge, appropriate machinery, the availability of other funding sources (such as Agri-Environment-Climate Measures and Afforestation), and the complexity of agroforestry systems. Subsequently, Adrienn outlined the steps required to bring agroforestry systems closer to farmers, including the creation of an Agroforestry Demonstration Area.  The concept of a Demonstration Area was further elaborated on by Ildikó Dósa, who explained how such areas can be used to showcase the benefits of agroforestry systems including afforestration, silvoarable and silvopastural systems, windbreaks and shelterbelts to interested farmers. Participants were left with a clear understanding of the current state of agroforestry within Hungary, as well as current government efforts to increase agroforestry uptake.

Pawel Radzikowski (Polish Agroforestry Association) next presented the characteristics of agriculture and agroforestry practices in Poland, introducing the main policies, funding and actors supporting the development of agroforestry. Poland faces a number of challenges related to the implementation of agroforestry systems, including land use, soil erosion, climate, water availability, pests and diseases. Following an introduction by Pawel, Marcin Wójcik, owner of the OIKOS farm, provided an excellent case study into the development of agroforestry systems within Poland. Marcin outlined his motivations for implementing agroforestry systems, including the provision of ecosystem services such as soil protection, water retention, and climate mitigation, as well as biomass, fodder and fruit production. Excellent photos of the silvopastoral and hedgerow elements of the Oikos farm were presented. Consequently, participants were left with a strong example of the transition to agroforestry practices, which has been flagged as a key requirement for increasing agroforestry uptake.

The final presentation was given by Dragan Roganovic (Network for Rural Development of Serbia). Similar to the previous session, Dragan provided insights into the agricultural policy background and funding for Serbian agroforestry. Agroforestry and mixed farming systems are traditional in Serbia due to the natural conditions, however, specific policies and funding are not currently available for MF/AF solutions. Dragan further outlined the 2 AGROMIX pilot farms in Serbia, which are a key example of farming within a protected area. The Serbian pilot farms have a number of aims, including innovation of land management, diversification of farm production, and analysis of new market solutions for local products. Dragan provided a number of recommendations – specifically to the pilot sites -  to incentivise agroecological transitions, including the need to improve existing forms of agricultural production, and farm management to be adapted to protected areas. Further, the introduction of organic production methods was outlined as a mechanism for farms to increase income and land management techniques at the same time. The Serbian farming case study provided a second clear example of the utility and practicality of agroforestry systems across the CEE workshop.

To conclude the workshop, participants took part in an interactive session, discussing the different scenarios for agroecological transitions, using case studies. Productive discussions were held around the utility of different agroecological techniques for climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as the importance of economic viability to incentivise farmers to take part in an agroecological transition.

The event successfully introduced the benefits, challenges and practicalities of agroforestry to a wide range of stakeholders across the CEE region. Detailed discussion regarding policy changes was challenging due to the online format of the workshop, but insightful conversations were nevertheless had regarding how to facilitate the transition to agroforestry mechanisms across the CEE region. Following the online workshop, a field trip will be organised on the 9th of August at Sárvár, introducing further good examples and practices of agroforestry.

As part of AGROMIX’s policy co-development work package, CEEweb will compile the key outputs of workshops across partner institutions, feeding into a MF/AF policy white paper. Ultimately, the white paper will be discussed in the AGROMIX summit with the aim of closing policy gaps to incentivise the adoption of mixed farming and agroforestry systems.

Article published in - Author: Charlotte Maddinson


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