On June 14th, the first joint event of the three research projects funded under the EU Horizon 2020 call on climate-smart and resilient farming (LC-SFS-19-2018-2019): AGROMIX, MIXED and STARGATE, took place with more than 80 participants meeting remotely from across Europe and globally. The event was the first of a series of collaborative events between these three projects, that share common interests and complementarities in research on climate resilient land uses and was attended by staff from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI), for Environment (DG ENV) and for Climate Action (DG CLIMA), as well as from the Joint Research Centre (JRC).
The purpose of this first event was for participants to get to know about the projects and identify potential synergies to jointly develop throughout the duration of the projects. The first part of the meeting saw each project team presenting a brief overview of their structure and work packages, with particular focus on the approaches adopted and the expected outcomes from project activities. This was followed by a breakout session where participants could participate in three discussion groups. Each project chaired a breakout groups, that addressed key topics all three projects are set to work on in their working plans. The topics covered the following issues:
In session 1 estimation models and tools, the STARGATE advancements and early results on the tailor-made climate services and the climate-smart decision tools were presented. The follow up discussion was focused on how these services and tools could be used by the AGROMIX and MIXED projects on specific use cases, so both STARGATE tools and AGROMIXE/MIXED use cases that will act complementary to each other, achieving this way the best use of the European funding received by the three projects under the H2020 framework by maximizing the impact of their research to the farming sector without reinventing the wheel.
In session 2 participants were invited to submit keywords to a Mentimeter that formed a word cloud. The first result is that the submissions were consistent across the three participating projects. One of the highlights arguments that farmers must receive some benefits for participation, which is best expressed as having the content focus on issues that are relevant to them. Benefits must be mutual, and it must be made clear that farmers participate as equals. Facilitators have the responsibility of providing timely feedback of results to participants.
With regard to content, there is tension between bottom-up approaches, which are uncertain, and promising concrete answers to research questions, which might not be the highest priority farmers, as part of project proposals. One solution is to make contact with farmers prior to project submission, but care should be taken to not overpromise, and fail to deliver should the project not be approved for finance.
It is desirable to challenge farmers, so as not to function in an echo chamber but this means it is also important to provide a comfortable and familiar setting for the exchanges. Farm visits are a good option if practical. During the exchanges, it is important to build a level of trust so that participating farmers are confident to tell what they really think. Social media is an effective tool for reaching and exchanging with farmers, but facilitators should be aware that some farmers (non-users) will be excluded, and the facilitator will not have control over who is excluded.
AGROMIX presented a brief overview of their initial work in mapping policy instruments across Europe that promote and/or facilitate the transition and implementation of MF/AF systems. Participants then shared their opinions in response to the 4 main questions of the session:
Responses were collated on a Miro Board and reported below:
Some considerations arise regarding the most important barriers for AF/MF to become a practice in policy:
Finally, future meetings will focus on specific aspects that the three projects address in their work. Resilience, the multifaceted way it can be defined, and the challenges in measuring and assessing resilience in such complex and diverse farming systems has generated a lot of interest. The projects will work together in the coming months to strengthen collaboration and lay out a plan for future interactions to further explore and enhance the synergies between the projects’ activities.