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Main research question/goal
Agro-ecology is a farming system that strives for a more sustainable future, for both conventional and organic farming systems. An agro-ecological farmer sees the farm as a complex entity, in interaction with the environment, the soil and the neighborhood. Central to this approach are the limited use of external inputs and closing of nutrient cycles, as well as improved soil fertility, a fair remuneration for the farmer and workers, and more resilient agro-ecosystems. Decision-making in such a complex system requires specific knowledge and competencies. In this project, we investigated if and how agro-ecology and the associated competencies are incorporated in farmer educational programs in Flanders.

Research approach
We have developed a reference/analytical framework that defines agroecology (principles and practices), presents relevant learning and educational theories, and identifies the competencies required by agro-ecological practitioners. This framework was then used to screen various training programs for farmers, encompassing formal, non-formal and informal education. Based on this screening, we have identified gaps and opportunities for further integration of agro-ecology in the current educational package. We identified 4 needs:learning networks, more experiental learning, creating awareness in both consumers and producers, and more cooperation (e.g. between educators and farmers).

During this research a network called ‘organic and agroecological farming in education’ was initiated, supported by both the Flemish Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Flemish Department of the Environment (‘Omgeving’ in Dutch). Building on the project recommendations, the Department of the Environment will cooperate with a wide range of stakeholders to address specific stumbling blocks and make use of the existing opportunities to enable a (more prominent) role for agro-ecology in education for farmers in Flanders.
Effective start/end date1/06/1514/04/17

ID: 4146671