WiseFarmer project – Connecting farm generations in the digital age
The direct aim of the project is to bring the younger and elder farm generations together in a common program for the exchange of knowledge, access to high quality learning opportunity, facilitating support and sustained collaboration for increased competence, from one side in the use of digital tools, from the other side the crucial farming practices based on local knowledge.
The primary target group consists of smallholders and family farmers, where personal participation in the agricultural production is inevitable, the current level of skills and qualifications are generally low, both on the elder side - lacking digital skills, and the younger farmers - missing competency and experience in the practice of farming. Elderly farmers have local knowledge that is indispensable in the successful entrepreneurship at the farm level, while younger farmers are more advanced in the use of digital devices, but also lack their specific use in farming, as gaining local “slow” knowledge takes a considerable amount of time. The secondary target group at the local level are farm advisors, who work in the field and provide technical assistance for farmers. Their role will be to facilitate the learning process built around the specific needs and problems of the farmers taking part.
The project is to develop innovative learning methodology in several layers. Peer-to-peer learning - as farmers main and most trusted source of information are other farmers - and knowledge co-creation can give the generations an opportunity to learn in pairs, and by doing problem solving oriented exercises, they circumvent existing obstacles mentoring each other, therefore the skills of using digital tools can be successfully transferred in the local context as they are connected and matched with local farmer knowledge.
Given the importance of the local characteristics, starting from the exploration of needs, developing and conducting the training and continuing with sustained support, the collaborative - mentoring and facilitating - component of the overall process is crucial to glue all the necessary actions together. For this sake the project will require the facilitation of accredited farm advisors who are already in the field, working for many years supporting farmers, being trusted, experienced, competent and neutral from business interests. In this way, the project will have a positive impact on agricultural knowledge systems as making better use of networks for informal knowledge exchange.
Project results will demonstrate the viability of the approach and methodology, as one of the possible techniques to overcome crucial challenges in the agricultural and rural sectors. The experience can be utilized in a wider strategic context for policymaking, to cope with the abandonment of farming activity especially by young people, the succession of farming, attracting new entrants into agricultural activities, the introduction of digital innovations in a responsible and effective way, suitable for smallholders' and family farmers' needs.
The project will achieve its results by five intellectual outputs:
- conducting regional needs analysis and knowledge assessment in every participating country,
- developing a methodology and content for the learning program, and matchmaking technique for the selection process of mentoring pairs,
- creating a collaboration platform that provides learning content and functions, collects good practices and displays new digital tools (relevant for the region) and supports communication features that enable constant share of ideas and knowledge, using mobile and desktop devices,
- implementing the pilot learning program in Serbia and Hungary,
- extensively sharing project results using multiple channels, publishing the digital handbook titled “WiseFarmer Inventarium”.
Smallholder and family farms dominate EU’ s agriculture, as two-thirds of the 10 million farms are less than 5 ha. This proportion is going to be even higher if we take into account the accessing countries of South-East Europe. Nearly one-third of all active farmers in the EU are over 65, while only 5.6% are under 35 years of age. This phenomenon is described as the “greying of Europe’s farmers”. Smallholders’ local knowledge, experience, tradition, attitude, mindset can be tremendous resource and obstacle at the same time.
The “wise farming” concept is introduced and used by the project, and can be conceived in two dimensions: 1) the value of local experience in farming in general: a personal behavior where “The wise farmer learns from the experience of others” and as opposed to “The smart person who uses his mind and intelligence, the wise uses his experience and experiences of others to solve problems”, and 2) thinking one step further the well-known term of “Smart Farming” (re. digital agriculture) to “Wise Farming”, where the introduction of agriculture 4.0 tools are to be put into local context, to match experience, attitude, cultural habits, to validate usefulness not only at the level of business return but also taking care of social, environmental, sustainability and data ownership aspects.
Project period: 09/2019-08/2021
More information: http://wisefarmer.eua
Project title: WiseFarmer – Connecting farm generations in the digital age
Short title: Wisefarmer
Project coordinator: GAK KHT, PATER KAROLY UT. 1, GODOLLO, Hungary
Target group: Farmers, farm advisors
Participating countries: Greece, Croatia, Romania, Slovak Republic
Target countries: Hungary, Serbia