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CooPerformance – Digital, state-of-the-art agribusiness education for farmer led enterprises in the agri-food value chain

The University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine from Bucharest (Romania) together with the Solidarity Lab (Romania), Almeria University (Spain) and Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany)  have started the project CooPerformance – Digital, state-of-the-art agribusiness education for farmer led enterprises in the agri-food value chain, a project aimed to improve the training of teachers and students in the field of cooperative enterprises and related good practices and policies in the agri-food sector.

Agricultural cooperatives represent 40% of the all supply, collection and processing and marketing in the agriculture sector in EU. European agri-cooperatives united in COGECA are recognized by the European institutions as representatives of farmers (currently there is no such representation from Romania). According to COGECA over 6 million farmers in EU were members in cooperatives, over 1,4 million in Germany and over 1,2 million in Spain.

There are differences between the European model of agricultural and the state of play of the sector in Romania, with very deep discrepancies between their economic, technical and institutional characteristics. Co-operative farming is seen as one possible way to overcome some of these constraints to growth though it is not widely practiced in Romania at the present time. Recent promotion of cooperative model led to over 400 agricultural cooperatives being registered in Romania, but unfortunately only 20% of them are commercially functional. The current low level of partnerships among farmers is due to a number of factors including social & cultural traditions and historic forced cooperatives, legal and institutional frameworks and public policies, but mainly the lack of knowledge and skills among farmers and agriculture professionals on the various business models that work most effectively in this sector, among which cooperatives.

In Spain in the last decade, the turnover and size of cooperatives have increased significantly as well as the number of employees. However, the sector is characterized by atomization – even the best structured entities are not seeing their efforts and investments profitable.

Agricultural education is therefore an essential factor, knowledge is becoming extremely important in specialized agricultural to compete on the global market. Agricultural education for many years has been aimed at increasing subject knowledge of farmers, but, as a consequence of the restructuring of the agri-food complex, different kinds of competencies are needed, including entrepreneurship, cooperative businesses, client orientation, sustainability and innovation. Agricultural education institutes are therefore called to address better all these topics and to become a vital part of cooperative approaches to solving the problems of rural development. Professionals in the agriculture and agri-business sector need to be educated and /or trained in order to be able to provide necessary support to farmers & other rural entrepreneurs.

In this frame the specific objectives of our project are:

  • To design and develop a European curricula for Higher Education focusing on cooperative business models in the agriculture sector necessary to educate agriculture students for further work as leaders, managers, staff, consultants, members of co-operative enterprises in the agriculture sector, including through better use of open, digital multi-disciplinary learning.
  • To promote excellence in teaching and skills development through training of 21 academics from the participating HEI in the field of cooperative business models in the agri-business sector and exchange of good practices in new and innovative pedagogies of the related topics.

Given the differences in the development of the agriculture cooperative sector in the EU member states and in the development of the higher education on these topics the transnational dimension is key in developing a curricula relevant at European level. The partners are exceptionally well placed in approaching the project objectives: UAL has a recently created Centre for Research in Social Economy and Cooperative Business Law (CIDES) and Humboldt Raiffeisen Chair „Economics of Agricultural Cooperatives” – existing since October 2014 are pioneers in this field.

The project is funded by the Erasmus program of the European Union with a total budget of 248,757 Euro.

Partners:

  • University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine from Bucharest (Romania) – http://www.usamv.ro/index.php/ro/
  • Almeria University (Spain) – www.ual.es
  • Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany) – www.hu-berlin.de
  • The Solidarity Lab (Romania)

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