AGORA Final Conference: strengthened partnerships for future collaboration

The AGORA Final Conference opened EFIMED week 2012 in style as a new generation of young foresters took centre stage alongside experienced researchers from partner countries. 71 participants from 12 countries attended the one-day conference on 12 June in Tunis.

AGORA is a 3-year Support Action programme for advancing scientific knowledge on forests in Tunisia and Morocco based on international scientific cooperation, with funding of almost €1 million within the European Commission CAPACITIES programme. This programme has enabled international twinning for capacity development between Tunisian partners from the National Research Institute on Rural Engineering, Water and Forests (INRGREF) and
Moroccan colleagues from the National School of Forest Engineers (ENFI) with partners from forest research institutions in France, Italy, Turkey, Spain and Portugal.
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In his opening address to the conference, Dr Marc Palahí of EFIMED affirmed that “AGORA shows the added value of international cooperation”, a statement attested to throughout the day as the results of collaborations between ENFI, INRGREF and INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research) of France, ISA (Instituto Superior de Agronomia) of Portugal, the University of Padova (Italy), Karadeniz Technical University (Turkey) and EFI were evidenced. 

Senior researchers from supporting institutions described the relevance of AGORA’s key scientific areas of genetics, economics and forest management tools while, later in the day, six beneficiaries of AGORA grants presented their own research in these key areas. For many of these young researchers from Tunisia and Morocco, AGORA support had enabled them to travel to European research institutions for the first time. Fruits of successful collaborations were also seen in the AGORA scientific market place, where AGORA beneficiaries presented 11 posters on the three key themes.

poster2.jpg : 409.4296875KbDr Fouad Mounir (ENFI) and Dr Hamed Daly-Hassem (INRGREF) agreed on the positive impact of AGORA for their staff and students. Of particular note was the strengthening of institutional capacity through overseas secondments and the development of networks and partnerships on a Mediterranean level, leading to new projects and further collaboration.

Indeed, the sustainability of AGORA was a hot topic for discussion at the end of the day, with interventions from INRGREF Director General, Dr Abdelaziz Zairi and former ENFI Director, Prof Mohamed Sabir, who initiated ENFI’s participation in the project. Dr Palahí called for the “Spirit of AGORA” to be sustained over the course of EFIMED week and beyond, observing that the new voices emerging from North Africa promised a bright future for forest research.

Photo: Elena Gorriz

Closing the conference, EC Officer Ralitsa Atanasova described how AGORA is considered an EC success story and is held as a model for establishing sustainable international partnerships.

More information: Marc Palahí, name.surname@efi.int
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