EC Success Story, AGORA: final conclusions
The AGORA project aimed to advance forest research capacities in two southern Mediterranean countries by establishing dynamic and transnational research partnerships, networking, targeted capacity building and knowledge transfer. AGORA implemented an international twinning action plan, linking research organisations in Morocco and Tunisia with selected forest research centres of excellence in France, Italy, Turkey, Spain and Portugal.
Over the project lifetime, more than 50 exchange visits took place and 4 international workshops were held around the Mediterranean basin. The final 6 months of the project have included capacity-building visits from the National School of Forest Engineers (ENFI) and the National Research Institute on Rural Engineering, Water and Forests (INRGREF) to Karadeniz Technical University (KTU), University of Padua (UNIPD), Instituto Superior de Agronomia (ISA) and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA). ENFI and UNIPD organised a workshop in Marrakech on “Marketing of forest products and services: new methods and issues” attended by ENFI master students, ANDZOA staff, Ministry of agriculture, GIZ, and by researchers from INRGREF. Additionally scientists from INRA travelled to Morocco and Tunisia for in-situ training on new equipment purchased through the project. In the final management meeting all partners commented that strong relationships had been established which it is hoped will continue for years to come.
Indeed the “twinning” aspect of the project was considered to be central to the project’s success, leading to its recognition by the European Commission as a success story. EFI’s Marc Palahí, AGORA Project Coordinator, observed that "AGORA emerged as a dynamic platform, allowing communication among scientists from all these countries." This led to the development of new tools specific to the management of Mediterranean forests, which had previously not been available. "The challenge was to change this paradigm of forest management and really address the nature and specificities of the forests in our region."
Policy recommendations can be found in the EFI Policy Brief, AGORA Making the Difference, which sets out the lessons learned and provides recommendations for future policy development. Improving scientific knowledge and capabilities in Morocco and Tunisia for informed local decision-making on sustainable forest management was one of the major aims of the project. Palahí notes, "We are not training people in how to manage forests; we are preparing the scientists to be able to instruct decision-makers and managers in how to manage a forest."
Outcomes of the project were also presented at the AGORA Final Conference, held in Tunisia in 2012, where young scientists, the beneficiaries of exchange visits and capacity building workshops, presented their research on the three key scientific themes: genetics, economics and forest management tools.
As the project draws to its close, partners are looking for new opportunities where the fruits of their collaborations and the strong relationships established might be sustained and developed. The forthcoming Call for the FORESTERRA ERA-Net is one such opportunity. FORESTERRA aims to reinforce the scientific coordination and integration of Mediterranean forest research programmes as well as scientific cooperation with Mediterranean-area countries and with countries from other Mediterranean Climate Areas through joint research projects and activities. The FORESTERRA strategic themes and preparations for the launch of the Joint Call will be presented at the EFIMED Annual Conference which will take place in Barcelona from 3-6 September 2013.
More information: Marc Palahí, marc.palahi(at)efi.int
AGORA project is funded by the European Commission – FP7.
Photos: Elena Gorriz
Back to article listing