Research and training are crucial. The main research institutes in the organic sector

21/11/2011 -  Matteo Vittuari

Research and education are key elements in a sector that needs to be modernised and become competitive. At the centre of this process is the farmer, defined both as a direct grower (according to the Italian legal framework s/he who practices a profession mainly based on his/her won work and that of his/her family members), and as an agricultural entrepreneur, i.e. s/he whose work involves doing business in one of the following areas: land cultivation, forestry, livestock farming and the like. Agricultural work has become more complex, because of the opportunity of using new technologies and agricultural practices; bureaucratic and administrative obligations (formal requests for public subsidies administrative obligations deriving from the certification process); and environmental aspects and conditionalities. Alongside the farmer, other professional figures have sprung up, such as oenologists, inspectors, cheese experts, that require technically complex skills and in-depth knowledge of the territory.

World Bank (LAMPIETTI J. et al., 2009) and European Commission (EUROPEAN COMMISION Country 2010 Progress Reports, 2010) reports underline that Western Balkan professional institutions and University departments (agricultural, forestry, veterinary) linked to the primary sector, still seem to use traditional thematic approaches and methods, which are often not up-to-date and lack the interdisciplinary approach, so typical of European planning. This situation basically reflects the distribution of the agricultural budget and policies. Rural development, for instance, is historically subordinate, as much in politics as in academia, to an agricultural policy traditionally based on direct assistance to production and specific sectors. This dynamic is somewhat similar to the one experienced within the European Union, where rural development and rurality have only found their way into the political agendas and academic curricula since the early1990s.

Nevertheless, European programmes (Tempus1), student and researcher mobility (Erasmus Mundus2), relations with international and non-governmental organisations, are all playing a role in terms of accelerating the process of curricular reform, strengthening research and improving teaching quality. All this is thus contributing to narrowing the gap with the common standards defined in the 'Bologna process'.


An important limitation is certainly the chronic lack of funding that tends to penalise those departments that need state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories the most. The lack of funds and investment does not only affect university education, it also hits secondary level education and agricultural development services. Such services should in fact enable farm and country workers to keep up-to-date and therefore create a bridge between research and business worlds. Bilateral donors, international and non-governmental organisations have been aware of such limits for some time now, thus they have put in place a variety of training schemes, as well as bursaries for people to acquire new skills abroad.

Research and education on organic farming are an essential part of this picture, and despite their relatively recent appearance on the scene, the interest in this field on behalf of researchers and professional and academic institutions is growing steadily. At the regional level, one of the main stakeholders (not from the Balkans) is certainly the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, that for many years has been involved in research and training activities linked to the development of organic farming and sustainable agriculture more at large in the Mediterranean and Adriatic-Ionian regions.

Table 22. The main public research centres involved in organic farming in the Western Balkans3

 Country  Institutes  Websites
Albania Centre for Research and Technological Transfer in Agriculture of Vlora and Lushnje (Ministry website)
Agricultural University of Tirana
BioAdria Association
Institute for Organic Agriculture n/a
Bosnia Herzegovina Federal Agro-Mediterranean Institute of Mostar
University of Banja Luka, Faculty of Agriculture
University of Mostar, Faculty of Agronomy
University of Sarajevo: Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences; Veterinary Faculty



Agrarian Institute of Križevci
Institute for Adriatic Crops and Karst Soil Reclamation
University of Osijek, Faculty of Agriculture
University of Zagreb, Faculty of Agriculture
Kosovo University of Pristina,1
Macedonia Goce Delcev University
St. Cyril and Methodius University of Skopje
Institute of Agriculture of Skopje
Institute for Health Protection
Montenegro University of Montenegro
Institute of Public Health of Podgorica
Serbia Institute of Agricultural Economics, Belgrade
Tamis Istitute of Panćevo
University of Belgrade, Faculty of Agriculture
University of Novi Sad, Faculty of Agriculture
University of Kragujevac, Faculty of Agronomy of Čačak

Sources: M.R. Bteich, P. Pugliese, L. al-Bitar, 2010; author’s research; interviews


1 Tempus is a programme that supports the modernisation of universities in the partner countries of the European. Union and contributes to the creation of an arena for cooperation in the sector of university education.

2 Erasmus Mundus is a European Union programme for mobility and cooperation in the field of secondary education

3 The list does not include secondary professional institutes and, considering the constant developments in the academic arena, the list is not meant to be exhaustive.