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A project supported by the EU delivers recommendations for the development of agri-food research in the Western Balkan Countries

After two years of activity, the European Project BALKAN AGRO FOOD NETWORK (BAFN) published its final reports on the 17th of April 2008.

Since May 2006, the 13 organisations involved in the BAFN project have implemented several activities in order to improve cooperation between agri-food scientists from EU and from the Western Balkan Countries. A directory with more then 330 research groups and 480 companies from the agricultural and food sector was set up at www.bafn.eu. More than 180 research groups participated to a survey on the situation of agricultural and food research in the Western Balkan Countries. Four meetings with experts from Albania, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and FYROM were organised to identify the region’s future priorities in the agri-food research sector. Several consultations of stakeholders were also organised. The main objective of BAFN was to identify research topics suitable for cooperation between scientists from EU and Western Balkan Countries (WBC). Another objective was to propose support mechanisms which could benefit to the agri-food research community from the WBC. The final results were discussed with representatives from the European Commission in Paris in March 2008. The study reveals that the future of the agri-food research community in the Western Balkan Countries is jeopardised mainly because of the very low budget available for research. The research capacity is scattered into a large number of organisations (47 research organisations including 17 universities) but overall, the agri-food research community is small with an estimate of 3.500 researchers. Hence, a key message for those in charge of programming research cooperation is that “a small effort will have a big impact”. The project encourages the EU and member states to reinforce their cooperation with the Western Balkan Countries through the FP7 and through bilateral programmes. The final BAFN report highlights several mechanisms which could help agri-food research in the WBC, such as incentives for the purchase of research equipment and consumables, stimulation of researcher mobility and training or easier access to resources (scientific journals, electronic databases etc). Areas suitable for cooperation with other countries were also identified. There is a large consensus for biodiversity with projects related to the conservation of genetic resources and indigenous species. Research on chemical contaminants, food allergens and toxins in food, animal husbandry and zoonoses as well as nutrition and dietetics have also been identified as interesting topics. To download the report please visit http://www.bafn.eu.

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