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Farmers’ Adaptation Sustainability in Tunisia through Excellence in Research: FASTER

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - FASTER (Farmers’ Adaptation Sustainability in Tunisia through Excellence in Research: FASTER)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-01-31

Farmers’ Adaptation and Sustainability in Tunisia through Excellence in Research (FASTER) is a Twinning Project funded by the European Commission (Directorate-General for Research and Innovation) through Horizon 2020 funding programme. FASTER aims to reinforce research and knowledge transfer capacity of the Tunisian National Research Institute of Rural Engineering, Water and Forests (INRGREF) related to innovative climate change adaptation measures in land and water management and its implementation through the use of Farm Advisory Systems (FAS). To achieve its mission, FASTER is developing a sustainable framework for research and is building international networking and partnership as well as FAS capacity building and practice.
The consortium gathers seven European and Tunisian partners. CREAF and Lund University are ensuring knowledge transfer to strengthen the scientific excellence of researchers and technicians of INRGREF and the associated IRESA (the Institution for Agricultural Research and Higher Education) centres. Europe for Business will then evaluate the experience from the economic perspective, and Vision Communication will ensure an appropriate public awareness, dissemination of results, and training support. Finally, AVFA (the Agriculture Extension and Training Agency) will serve as a liaison with policy makers and related stakeholders, making sure to integrate the FASTER results into national policies.
FASTER has a dedicated WP1 on ethical requirements to ensure that all research undertaken in the project, including data management aspects, complies with H2020 ethical standards. As part of the internal communication objectives, the FASTER project contacted, engaged and appointed an Advisory Board. Current information flow and constructive communications have also taken place with the various EC Project Officers appointed to supervise the project.

The consortium met three times so far (kick-off and two Steering Committee Meetings). These opportunities allowed the project partners, debate and intensely discuss all the activities performed and the next steps planned. Moreover, the work page (WP) leaders meet monthly via Skype. All the efforts of interaction have proved to be enriching and very productive in achieving the objectives to date.

As a first and a second steps to deal with capacity building, FASTER organized the cross-cutting training as well as the research excellence tools training (April and October 2019). The participation to the trainings was opened to the institutional members of INRGREF and to the wider Tunisian research community via IRESA centres and institutions. Gender balance among the participant was promoted and prioritized during the selection process. Even though, the number of females was spontaneously exceeding and doubling the number of males in both events. The trainings, included about 12 courses and benefited to more than 300 participants. The goal of the courses was to provide the necessary knowledge and tools to increase performance indicators, provide outputs to the achieved research and obtain the resources to conduce new excellent research. In the same line, the first mobility activities benefited to 5 tunisian researchers, who visited LU and CREAF. The visits were performed during April and July 2019. The collaboration focused on common interests and aimed publications of the results.

In the first six months of the project, the consortium gathered knowledge on the state of the art of Tunisian FAS, current adaptation policies for the sector, main challenges and priorities from actors engaged in it. To better understand the current context of FAS in Tunisia, FASTER project organised two workshops in order to integrate different contributions to the process of scoping the Living Lab as much as possible. A summary of the knowledge gathered is included in an internal document called: “State of the Art Report”.

The field visits are crucial for the Living Lab approach and protocol. A diagnosis of the challenges ahead as well as interview campaign was developed with AVFA institutions. Data collection to obtain information on the state of the art of FAS in Tunisia relied on a mixed-method approach, including household surveys, farm visits, semi-structured interviews and an online questionnaire. Semi-structured questionnaires were used to investigate farmers’ perceived changes in climate variables and change to identify current and potential household-level adaptation strategies.
Based on the preparatory activities described above, the main objectives of the Living Lab process were defined, as well as the efforts invested in building the map of actors engaged in the lab. A factsheet was produced to illustrate the overall characteristics of the Living Lab process.

Among the main communication and dissemination channels of FASTER, there is the Project Webpage ( FASTER has created three Mass Media Channels (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) which are regularly updated. All the communication KPIs related to the project have been surpassing by far the partners’ expectations. The project did organise about seven events and attended more than 13 in order to communicate and disseminate the project achievements. FASTER did support 12 national researchers, engineers and PhD students to get involved in the EU project spirit, benefit from relevant experiences, get the possibility to publish their work internationally (4 publications), improve their knowledge and know how in science, management and networking, among others.

During the first period of the project, all the FASTER activities and deliverables have been conducted properly and were submitted on time. The process displays great synergies between the whole consortium and effective complementarities that helped to overcome most of encountered issues.
The project expects to achieve significant impacts by, principally: INRGREF researchers and technicians’ participation throughout the project, a concrete transfer strategy, international and sustainable networking, and direct contact with governmental bodies. At the same time, quality assurance procedures will be applied by the Steering Committee to guarantee the achievement of expected impacts.
More importantly, the support of FASTER to land and water management and especially the establishment of a Living Lab as an incubator of operating FAS initiatives, translated into an increase of adaptation practices use across Tunisia, may provide substantial environmental and socio-economic impacts in the long term and a broader scale. These impacts are described as follows:
• To bridge the gap between research and innovation;
• To better face climate change impacts and sustain nature and crops production;
• To improve linkages between researchers, technicians and farmers while helping them connect to EU policy and research development.
• To facilitate administrative FAS this will be translated into more significant support of government bodies from the farmers;
• To support the attraction of young people through economic incentives and services;
• To work on a potential new markets for alternative products supported by FAS initiatives.