VET in Regenerative Agriculture in the EU: a state of play
Adopting environmental-friendly agricultural practices such as regenerativeagricultureisessentialto achieve sustainable food consumption and production patterns, as recalled by many of the United NationsSustainable Development Goals(SDGs). To develop the skills and knowledge required for the implementation of more sustainable farming practices, vocational education and training (VET)is a criticaltool.1However, inlight of the environmental, geopolitical and health crises, VET education in regenerative agriculture does not receive sufficient attention across the EU. While ambitious climate and environmental goals have been highlighted bythe EU’s recentcommunications(European Green Deal, Farm to Fork Strategy), it is indeed quite unclear how professionals’ dire need for environmental education will be met by public policies.
What isthe EU doing in the field of VET?
- The Council Resolution2021/C 66/01established a strategic framework covering education and training systems as a whole (European Education Area-EEA) in aholistic and lifelong learning perspective. It definesnew strategic targets for the period up to 2030, with a particular emphasis on VET.The target is that by 2025,at least 60% of VET graduates should benefit from exposure to work-based learning during their VET.2
- The EU Council Recommendationon VETfor sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience defines keys principle to ensurethe adaptating of labour market needs,and to enable quality learning opportunities for young people and adults alike.3
- The Osnabrück Declaration 2020endorsed by Ministers in charge of VET of EU MSs (among others), establishes additional VET policy actions for the period of 2021-2025 to complement the Council Recommendation. One of the main area of this declarationis to foster sustainability as a green link in VET.4
Aspart of the EEA, a VETworking group was created to assistMember States inimplementingthe principles and objectives of the aforementioned policy documents.While these measuresare in line with the European Green Deal, Action 6 of the European Skills Agenda, as well aspriorities 2 and 5 of the Council Resolution,there is currently nomention of or specific reference to actions to promote the transition towards sustainable farming practices.
The development of skills and knowledge that support environmental improvements on farms is equally important as focusing on the dissemination of values and changes of mindsets in order to convert the EU agriculture sector into anenvironmentally sustainable production system.5As previously stated in policy brief 1 and 2of the RegAgri4Europe project, regenerative agriculture is essential to ensure asustainable environmentand to fight climate change, biodiversity loss and severe impacts on soil and water quality.
Whilst much research has focused on processes and dynamics of the regenerative farming practices, the area related to education inregenerative agriculture is often overlooked, anddecisiveactions are neededin this field.67 Given thatthe most significant drawbacks of people engaging in regenerative agriculture practices is thedifficultacquisition of new knowledge and skills(given their complex accessibility), and the lack of academic recognition, investing more in education is critical to close thesegapsin this field.8
Education aspects across the EU
In line with the goals of “aligning skills with labour market needs”stated in the Europe 2020 Strategy9, the European Commission(EC)needed to carry out analysesat Member States (MS)levelacross a range of policy areas, including in the fields of education and training.The assessment report10 revealed that:
- The VET sector needs more attention and investment;
- VET was at the centre of reforms in a significant number of MSs that aimed to create a better link between educational outcomes, offers and labour market needs;
- nvestment in education and training systems was the common challenge identified by all MSs;
- There is a strong decline in number of generally low-skilled workers in agriculture sector;
Moreover, the European Skill Agenda also indicated that a massive investment in skills is needed.11 TheEuropeanUnion regularly invests in educational programme such as the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), Erasmus+, InvestEU and others. Nevertheless, no specific mentions or funds can be identified and assessed in terms ofregenerative agriculture related -skills.12
Moreover, the European Skill Agenda also indicated that a massive investment in skills is needed.11TheEuropeanUnion regularly invests in educational programme such as the European Social Fund Plus (ESF+), Erasmus+, InvestEU and others. Nevertheless, no specific mentions or funds can be identified and assessed in terms ofregenerative agriculture related -skills.12
Additionally, even though the Osnabrück Declaration 2020 has been highlighting sustainability as a green link in VET,itsshort-term deliverables and policy actions are broad and fall short of specifically supporting education and training for sustainable production systems.
If the EUeducationpolicy has to efficiently support MSs’ actions towards builing sustainable food systemsand tackle the common challenges,MSs must also actively make efforts to integrateregenerative agriculture into their national education systems.Furthermore, it isimportant that MSsfrequently address and include regenerative agricultural subject in the context of VET discipline.
MSs haveto develop strong and ambitiousplans to maximize the large-scale potentialfor sustainabilitythat acquiring practical skills and knowledge of regenerative agriculture can bring.
The current EU educational system policy must be refocused and adapted to enhance agriculturaleducation and skilldevelopment to aid in the transition to moresustainable production practices, particularly those
related to regenerative agriculture.In this respect, the RegAgri4EUROPE project makes the following recommendations:
- More than ever, the Union and EU institutions must provide extra funding support to VET education enabling the transition towards regenerative agriculture;
- MSs must invest more and develop targeted educational strategies for VET that integrates regenerative agriculture education to promote the practice and foster its use;
- National MSs authorities must adjust their national education systems according to the set sustainability targets and goals, to include regenerative agriculture education as a self-standing subject into curricula.
The EU countries have committed to achieve the UN SDGs, and the EU targets. If the EU itself is indeed to meet the climate changegoals, enhancefood security, protect farmland and developsustainablefood systems, both the EU and MSs public authorities must take greater steps and invest more in fostering educationin regenerative agriculture.
To reach the Council Resolution’s goal of at least 60% of VET students experiencing work-based learning during their VET by 2025, more EU resources and funding opportunities are required
1Council Of The European Union.Reskilling and upskilling as a basis for increasing sustainability and employability, in thecontext of supporting economic recovery and social cohesion. https://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/44351/st08682-en20.pdf2Council Of The European Union. Council Resolution on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training towards the European Education Area and beyond (2021-2030) 2021/C 66/01, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32021G0226(01)3Council Of The European Union. Council Recommendation of 24 November 2020 on vocational education and training (VET) for sustainable competitiveness, social fairness and resilience 2020/C 417/01, https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A32020H1202%2801%294Osnabrück Declaration on vocational education and training as an enabler of recovery and just transitions to digital and green economies, 2020, https://www.cedefop.europa.eu/files/osnabrueck_declaration_eu2020.pdf5EIT. The Regenerative Agriculture Manual. 2022. https://www.eitfood.eu/reports/regenag-manual6Ruth Nettle, Laurens Klerkx, Guy Faure & Alex Koutsouris (2017) Governance dynamics and the quest for coordination in pluralistic agricultural advisory systems, The Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 189-195, doi: 10.1080/1389224X.2017.13206387EIT. The Regenerative Agriculture Revolution. 2022. https://www.eitfood.eu/projects/regenag-revolution8Policy Brief 2 9European Commission. Europe 2020: A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth https://ec.europa.eu/eu2020/pdf/COMPLET%20EN%20BARROSO%20%20%20007%20-%20Europe%202020%20-%20EN%20version.pdf10European Commission. Assessment of the Europe 2020 Strategy. https://safefoodadvocacy.sharepoint.com/:b:/g/EcGHKgDEPa1Kh8WsrBbDlwkBeW1p4dMt2GA409XzUF_BpQ?e=zwnUkq11European Commission. European Skills Agenda. https://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1223&langId=en12European Commission. Vocational education and training initiatives. 2022https://education.ec.europa.eu/education-levels/vocational-education-and-training/about-vocational-education-and-training
RegAgri4Europe in a nutshell
RegAgri4Europe -Upgrading the Agricultural Sector with Skills in Regenerative Agriculture
- CEFE International (Germany)
- Safe Food Advocacy Europe (Belgium)
- Schloss Tempelhof e.V. (Germany)
- Skybridge Partners (Greece)
- Agricultural University of Patras (Greece)
- ACQUIN (Germany)
- AKMI (Greece)
European CommissionErasmus+ Programme Key Action 2: Strategic Partnerships for vocational education and training
Project Coordinator ,Laura Dorn ,firstname.lastname@example.org
The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be heldresponsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.