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Spotlight on the OrganicDataNetwork: Interview with project coordinator Raffale Zanoli

Marco Schlüter of the European Union Group of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM EU Group) and Professor Raffaele Zanoli, project coordinator, discuss the OrganicDataNetwork project.

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The interview was published in the July 2013 edition of the Newsletter of the IFOAM EU Group, a member of the OrganicDataNetwork.

Marco Schlüter (MS): The project OrganicDataNetwork  is about improving the collection of organic  market data, but can you explain more in detail what  the project is about? 

Prof. Raffaele Zanoli (RZ): We launched the OrganicDataNetwork  having in mind, on one hand, that  transparency of the European market for organic food  is needed to prevent increasing asymmetries, with all  stakeholders being somewhat affected. On the other  hand, better availability of market intelligence will lead  policy makers and organic market actors involved in organic  markets to better decision-making. The availability  of timely and accurate market information on organic  markets may encourage market entry and make the  market more competitive and more efficient. 

MS: Availability and access to data regarding organic  food markets is of high relevance both for organic  market actors and policy makers. How does the  OrganicDataNetwork project aim to improve the  availability, and can access to the data be realistically  achieved in the end of the project?

 RZ: Better data availability may be approached in two  ways. The first strategy is simply to increase the quantity  of data publicly available on organic farming markets.  In doing so, we will explore new sources to be compiled  and to be made accessible in a timely way. The  second strategy is to provide more accurate data, by better checking the sources and by increasing consistency  and quality checks. In the OrganicDataNetwork we  aim to increase data availability and access in both ways. 

MS: The project consortium consists of 15 partners  from 10 European countries, but the project covers  analysis of data collection systems in all EU members  States and beyond. Can you describe the challenges  when collecting and analysing information on organic  market data in Europe? 

RZ: The project relies on a core partnership that is based  on a consolidated and long-term collaboration about  data collectors and researchers which has been established  since almost two decades. FiBL and AMI have  been collaborating for many years in organic market  data collection, while IAMB has its own Mediterranean  Organic Agriculture Network, which is also concerned in  basic data collection. The major challenge of our project  is to convince internal and external stakeholders that  organic data collection is a must for the organic sector,  and every organisation – private, public and NGOs –  should contribute to the task. 

MS: The project has been running for more than 17  months already, almost half of the project period.  What are the achievements that have been made so  far and which further steps will be taken? 

RZ: We have compiled a first version of the database,  and the data collected are now being published on the  project homepage. We have not collected new primary  data - the project does not have this goal given the  limited funding - but we have systematically introduced  a larger amount of secondary data than previously  publicly available by means of a specific survey among  data collectors.  In addition, we have conducted two other surveys:  one is a sort of census of organisations involved in data  collection and the other is about data end users. The  reports are all available on the Project’s homepage. Finally,  since our aim is to establish a long-term network  of interested parties, in March we organised our first  multi-stakeholder workshop aimed at identifying problems  in current data collection procedures and barriers  to stakeholder commitment to an improved European  organic market information system. 

MS: In the context of the project you launched the  OrganicDataForum. How does this forum work and  what are the key issues currently discussed?

 RZ: The forum is the network of all involved stakeholders  and interested parties can share their opinions on  the project issues. The first forum discussions were  about the proposed OrganicDataNetwork statement  on potential improvements in data collection connected  with the currently on-going revision of organic  regulations.  The forum is the place where the network of stakeholders  and data collectors can experience the flavours and  the advantages of a long-term collaboration. The aim is  for this network will become permanent after the project’s  conclusion. 

MS: What have you learnt personally from the implementation  of the project as a project coordinator so  far, and is there something that has impressed you  especially? 

RZ: Coordinating an FP7 project is always challenging  and quite time consuming. But I had already a strong  relationship with many partners and this is certainly  of great help. But even the less experienced project  partners have so far contributed with their variety of  viewpoints, ensuring that the project really achieve results  by a real bottom-up and participatory approach.

MS: Would you like to add something else? 

RZ: As you said we are now half way through. However,  now we are starting to experiment in a limited way with  new approaches to data collection. We have established  a set of case studies on improving data quality in selected  countries/regions. This is a very crucial step in our  project and we ascribe great importance to its results,  which will provide us exemplary evidence on how to  improve current data collection. The collaboration of all  involved parties is therefore crucial. And next year we  will have our second and final multi-stakeholder workshop  in Bari aimed at envisioning solutions for better  organic market data collection in Europe. 

More information

Contact

Prof. Dr. Raffaele Zanoli, University of Ancona, Italy

Newsletter of the IFOAM EU Group

eu.ifoam.org: Newsletter July 2013

Contact

Prof. Dr. Raffaele Zanoli
Università Politecnica delle Marche
Via Brecce Bianche
60131 Ancona
Italy
Tel. +39 071 2204929
zanoli(at)agrecon.univpm.it
www.univpm.it

Contact

Marco Schlüter
IFOAM  EU Group
Rue du Commerce 124
BE - 1000 Brussels
Tel. +32 2 280 12 23
Fax. +32 2 735 73 81
E-mail info(at)ifoam-eu.org
Internet www.ifoam-eu.org