eFORESEE Cyprus - Exchange of FOresight Relevant Experiences among Small Enlargement Economies

Online Foresight Guide





Eforesee Cyprus context

A pilot exercise on "Knowledge management in solving agricultural problems in Cyprus" was run in Cyprus within the framework of the eForesee programme, a co-operation project between Cyprus, Malta and Estonia, funded by the European Commission. Representatives from the general public and semi-public sector, Agricultural Organisations and other stakeholders involved in the agricultural sector, attended various meetings in order to discuss and express suggestions or recommendations for the improvement of the background paper prepared by the ARI eForesee team to facilitate discussions.

The eForesee exercise that took place in 2002-2003 was essentially the first Foresight exercise in Cyprus. It explored Foresight from a Knowledge Management perspective, and looked in particular at the area of Agriculture. Agriculture, despite its diminishing importance as a share of GDP and the Cypriot economy, continues to receive strong support from the government of Cyprus. Many aspects of Cypriot agricultural policy are incompatible with the Common Agricultural Policy and the aim was to try to harmonise them before accession, given that during the accession negotiations Cyprus made a commitment to harmonise its Agricultural Policy with the Acquis Communautaire.

Reasons for using Foresight in Eforesee Cyprus

Foresight was selected as an activity that could illuminate the future by revealing a range of possible visions. The question that may be raised by someone not familiar with Foresight is why Foresight was chosen and why for the particular sector of agriculture. Its flexibility means Foresight could be applied in different ways to fit special needs of every sector of society and the economy. Furthermore, Foresight is based on a knowledge background, a concept that has become very popular in modern policy planning. Foresight links Research, Science and Technology, providing a scientific approach to policy issues.

Positioning Eforesee Cyprus in the policy cycle

The organisation and structure of the government mechanism plays a key role in the legislative framework of the agricultural and other sectors of the economy. The authority responsible for the institutional organisation of the agricultural sector is the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment (MANRE). As well as being the executive body for policymaking, it is also the body that implements the policy through its services. Farmers, and their cooperatives and labour unions, are the main recipients of the implemented policy. Research results are disseminated along with education.

In Cyprus the sole body engaged in agricultural research is the Agricultural Research Institute (ARI), a department of the MANRE. With its activities in research, the ARI contributes in various ways to the solution of problems related to crop and livestock production and the environment. In the framework of a long-lasting, viable and sustainable development and the improvement of the crop and animal production in Cyprus, the ARI evaluates and implements new scientific and technological methods and recommends new processes and approaches for the rational utilisation of natural resources.

The lack of basic agricultural education, limited vocational training opportunities and the lack of monitoring and advice available to farmers, constitute the main serious weaknesses of Cypriot agriculture. In addition, the uncertainty of the sector's future and the social degradation of the agricultural profession have reduced the number of young people wishing to be employed in agriculture.

Designing the exercise

Setting the objectives in Eforesee Cyprus

In order to create a national strategic target for a ten-year horizon the public sector, farmer's associations, processing units, cooperatives, trade associations and other stakeholders involved in decision making in agriculture, were brought together to orient their attempts to promote the viability of agriculture and rural development. Without viable agriculture the countryside cannot be developed and without a thriving countryside there can be no viable agriculture. To achieve the strategic target of agricultural viability in a developed countryside, a range of other goals, both for agriculture and countryside, must be promoted. Some of these aims are:

Production of high quality agricultural commodities and increased domestically produced added value, in order to improve the competitiveness of such produce on the domestic and international market, to ensure employment and affordable living standards for rural inhabitants with less dependence from subsidies, according to the possibilities and limitations of each region

  • Adaptation of agricultural products and production methods, based on the demand/market conditions and technological possibilities
  • Application of environmentally friendly production methods and sustainable resource management, with parallel maintenance and development of the countryside, protection of the cultural wealth and heritage of every region, and promotion of the multifunctional character of agriculture, so as to benefit society as a whole

Accordingly, the aims for rural development in Cyprus can be summarized as follows:

  • To create an economic and social infrastructure, in order to ensure a high level quality of life for all rural inhabitants and make the countryside an attractive place for young people to live and enterprises involved in agriculture, with new ideas and enterprising perceptions, in order to exploit local resources and to improve the competitiveness exploiting local and traditional products.
  • To provide conditions which secure that the countryside could be a place for entertainment and vacations for urban inhabitants, with high quality services, especially in the mountainous and less favoured areas, where motivations for enterprises are very limited.

Determining the coverage (focus and scope) in Eforesee Cyprus

Agriculture was selected as the topic of priority for a number of reasons, some of them being:

  1. The agriculture chapter probably remains the most important in the negotiation process, both for accession states as well as for the EU. Additionally, Agriculture in accession countries need to be compatible with the acquis communautaire and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), upon accession,
  2. Nowadays there is an increased public awareness of agricultural practices and of product quality. Sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture is more respectable and acceptable among consumers,
  3. CAP remains a moving target. Today's CAP is very different from the past and probably will be entirely different in the near future, taking into consideration the situation of the new member states. The tentative goal was to use the 'Foresight' methodology to propose possible solutions to foreseen problems after accession,
  4. Moreover, negotiations in the framework of the World Trade Organisation are also expected to affect agriculture.

The technology used in the agricultural sector is developing rapidly and includes applications of biotechnology, digital technology, information and communication technology, as well as new products and inputs, not to mention organic farming, which in recent years has started to move against the trend towards intensive agriculture. In order to achieve these targets, an integrated strategy with a 5–10 year horizon needs to be created. The factors affecting the viability of agriculture and rural development that are not controlled by bodies related to the achievement of these targets must also be taken into account. These factors are located at the International, European and National level.

The powerful factors affecting agriculture and the countryside of Cyprus, such as the dynamic liberalisation of the world trade for agricultural products in the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as well as the envisaged increasing worldwide demand for foodstuffs, need to be taken into account. Consumers' preferences, particularly in developed countries, are tending towards what are perceived as safer and better quality products. This trend can lead to a differentiation in consumers' demands for agricultural produce. Consumers in developed countries, and more affluent consumers in developing countries, are looking for high quality products. At the same time the poor are more interested in cheap, mass produced products (and perhaps less concerned as to whether they are genetically modified).

Future trends are expected to have a direct impact on agriculture and the countryside of Cyprus, given that they are associated with the Common Agricultural Policy and WTO agreements. The interim CAP reform is directed towards income support on the condition that farmers will maintain environmental and quality criteria. The agriculture of Cyprus can benefit by shifting into high quality production and by implementing environmentally friendly production methods. Consequently, the agriculture of Cyprus has to adjust to CAP and to the envisaged changes in order to benefit from the positive aspects of development, such as, income support for farmers who produce high quality products using environment friendly practices, and by placing more emphasis on structural support. This will lead to the modernisation of agriculture resulting in the production of high quality agricultural commodities at competitive prices.

Production, transfer and diffusion of know-how, and innovation, are some of the main characteristics of the post-war decades. The role of the private sector, in this respect, is very important and continues to strengthen. Due to the private sector's initiative, new plant varieties, man-made inputs, agricultural equipment and modern techniques for the management of, and trade in, agricultural products have been introduced. The European Union has developed similar activities for the know-how and innovation production. For example, the EU is funding the development and dissemination of new technology programmes with significant implementations in the agricultural sector. However, even though EU has done much in this direction it still lags behind the USA and Japan, especially in high technology. In order to make up for this shortcoming, the EU is bolstering a variety of programmes, where private and public bodies, and partnerships between bodies from EU member countries can participate. The research, promoted by the EU relates to the agricultural sector and provides a collective effort bringing together producers and academic bodies while promoting collaboration between research and occupational education. Special emphasis is being given to associated research between research centres and universities, as well as to research results and knowledge dissemination.

Due to accession, the internal economic environment is expected to affect agriculture and the countryside. Cyprus's belonging to the euro zone in the future will create the conditions of stability needed for low inflation, low interest rates and comparable GDP growth. These factors may slow the increase in the cost of agricultural products; re-enforce the private investments in agriculture and the countryside; provide new job opportunities outside the agricultural sector in rural regions; support the consumption of qualitative agricultural products; and allow the increase of public investment for social infrastructure in the countryside. These factors may contribute to the achievement of some of the aims for a viable agriculture in a developed countryside under the condition of administrative modernisation at all levels. Decision making at a local level is a prerequisite to facilitating the tailor-made development of the countryside.

Defining the users in Eforesee Cyprus

The main clients of the results of the eForesee exercise in Cyprus were:

Approach to design decisions in Eforesee Cyprus

Foresight is a policy tool used worldwide. It uses a bottom-up approach, rather than the top-down approach traditionally used in Cyprus. Its flexibility meant it was possible to apply Foresight in different ways to fit special needs of every society and even every single sector of the economy. Furthermore, Foresight is based on a knowledge background, a concept that becomes very popular in modern policy planning. Foresight links Research, Science and Technology, providing a scientific approach to policy issues.

Setting the time horizon in Eforesee Cyprus

The time horizon set is 2002 – 2006 (short term: entrance in the common currency zone)/2013 (long term: the completion of the Common Agricultural Policy).

Setting the timeframe in Eforesee Cyprus

The exercise ran from early January 2002 to the end of December 2003.

Designing the methodology (methodological framework) in Eforesee Cyprus

The eForesee project included the organisation of one International Conference and two pilot exercises. The title of the conference was: "Exploring Agricultural Policy Futures for Small Accession Economies in an Enlarged EU". The topic of the first pilot project was: "Improving the competitiveness of Agriculture utilising modern and alternative production methods", while the second pilot was entitled: "Agriculture as a Knowledge Based Industry".

The aim of the first pilot was to examine ways of "Improving the competitiveness of Cypriot agriculture using modern and alternative production methods". The second pilot started in January 2003 and its main target was to review Knowledge Management issues and how they can be used as a tool in developing the agricultural sector.

Furthermore, in, October 2002 two conferences were organised. The scope of the first Conference "Exploring agricultural futures for small accession economies in an enlarged EU" held in October 2002, was to explore the opportunities and challenges for agriculture after joining the EU. The second International Conference with visionaries from the EU was organised in the autumn of 2003. The aim of the second Conference was to raise agricultural policy issues and to establish an International Steering Committee to further promote the themes recorded.

The intention of the cooperated parties is to use these events to develop Foresight Communities of Practice in the ERA and EU+ and to provide (admittedly limited) support, enabling experts from Accession countries to attend.

Given the advanced process in accession negotiations the first pilot has been reoriented. Instead of the initial thought to monitor the negotiation process and suggest ways to improve the remaining issues it was decided to examine ways to improve the competitiveness of Cypriot agriculture. The basic tool selected to explore challenges and weaknesses of agriculture after accession was the panel group discussion, enriched with other suitable tools like Delphi methodology, reference monitoring, report writing, etc. The main aims of the panel meetings were:

  • To launch the eForesee project and provide information concerning the Foresight concept and methodology.
  • To decide the theme of the first pilot. In fact, the proposed title is the result of a fruitful discussion and exchange of views with stakeholders.
  • The embedding of Foresight methodology and the creation of Foresight culture in Cyprus.
  • It was clear, at least at the initial stage of the eForesee project that Foresight is an unfamiliar concept for most people. EForesee is considered as the first type of Foresight activity ever undertaken in Cyprus


Expected outcomes in Eforesee Cyprus

In the case of Cyprus the outcome of an ideal Foresight activity would be a convergence of minds on a preferred vision of the future, achieved via dialogue with stakeholders, based on a realistic appraisal of immediate challenges arising from the accession process, using the input of world class experts and visionaries in fields that will emerge and converge with agriculture, natural resources and the environment over a period ranging from five to twenty years.

Running the exercise

Identifying and selecting participants in Eforesee Cyprus

The eForesee team was made up of members from the ARI (Agricultural Research Institute), representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Natural Resources and Environment, representatives from the private sector, representatives of farmers associations, experts from Greece who also participated in the Greek National Foresight programme, and EU representatives.

Outcomes of Eforesee Cyprus

The eForesee project included the organisation of one International Conference and two pilot exercises. The title of the conference was: "Exploring Agricultural Policy Futures for Small Accession Economies in an Enlarged EU". The topic of the first pilot project was: "Improving the competitiveness of Agriculture utilising modern and alternative production methods", while the second pilot was entitled: "Agriculture as a Knowledge-Based Industry".

The outcomes of the exercise can be summarised in the following suggestions and recommendations for achieving the strategic target:

  • A strategic target for agriculture should be set based on commonly accepted concepts, reflecting society's needs and priorities. This strategic target should lie beyond the special interests of political parties, pressure groups, or other players of the sector concerned.  In this context a compromise between political parties to ensure strategic legislative stability is of utmost importance.
  • The creation of a reliable climate among consumers concerning the quality of Cypriot agricultural products generally, and of organic products in particular, is also needed. This may be achieved through a set of regulatory mechanisms.
  • Provisions to create a connecting mechanism and a two-way relationship between research and implementation are necessary to achieve competitiveness in the production and marketing of agricultural goods.
  • In the framework of the new strategic target incentives should be introduced to encourage new, competent, farmers to engage in agriculture and complementary skills should be built through special training programmes.
  • Promotion of development initiatives where planning and implementation will take place at the regional level could be achieved through the decentralization of services and decision-making.
  • In a competitive world the private sector has to play a key role. In this respect, new investment motivations to the private sector to engage new entrepreneurs in agriculture should be secured.
  • A high living standard is a prerequisite for a vital countryside. A significant part of government development expenditures should be oriented towards the development of the countryside, in the form of basic-modern services and infrastructure.


Implementation and follow-up

Eforesee Cyprus evaluation

In the beginning of the exercise a set of success criteria was determined in order to ensure that the objectives were achieved. These success criteria were:

  • Developing high quality scenarios or action plans worthy of publication.
  • Identifying textual modifications/inputs to National Development Plan for agriculture.
  • Bringing to the table in the form of the 'core group', the main high-level visionaries/strategic planners in Cyprus.
  • Identifying the formation of new public-private partnerships that form to take action on business opportunities identified.
  • Involving new actors beyond the established players in the formation of the agricultural policy (consultants, NGOs, private sector companies and/or other industry sectors).


Eforesee Cyprus challenges

Cyprus faces a number of obstacles in developing innovation, which include mentality barriers such as the prevailing perception of business. There is also lack of confidence among companies, a low level of technological development in the construction industry, lack of specialised workers and a need for new skills. Additionally, economic motivations and research and development opportunities are very limited; there is isolation from EU R&D, fragmentation of innovation system and an absence of links between science and industry.

Lessons learned in Eforesee Cyprus

In an innovation-driven economy, and in a world characterised by the emergence of a mosaic of lifestyles and intermixing of cultures, a commitment to continuous learning and the generation of new knowledge have become vital to acheiving sustainable economic, social and cultural development. Without a viable agricultural sector the countryside cannot be developed, and without a thriving countryside agriculture cannot exist. Future trends and developments are expected to have direct impact on agriculture and the countryside of Cyprus, given that they are associated with the Common Agricultural Policy and World Trade Organisation agreements. Cypriot society requires a strategic target that should be supported by an objective assessment of the International, European and local socio-economic environment towards which Cypriot agriculture and countryside is oriented.

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