Progress Report for The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center Croatia (AgMRC-Croatia) An Information System for Agricultural Training and Development: A Joint Project of Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA, and the University of Zagreb, Croatia. PTP E&E Participant Training Program ICT Value-added Agriculture USAID Subcontract Project No. 404-30-05 01 June 2006 to 31 May 2007 Prepared by Mary Holz-Clause, Director, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center; Extension Value Added Agriculture; and Daniel Burden, Program Coordinator, International and Special Projects, Agricultural Marketing Resource Center; Extension Value Added Agriculture; 1111 NSRIC, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, 50011-3310 email@example.com, (515) 294-0648; firstname.lastname@example.org, (515) 294-9520 Background: The purpose of this project was to establish an electronic agricultural resource similar to the US-AgMRC project that is a cooperative project among Iowa State University, Kansas State University, and The University of California at Davis. The project was to provide training to potential contributors and users in the concept of the project, use of the site, and their potential contributions to the project. An objective of this training was to engage future participants, gage reaction to site format and content, and to establish and prioritize topic areas for inclusion or further development. PTP E&E Participant Training Program, ICT Value-added Agriculture USAID Subcontract Project No. 404-30-05; 01 June 2006 to 31 May 2007; delineates that the project is administered by Mary Holz-Clause, ISU, Principal Investigator, responsible for overall direction; and Dr. Marija Cerjak, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Zagreb, Department of Agricultural Marketing, Svetosimunska 25, HR - 10 000 Zagreb, Croatia, is responsible for subcontract work in Croatia. Critical Evaluation of Program Development: Several hurdles were encountered in the course of this project. Financial authorization and certification was granted for the project on 12 June 2006; immediately thereafter, a project timetable was established. The timetable included working dates from 01 June 2006 to 31 May 2007 and had major training milestone beginning 14 January 2007. However, funding was not in place with all participants until 13 November 2006 with final contracts being date- stamped 17 November 2006 due to the need for signing and routing of agreements between ISU and the University of Zagreb to facilitate funding activities in Croatia. While awaiting final signatures at ISU and the University of Zagreb, activities were well underway at Iowa State University to construct the template Internet resource and populate it with useful information. The University of Zagreb was reluctant to start the project without funding in place. This was the status of the project until agreements could be signed with the University of Zagreb. ISU-development activities during this time involved constructing plans-of-work for the ISU and Croatian teams, developing templates for the English- and Croatian-language pages, and developing and providing content from appropriate existing U.S. Agricultural Marketing Resource Center materials; Croatian Coop-development training modules contributed by Dr. Martin Frick, Montana State University; and modules developed from the Republic of Croatia, Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Water Management SAPARD program, Agricultural and Rural Development Plan, 2005 to 2006 (of which, Dr. Frick was a contributor). Some content-oriented decision making was based on the USAID Croatia Strategic Plan 2001 to 2005, ESI Western-Balkans 2004 strategic plan document, and the UN- FAO Croatian agricultural review documents. Although project funding was behind schedule, the participants agreed to adhere to the 08 to 14 December 2006 training dates set forth in the first project timetable that followed up the August 2005 proposal to World Learning. To ensure that this time table could be met and develop stronger protocol for the project, Mary Holz-Clause, Project Leader, and Christa Hartsook, Communications Coordinator US-AgMRC traveled to Zagreb in September 2006. In November, ISU finished development of a simple working-prototype of the Croatian- language AgMRC site, as well as a more developed and extensive English-language version. Dan Burden, Program Coordinator, International and Special Projects and The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (US-AgMRC), helped Marija Cerjak construct the agenda for the meeting and completed his presentations for the bulk of each day’s training. This included two morning presentation modules: The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (US- AgMRC): Part 1: The importance of value-added product development and marketing. Part 2: A business-development tool. Afternoon sessions were to include focus-group discussions moderated by Marija Cerjak with assistance from Dan Burden and Dr. Martin Frick. Additional materials on engaging and evaluating participant- and focus-groups were prepared by Mr. Burden with assistance from Madeline Schultz, ISU Value Added Agriculture group and US-AgMRC, and forwarded to the Croatian cooperators; these included focus-group group-engagement exercises pre- and post-activity questions and evaluation questionnaires. In route to Croatia, Dan Burden, was hit with a life-threatening intestinal virus at the Denver Airport, received emergency medical care in Denver, and consequently returned home to Ames, IA, and additional emergency medical care in Ames. Prior to this, Dan was able to hand-off his presentation materials and handouts to Dr. Frick to present on his behalf. Dr. Frick presented this material and his own presentation on cooperative development on Monday. ISU Value Added Agriculture and AgMRC team member Craig Tordsen was dispatched to Zagreb and continued covering the remaining presentations for Mr. Burden. Although the training room did not have an Internet connection for real time viewing of the site, CD-ROM and FLASH-media backup copies of the sites and their presentations were carried by the U.S. team so the participants could view the Website. The participants were organized in groups (by days) so that the majority of the non-English speakers were together on days when some translation service was scheduled. On Monday (11th Dec.), Thursday (14th Dec.) and Friday (15th Dec.) the U.S. lecturer presentations were not translated into Croatian while Tuesday's (12th Dec.) English lectures were translated. All Croatian lecturers presented in Croatian. The final discussion was organized in Croatian and English (except Tuesday's discussion). Two breaks were organized each day. Coffee, biscuits, snacks, water and juices were offered to the participants. Cold and warm meals and drinks were catered for lunch. The costs of the transportation to and from Zagreb was covered by project funds for some of the participants who could not afford to atttend the event without sponsorship. Participant Response to Program Thirty-eight participants completed the evaluation forms, although there were more than that in attendance. In general, as stated in Marija Cerjak’s summary report (attached) the participants stated that they were satisfied with the seminar, seminar organization, but less so with the applicability of the seminar materials and seminar subjects. The pre-session engagement questions that were slated to start each group’s day consisted of defining Croatian agriculture’s strengths and weaknesses. The participants were asked to cite three main advantages of Croatian agriculture; the responses can be summarized as: climate and a diversity of natural resources including clean land and air; ample available production resources; ample opportunities for organic agriculture; traditional agro-food products; and a strong connection between agriculture and tourism. The participants were then asked to outline three main problems associated with Croatian agriculture; the responses can be summarized as: small farm size; producer education level coupled with a low level of cooperation among farmers; the presence of a rather haphazard and non-organized agricultural market; no clear national strategy of agricultural development; import pressure; problems and issues with land-ownership; and insufficient financial support in the agricultural community. At the end of the day's session the participants considered the web pages of Croatian-AgMRC to be useful for their activities, and were guaged to be obtimistic about the project. The participants cited the following as useful additions to the site: What constitutes good producer practices; Producer practices regarding EU membership; Legislation; Accountancy; Addition of pages for registered users; Information about how to develop value-added products; Information about traditional products, and their protection (geographical origin); Product and geographical-origin branding; Market-research results; Agribusiness funding opportunities: EU funds, national funds, bank loans, etc.; Links to agribusiness magazines and journals; Business-plan development procedures and examples; Development of an exchange for agro-food products; Case studies with e-mail addresses of the participants in the case study; Production and quality-standard information on organic agriculture; Production and quality-standard information on herbs; A business-partner search engine; Practical marketing advice (how to find consumers, how to develop advertising and directed communications); Develop a producer register; and Develop an agribusiness registry. It should be noted that the English-language US-produced English-language Croatian – AgMRC incorporates several of these additions; but, at the time of this writing, have not yet been translated into the Croatian-language site. Participants suggested that the number of hits of the web page could be increased if: Good quality information targeted to the potential users was presented; The web page was regularly up-dated; Textual material was understandable to potential users, particularly that academic and otherwise highly technical material be summarized; Advertisement was undertaken through extension offices, Croatian chamber of economy, national and local governments, and producers associations; TV, radio, magazine advertisements, local media could be engaged; An interactive forum where questions and answers could be discussed was included; There was increase cooperation and communication with farmers’ organizations. The participants' suggestion for the further financing of the Center included: Offering subscriptions for certain pages; Building E-sale functions into certain sections of the site; Charging fees for intellectual service; Leveraging national and regional funding including EU sources; and Identify and target additional sponsors who could publish their advertisements in the web page (or only links to their pages). Cunclusions The U.S team views this project as a success, but due to Mr. Burden’s emergency illness, the U.S. project lecturers were not able to follow up on more direct-one-on-one discussions with participants and organizations that can help to provide longer term continuity and sponsorship for the project. The project accomplished all of the deliverable objectives of the original grant, as well as additional positive accomplishments: A Croatian-AgMRC web resource now exists in English and Croatian. A great deal of useful material is posted on the English-language site and is awaiting translation in Zagreb for the Croatian-language site. Training sessions were held on time and the project was introduced to an engaged audience. Training session participant lists and evaluation materials are in place for subsequent participatory and evaluation exercises. The audience members were engaged and interested in the project. Their responses identified and highlighted interest in specific areas that can be prioritized and addressed by the Croatian AgMRC staff, or in future work by a U.S. and University of Zagreb educational collaboration (following bullet point). U.S. work leading to the training sessions spawned a next-steps plan-of-action, December 2006 and January 2007, that identifies partial future funding for Croatia- AgMRC, and is focused on creating a collaborative project among Iowa State University, Montana State University, Chief Dull Knife College and Penn State University; and senior faculty at the University of Zagreb to create a student and faculty collaborative learning experience in Croatia titled Agricultural Economies in Transition. This project is slated to provide written position papers in English and Croat for the AgMRC-Croatia web resource. Funding from grants written for the collaborative education program will contain funding lines for maintenance of the AgMRC-Croatia web resource. Inclusion of the ISU Center for International Agricultural Finance with the collaborative educational project between the U.S. institutions and the senior faculty at the University of Zagreb. The ISU Center for International Agricultural Finance has experience with infrastructure building in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Romania; and works closely with the Fulbright-Scholar and other USAID-sponsored programs; in future work. Ron Prescott, Director of the center has pledged his agricultural-finance and cooperative-venture entrepreneurship materials for inclusion in the developing Croatia-AgMRC website.
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