August 22, 2023

Belgium AKIS | Updates on the different AKIS

AKIS Overview

Belgium is a relatively small country, characterised by a complex political organisation in which the regions have a lot of responsibility. Because of this decentralisation, Belgium can be perceived to have two separate AKIS, one in Flanders and one in Wallonia. Both AKIS are constituted by a large variety of actors, each having their own area of expertise. Both regions chose to implement a public policy characterised by a delegation of services, in which the Flemish and Walloon goverments support both AKIS’ with institutional support and competitive calls.

The Flemish AKIS can be considered as a very integrated system. At the core of it are the experimental stations and the farmers’ organisations who are strongly linked with the farming community. In this context Innovatiesteunpunt (department of farmers’ organisation Boerenbond) deserves a special mention as this organisation maintains a close connection to most AKIS actors as they take on the role of knowledge broker in the Flemish AKIS network. In terms of research, the experimental stations and institutions for higher education are more closely connected to the farming community than the universities. The weakest issue seems to be the advisory system which is not integrated enough in the Flemish AKIS. There seems to be a weak link between the (private) advisory services and agricultural research. Furthermore, there was no obligation for advisors to engage in training activities in order to get selected as an advisor for KRATOS, the advisory system funded by the Flemish government. This has changed under the new CAP Strategic Plan. Of course, this does not apply to all advisors, e.g. there are agricultural advisors who are linked to the experimental stations and are therefore more informed about the latest developments in agricultural research or advisors who are more familiar with research out of their own interest.

In Wallonia, the pilot centres, the Collège des producteurs and a large range of other organisations and institutions form the backbone of the AKIS. Wallonia has a lot of resources in terms of knowledge exchange and support services for farmers but because of the plurality of these service providers it is hard to find an overview of the specific expertise of each actor. Because of the lack of coherence and resonance between the different Walloon AKIS organisations, the Walloon AKIS can be considered as strong but rather fragmented. Advisory services in Wallonia also appear to operate on a regional scale and seem to spend slightly more time on teaching and training activities and participating in training programs then their Flemish counterparts. The Walloon government also supports agriculture through an array of support measures, however, they seem less focused on innovation than is the case in Flanders.

AKIS Coordination Bodies

In the Region of Flanders, the AKIS coordination body is part of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (the ministry of agriculture). She is also the Managing Authority.

CAP Strategic Plan Priorities Belgium

Belgium has 2 CAP Strategic Plans, one for the Region of Flanders and one for the Walloon Region. The two Plans represent a total EU budget of over €2.8 billion, with €1.3 billion for Flanders and €1.5 billion for Wallonia. Out of the total EU budget of these two regions, more than €900 million will be dedicated to environmental and climate objectives and eco-schemes and €100 million to young farmers.

In the Flemish Plan, income support and security are a key priority. In addition to direct payments, farmers will receive higher support for their first 30 hectares of land. Investments to make farms more sustainable and more resilient to market shocks are also encouraged with more than 35% of Flemish farmers to receive funding. To help address the environmental challenges related to its highly intensive agricultural model, Flanders allocates €185 million, more than half of its rural development budget, to environmental and climate-related objectives, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, increasing soil and water quality and strengthening of biodiversity. The Flemish Plan aims to increase the area under organic farming to more than 30 000 hectares. Thanks to specific support, it will also help 1 665 young farmers to set up. Finally, CAP funding will help create more than 1 700 jobs in rural areas.

Related to AKIS, the main interventions in the Flemish CAP plan are listed below:

The Walloon Plan will set aside higher funding for direct payments with a redistribution payment for small and medium-sized farms. Farmers growing protein crops will receive coupled support with a budget of €17 million to encourage the protein autonomy of farms in the region. To achieve its environmental objectives, Wallonia dedicates 26% of its direct payments budget to eco-schemes, and 56% of its rural development budget to interventions protecting the environment, climate and biodiversity. The agricultural area of the region under organic farming is expected to reach 18% thanks to CAP support. Rural development will focus on generational renewal, gender equality and social inclusion. The Walloon Plan will deploy funding to help 620 young farmers to set up and will organise events and a dedicated working group to increase the participation of women in agriculture.

Read the full report here.

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Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or European Commission. Neither the European Union nor the European Commission can be held responsible for them.