The pinnacle of a 3-year journey towards climate neutrality: A review of the FASTER Final Conference

📅 20 October 2021
📍 Hybrid Event

Last Thursday, October 20th, the FASTER project celebrated its long-awaited Final Conference. This event represented a perfect conclusion to three years of intense work and an opportunity for the FASTER Consortium to share the Project findings and main outputs.

The conference “From Twinning to Excellence Hub for Tunisian Farm Advisory System” (click here to see the agenda) had a hybrid structure, comprised of two different sessions: 

  • An online morning session, held in English via Zoom, provided a presentation of the synergies and clustering activities with ongoing initiatives, in order to foster innovation ecosystems in Tunisia and beyond.
  • An afternoon session, taking place in Tunisia, where local stakeholders involved at different levels in the FASTER project, were presented the main outputs and critical findings, having the chance to be engaged in discussions and open debates.


An online morning session with a global approach

The Final Conference kicked off with an online event in English, moderated by Richard Elelman, Head of Politics at EURECAT. After some opening words to welcome the participants, Mr Elelman then gave the floor to PhD Marios Markakis, from the European Research Executive Agency, who introduced the Funding Programme in the first presentation. Following that, PhD Sihem Jebari, FASTER’s coordinator from INRGREF conducted the presentation of the project and an overview of its main topics. During her presentation, Mrs Jebari pointed out some specific achievements within the project, such as the engagement of 476 participants across 21 different training program courses; the publication of 15 scientific articles, most of them journals, and the implementation of a Living Lab in FAS Services.

Thereafter, two key-note speeches were dedicated to some international initiatives in climate change adaptation:

  • “Climate change adaptation”, introduced by Wouter Vanneuville, from the European Environment Agency (EEA). Mr Vanneuville shared with the audience the objectives and framework of the Climate-ADAPT Platform, which serves as a first-stop shop for climate change impact, vulnerability and adaptation.
  • “The role of Scotland’s SEFARI on the road to COP26 and beyond”, by Dr Charles Bestwick, from the Scottish Environment Food and Agriculture Research Institute (SEFARI). As the title of the key-note suggests, Dr Bestwick gave an insight into the objectives of the SEFARI Gateway, a platform devoted to the delivery of an integrated (interdisciplinary) strategic research and timely policy advice for Scotland’s environment, land, agriculture, food and rural communities.


After the key-notes, the discussion about FASTER’s impact was resumed by PhD Jebari, who displayed the main outcomes, deliverables and results from the project, leading to in-depth presentations by the Work Package Leaders:

  • WP3 Capacity Building, presented by Professor Ronny Berndtsson, from Lund University. Mr Berndtsson highlighted the key aspect of tailored training activities, and remarked that the training programmes that were tailored specifically for the Tunisian partners were “a key in the success of the FASTER project”.
  • WP4 Living FAS Lab, presented by PhD Annelies Broekman, from CREAF. Mrs Broekman highlighted the accomplishment of several ambitious objectives like the Living Lab, which she regarded as a “starting point” for capacity building. As well as, E-Learning platform, which stood out as a very effective tool for knowledge crowdsourcing.
  • WP5 Sustainability of Excellence, presented by Zied Bouslahi, from the Agriculture Extension and Training Agency (AVFA), and Thouraya Souissi, from the Institution for Agricultural Research and Higher Education (IRESA). Their presentation underlined the key role of this Work Package in fostering the international network system with key institutions and researchers working on climate change adaptation in land and water management.


Lastly, the final discussion of the session offered a space to show the achievements from other European and international initiatives, which support the crucial aspect of shared knowledge in the adaptation to climate change:

  • NEWAVE, presented by scientific project manager Caterina Marinetti; 
  • European Water Junior Programme, presented by Director Naomi Timmer; 
  • WaterAgri, presented by Miklas Scholz, Lund University; 
  • FIT4REUSE, presented by Attilio Toscano, University of Bologna; MEDFORWATER, presented by Philippe Ker Rault, KER; 
  • PHEMAC, presented by project manager Gustavo Pérez, Autonomous University of Barcelona; 
  • SOILdarity, presented by project manager Cristina Cruz, University of Lisbon, and 
  • Global Water Partnership Med Programme, presented by programme officer Sondos Njoumi.


To close the online discussion, Mr Elelman thanked all of the participants for their presentations, and finished his intervention with some motivational words:

 “We should not resign ourselves to our fate. Scientists such as yourselves must lead the way, so that society can advance towards a future where conferences such as this will not be necessary, because we will live in a sustainable world”

The online half of the conference succeeded in its purpose of creating better linkages between academia, business and government. In that sense, it exemplified FASTER’s values of digital capacity building and networking instruments, with the discussion not only of FASTER key results, but also broadening the topics to other European and international initiatives in the field of sustainability and water management. This success would not be possible without the contribution of all of our partners, speakers and other participants, who joined efforts for their involvement in the Final Conference

Celebrating a milestone with a closing ceremony in Tunisia 

Following the online morning session, a face-to-face event was celebrated in Tunisia, which gathered more than 100 guests. This segment started with some welcoming words by Zouhair Nasr, from INRGREF. Straight after, the attendees had the opportunity to visit the three main bodies of the FASTER exhibition:

  • Atlas for Adaptation to Climate Change in Tunisian Agriculture  & Living Lab Co-designed Factsheets: presenting climate change adaptation measures and solutions co-created by the stakeholders in the project’s Living Lab;
  • Excellence Hub: presenting the platform, supporting and providing guidance to participants with their enrolment;
  • Video Gallery with all the videos produced within the project



After the exhibition, the event continued with two parallel sessions, comprising 10 minutes of presentations from each speaker, followed by discussion and Q&A with the participants. The topics of these roundtables were the following:

  • Roundtable 1: European funding for better rural development


The selected topics aimed to showcase opportunities, frameworks, processes and management strategies to reach EU funding, through a series of panellists from leading institutions with broad experience. In the first place, the speakers focused mainly on the socio-economic impacts related to the funding schemes presented. The panellists also discussed crucial findings on climate change, while considering new adaptation solutions.


The agenda of this roundtable consisted of the following topics and experts:

-“European fund for research on the mainstreaming of climate change into rural development in Tunisia” by Hichem Ben Salem, Director-General of the Tunisian Institution of Agricultural Research and Higher Education (IRESA)

-“Key findings on climate change: an output of the first Mediterranean Assessment Report” by Semia Cherif, member of the Editorial Committee of the Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change network (MedECC)


  • Roundtable 2: Innovative natural resources management in future climate conditions


Simultaneously, the second roundtable of the conference gathered three different panellists, who shared their views and experiences focused on concrete adaptation measures that respond to future climate conditions in the field of agriculture. All the panellists agreed that Innovation is crucial in these strategies, and further explained the technical, practical and societal considerations that determine the impact of climate adaptation measures.


The selected panellists shared their expertise on the following topics:

-“Co-construction at the service of territorial development” by Naoufel Ben Haha, Deputy Director of Planning for the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries

-“Natural resources management in the socio-economic context of the mountainous areas of North-Western Tunisia” by Hichem Khemiri, General Director of the Office of Sylvo-pastoral development of the Northwest (ODESYPANO)


Moreover, the invited stakeholders enjoyed the opportunity to share their perspectives and commitment towards the work carried out within the project. It was a perfect moment to exchange ideas between extensionists and farmers, decision-makers and project partners and lab leaders and scientists, who have been the driving force of the FASTER project throughout its 3-year journey.


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