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Dr Thulasizwe Mkhabela
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ARC Group Executive: Economic Impact & Partnerships (South Africa)

Dr. Thulasizwe Mkhabela is a Group Executive: Economic Impact & Partnerships and Senior Lecturer Extraordinaire at Stellenbosch University. He started his journey with the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) on the 18th June 2018. Before joining the ARC, Dr. Mkhabela was Acting CEO at the AgriBusiness Development Agency (ADA) in KwaZulu-Natal and also occupying as Chief Operations Officer. Prior positions were Managing Director at Outcome Mapping, Senior Researcher at the National Agricultural Marketing Council, Lecturer at Stellenbosch University and Senior Researcher, Soil Science at the Department of Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal. Dr. Mkhabela holds a PhD Agric. Agricultural Economics degree from Stellenbosch University.

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Paolo Menesatti
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CREA (Italy)
New approaches and innovations for sustainable local food chain

Researcher at Engineering and agro-food processing sector for 30 years. He had national and international (ex. CIGR board member) assignments, scientific communication, educational activities (PhD), project evaluator (also UE) and he had coordinated and participated to many national, international and private projects. His research interests principally concerned digital engineering technology applications and numerical methodologies in biosystems, agro-food and agro-environmental systems (ICT, imaging, RFiD, spectrometry, proximal sensing, thermography, inferential or predictive multivariate modelling, open source electronic and software), particularly related to applications for digital and precision agriculture. He published more than 350 scientific articles (h-index=23).


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Azzurra Chiarini
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World Food Programme (Italy)
Strengthening social and human capital

Since August 2015, Azzurra Chiarini is the Global Coordinator of the Joint Programme of FAO, IFAD, WFP and UN Women on “Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women”, implemented in seven countries. The programme tries to give a holistic response to the multiple challenges rural women face in their daily lives. Before joining WFP, Ms Chiarini lived for six years in West Africa where she started to work on gender equality and women's empowerment programs, with a specific focus on the fundamental role of women in poverty reduction and conflict prevention. In 2013-2015, Ms Chiarini was the Gender Advisor of the Italian Embassy in Afghanistan, where she led the renewed commitment of Italy in the sector of gender equality, with programmes in areas as sexual and reproductive rights, fight to GBV, access to justice and to education, and women’s economic empowerment. As a recognition for her work to promote gender equality, in March 2017 she was awarded by the Italian President in the framework of the celebration of the International Women’s Day. Ms Chiarini graduated with honours in Political Science at the University of Perugia, specializing in International Law.

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Dr Salmina Mokghele
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ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plants (South Africa)
New approaches and innovations for sustainable local food chain

Dr Mokgehle is a researcher at the Agricultural Research Council - Vegetable and Ornamental Plants (ARC-VOP). Her research focuses on water management, phytochemical profiling of medicinal plants, essential oils analysis and nutritional water productivity of indigenous leafy vegetables. The research has implications for indigenous plants production and conservation especially for endangered indigenous species. Dr Mokgehle’ s research can help to promote indigenous knowledge and adoption of the plants due to high micronutrients including iron, zinc, vitamins A and C. Dr Mokgehle shared her research findings with several scientific communities, published in peer-reviewed journals, is contributing in training postgraduate students.

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Erika van den Heever
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ARC-Vegetable and Ornamental Plants (South Africa)
Cooperation between farmers and community

Erika van den Heever is a senior researcher in Vegetables and technology transfer in the Agricultural Research Council (ARC). She holds an MSc Agric from the University of Free State, Bloemfontein. She leads a group of researchers and facilitators who is responsible for accredited training in vegetable production that leads especially small scale farmers and gardeners in a direction of a success and vegetable production. She leads community development projects in all provinces and see that it develops and produce vegetables. I am heading the technology transfer unit at ARC – VOP and deals with the different client regarding training to be offered to extension officers, farmers and other officials.

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Patrizia Borsotto

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CREA (Italy)
Cooperation between farmers and community

Holds a degree in Agricultural Sciences (Torino, 1999) and got a Doctoral Degree in Agricultural Economics (Torino, 2011). She is a researcher at Council for Agricultural Research and Economics – Research Centre of Agricultural Policies and Bioeconomy since 2001.

She is engaged in research projects in the field of agricultural economics and rural area. The focus of the research is the farm; the analyses are aimed at assessing economic and social sustainability of the farm with a special interest on multifunctionality of the farm including social farming. Current research interests embrace also the assessment, the implementation and the evaluation of rural development policies. She has a great experience in analysis using FADN data (Farm Accountancy Data Network).



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Francesco Vanni
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CREA (Italy)
Towards a new agricultural and economic paradigm

Francesco Vanni is an agricultural economist currently working as senior researcher at CREA - Centre of Agricultural Policies and Bio-economy (Rome, Italy). Francesco is involved in a broad range of research and evaluation projects in the field of agricultural and rural development policies, with a special focus on environmental governance and on policies that secure public goods from agriculture. His main research interests include the integration of sustainability into farming production processes, agroecology, the structural evolution of farming sector and CAP reform, with a special interest on agri-environmental policies. The most recent research projects in which Francesco has been involved are: the H2020 EU research project UNISECO – Understanding & improving the sustainability of agro-ecological farming systems in the EU (2018-2021) and the H2020 EU research project PEGASUS – Public ecosystem goods and services from land management – unlocking the synergies (2015-2018). Francesco Vanni holds a degree (Msc) in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies (Pisa, Italy - 2002), a master’s degree in Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy (Cardiff, UK - 2006) and a PhD in International Cooperation and Sustainable Development Policies (Bologna, Italy - 2012).


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Francesca Giarè

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CREA (Italy)
Social farming for inclusion of vulnerable people

Francesca Giarè is senior researcher at CREA - Research Centre for Agricultural Policies and Bioeconomy and Contract Professor on Social farming at Tor Vergata University and on Agricultural policy at Roma Tre University.

She studied in Rome, in La Sapienza University (degree in philosophy) and Roma Tre University (master in Methodology of social science and Phd in Education).

She has been involved in scientific research since 1997, following four main research fields:

1. the Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation System (AKIS) and its implications on agricultural productivity and sustainability.

2. agricultural policies, in particular regarding peri-urban and urban agriculture, innovation policies, cooperative and interactive strategies to improve rural agricultural systems (i.e Leader approach).

3. the social and cultural factors that influence economic development at local/rural level (drivers and obstacles).

4. social agriculture both for the inclusion of vulnerable people in agricultural activities and for the improvement of social capital at local level (policies, land use, products).

Other research activity regards food waste, food policy, role of small farming in rural development and in food security.

On these topics she publishes monographs and contributions, takes part in seminars and lectures, supports national and regional administrations.

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Kurt Ackermann
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South African Urban Food and Farming Trust (South Africa)
Strengthening social and human capital

Kurt Ackermann works through urban agriculture to build more resilient communities. He is co-founder and general manager of the Oranjezicht City Farm and founding trustee of the South African Urban Food & Farming Trust, which supports collaborative urban food gardens, social farms and markets to build social cohesion and collective agency within and across divided urban communities. He is an associate in the Global Risk Governance Programme at the University of Cape Town where focus is on ways social urban agriculture changes the dynamics of resource use, social cohesion and community safety. Kurt currently serves on the boards of several non-profits in education, health and human rights, enjoying the hands-on work of building community-based, volunteer-driven organisations.



Ilaria Signoriello

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Agricoltura Capodarco (Italy)
Cooperation between farmers and community

Ilaria Signoriello since 2007 works closely with the founder of the “Capodarco Community” don Franco Monterubbianesi and “Agricoltura Capodarco” agricultural social cooperative, founded in 1978 and among the first experiences of social agriculture in Italy.
She was the former speaker of the Social Farming National Forum, a community of practices which gathered at the national and regional levels hundreds of farms, social cooperatives, associations, schools, universities, get involved with institutions at all levels from local to European.
She has held several lectures on the Italian model of “social agriculture and Welfare” in Italy, in Europe and the United States. Among them the International Conference of SF organised by the Ministry of Agriculture in Czech Republic 2019, the International Conference on Disability organised by Edizioni Centro Studi Erickson 2019. Today she is member of the board of Social Farming National Forum, member of the National Observatory for SF in Italy established by the Italian Ministry of Agriculture according to the National Law 141/2015 “Provisions on social agriculture” and head of international project for Agricoltura Capodarco. She held training for farmers and social workers about the working and social inclusion of vulnerable people in agriculture.

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