The Master of Science Programme aims at creating the next generation of professionals able to foster development of organic agriculture and meet sustainability goals. The master program proposes a system-oriented approach in organic agriculture as a complex and dynamic process that requires careful management to ensure long-term sustainability and resilience. It integrates knowledge and methods from multiple disciplines to create sustainable organic food systems that match with the needs of local communities and territories in a range of bio-physical and socio-economic contexts. Learning and teaching strategies are combined to advance students technical and analytical skills together with the important soft skills of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.
At the end of the course, MOA students will be able to promote processes for the development of organic agriculture aimed at agroecological transition and sustainable food systems development. Students will be able to:
- Apply the principles and practices of organic agriculture, including crop management, soil health, and pest and disease management;
- Plan and promote conversion to organic agriculture and adopt a value chain perspective;
- Assess the environmental, social, and economic dimensions of organic farming and food production;
- Understand policy and regulatory frameworks that govern organic agriculture at the local, national, and international levels;
- Identify and apply innovative solutions that promote sustainability and resilience of organic farming and food systems;
- Apply collaborative problem-solving approach and system thinking to address complex challenges in organic agriculture.
The programme involves CIHEAM Bari staff and international scientists and practitioners who have made exceptional contributions to the organic sector. The first year of MOA programme is composed of eight thematic units followed by an applied project. During the second year students will carry out the research project on specific topics.
The course is addressed to new graduate students and young professionals with a university background related to agronomic, horticultural, agricultural marketing and socio-economic issues.
Unit I - Sustainability and resilience in agrifood systems (distance learning): the unit frames the concepts of sustainability, sustainable development and resilience of agrifood systems; describes elements and activities from food production to consumption; and presents policies, strategies and initiatives to foster transformation and transition processes. A multi-dimensional framework for sustainability assessment is introduced with real-life examples. The organic food system is considered a pilot model and driver for sustainable food production and consumption.
Unit II - Agroecology: the unit focuses on the ecological processes and principles to design a sustainable farming system that promotes agroecological transition; describes the range of ecosystem services from an agroecosystem perspective; provides tools and approaches to quantify and understand the value of ecosystem services that influence the sustainability; and explains interconnections between organic agriculture and agroecology.
Unit III - Organic agriculture principles, concepts and frameworks: the unit provides an overview of the history of organic agriculture and philosophy and principles; explains legislation governing the production, processing, distribution and marketing of organic food products; and describes the certification schemes and inspections under specific regulations and standards.
Unit IV - Soil management and fertility: the unit provides principles and practices for soil management and fertility in organic farming system; considers organic farms as a potential self-sustaining biological system that adopt practices to improve soil health and fertility and boost productivity by reducing external inputs; explains what are the differences between organic vs regenerative vs carbon farming practices; offers hands-on experiences on nutrients dynamic in soil and plant under different management systems; and describes the principles of circular economy and demonstrates technological approaches for biomass recycling and nutrient cycling on a farm scale.
Unit V – Pests and diseases management: the unit emphasizes the importance of a holistic approach to pest and disease management in organic agriculture, where prevention, monitoring, and the use of multiple control methods are key to achieving sustainable and healthy crop production; describes innovative approaches to prevent and control common pests and diseases that affect organic crops; and applies the multi-level approach to agroecosystem health as essential for a successful plant healthcare strategy in organic agriculture.
Unit VI – Sustainability management in agribusiness: the unit provides principles of agricultural economics, financial accounting and business planning with a focus on improving sustainability; integrates methods for sustainability assessments as decision-making tools towards more competitive and sustainable organic agribusiness; uses the case studies to assess multi-dimensional and multi-scale sustainability; introduces environmental certification schemes for more sustainable and inclusive organic agribusiness.
Unit VII - Organic food value chain: the unit focuses on developing short, transparent and sustainable organic value chains by analysing their components, actors and services fostering interactions; analyses organic food consumption, consumer demands and markets focusing on marketing strategies; provides a holistic approach to define and evaluate organic food quality; exploits innovative technologies that create values during entered value chains.
UNIT VIII - Policies and rural development: the unit provides a comprehensive understanding of national and international policy frameworks and rural development opportunity in organic sector; focuses on relations between territorial and socio-economic features and importance of community participation and stakeholder networking for future development; demonstrates successful organic agriculture initiatives in rural development contexts.
Applied Project: Collaborative problem solving and system thinking:
Applied project addresses the main problems of local organic enterprises. Project aims to develop the collaborative problem-solving competencies of students to effectively engage in a process to solve a problem by sharing the understanding, pooling their knowledge and effort required to come to a solution. The activities are designed to develop the students’ capacity to observe, analyse and propose solutions to complex problems by applying combined approaches from different disciplines.
Students who have successfully completed their first year are eligible for admission to the second-year programme, where they engage in research activities under the guidance of CIHEAM Bari staffs in collaboration with national and international research and innovation institutions, as well as enterprises. Students have the flexibility to choose projects aligned with their interests, facilitating future career development. The key focus areas for the Master of Science programme include cropping systems, soil fertility, by-product management; biological control and natural compounds for plant health; organic food systems and sustainability assessment; consumer, marketing and business model; socio-economic aspects and support policies; organic food and value-added processes and product.
UNIT I - Research methodology and tools: the unit aims at providing students with a thorough comprehension of the fundamental principles, methodologies, and instruments employed in conducting scientific research across diverse disciplines. Students will acquire proficiency in analyzing and handling research data, as well as mastering the art of scientific writing and the creation of effective scientific communication.
UNIT II - Advanced research in organic food and farming systems: the unit provides the students at understanding of cross-disciplinary collaboration in research and innovation, along with the ability to design research projects. Students will be equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for designing and managing the project proposals as well as identifying the most promising funding programmes.