Teaching Sustainable Agriculture and Social-Ecological Systems in the MENA Region: Autumn School AURORA 2023
The Autumn School AURORA, held from October 30th to November 7th, 2023, cast a spotlight on sustainable agriculture and social-ecological systems in the MENA region. This event, hosted in High School of Agriculture of Mograne (ESA Mograne), Tunisia, brought together master’s students from Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Germany, thanks to funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The aim of the four-years AURORA project, launched in 2021, is to integrate the analysis of social-ecological systems of agri-environmental systems in the curricula of selected universities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The Autumn School was organized by several partners involved in Bonex: University of Kassel (Germany), INRGREF (Tunisia), IAV Hassan-II (Morocco), and American University of Beirut (Lebanon). Apart from these Bonex partners, also two further Tunisian partners were involved, namely IRESA and ESA Mograne.
The focus of this Autumn School was to foster a comprehensive understanding of sustainable agriculture and social-ecological systems in the MENA region. This is a crucial subject given the unique challenges and opportunities the region faces due to its diverse ecosystems and complex social dynamics. The Autumn School combined lectures, interactive discussions, and field trips to agroecological farms as well as to actors of olive oil value chains. Key modules of the Autumn School Aurora included first Systems Thinking, where Master’s students were introduced to systems thinking, an essential tool for addressing complex issues. This approach encourages comprehensive problem-solving and decision-making, and to view agri-food systems not as isolated components but as dynamic systems. The second module focused on Value Chain Analysis where participants had the opportunity to delve into the details of value chains, exploring how products move from producers to consumers. The third module covered institutional analysis, emphasizing the importance of institutions and governance structures in shaping agricultural practices and social-ecological systems, and introducing different frameworks for analysis.
The international mix of students from Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and Germany brought diverse perspectives and experiences to the discussions. This diversity enriched the learning process and encouraged cross-cultural exchanges, fostering a deeper understanding of the MENA region’s complex challenges and unique solutions.