TechCare project aims to prioritize Small Ruminants (SR) welfare issues and to co-design, together with the stakeholders of SR value chain, innovative approaches based on PLF technologies to manage animal welfare. Therefore, TechCare has adopted a multi-actor approach, which takes into consideration the different interests and priorities of the complex matrix of SR stakeholders, and wishes to actively engage the relevant actors through a series of regularly planned National Workshops (NW) in all nine countries that are represented in the project. The first series of NWs, focused on the prioritization of welfare issues encountered in SR farming systems, were organized, and held in France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Romania, Spain and UK in April and May, with the participation of nearly 200 stakeholders in total from the SR value chain, namely: SR farmers, veterinarians, animal transporters, slaughterhouse owners, national authorities, animal NGOs, etc. The NWs took place within the activities of Work Package 1 (WP1) and were organized by the TechCare partners with the assistance of their National Facilitators (NF), who are the main contact point for the NW in each country.
A common list of materials was prepared for the first series of NW comprising a workshop invitation together with a consent form for the participants, the workshop agenda, a survey concerning the perspectives of stakeholders on the PLF technology and welfare status in SR sector, a list with potential welfare issues (as compiled from relevant scientific literature in WP2), and a short presentation of the main key points, aims and objectives of TechCare project. To reach consensus between stakeholders, the O.P.E.R.A (Own, Pair, Explain, Rank and Arrange) method was used, which offers a systematic way of merging different opinions and aspects into one view, to obtain a consensus decision based on the knowledge and experiences of all the stakeholders.
The first NW was organized in Romania in early April with the participation of 30 stakeholders who prioritized welfare issues encountered in dairy sheep. The Romanian NW was followed by the NWs in Greece (13th April) with the participation of 18 stakeholders from both the dairy sheep and dairy goats sector, in France (13th April) with the participation of 29 stakeholders from the dairy sheep sector and 30 from the meat sheep sector, in the UK, with two separate NWs (taking place on 14th April and 20th May, respectively) with a total of 29 stakeholders from the meat sheep sector, in Italy (15th April) with the participation of 26 stakeholders from the dairy sheep sector, in Norway (29th April and 4th May), with the participation of 26 participants from the meat sheep and dairy goats sectors, in Ireland (14th May) with 18 participants from the meat sheep sector, in Israel (19th May) with 17 stakeholders from both the meat sheep and dairy goat sector, and finally in Spain (9th June) with 47 participants from the meat sheep, and dairy sheep and goat sectors . The welfare issues from all the NWs are gathered and will be merged into a common list of welfare issues for SR value chains, which will be the basis for the development of the PLF technologies to be considered in pilot and large-scale studies in the context of the TechCare project.
At the end of the NWs, the stakeholders were asked to share their opinions and comments, on the workshop and to propose suggestions for improvements. The majority of the comments were positive, despite the fact that all NWs took place virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions, denoting that the stakeholders found the workshops’ scope and content interesting. Most of the stakeholders also expressed their interest in participating in future NWs and project’s events, and that they looked forward to being informed on future developments and outcomes of this project.
The TechCare project Team greatly appreciates the active participation of all the stakeholders and looks forward to meeting them again in the course of the project!