In light of the growing importance of agriculture to the region's food security and overall development, there is a need to educate and bring to the public's consciousness the challenges it faces and the necessity of efforts to promote agricultural and rural development (ARD).
The challenges include unabated population growth, climate change, land degradation and dwindling natural resource base, compounded with an aging farming generation and waning interest among the youth in agriculture as a field of study and source of livelihood.
SEARCA's historic and traditional response is through its three functions, namely, graduate education and institutional development, research and development, and knowledge management.
Starting in FY2015/2016, the Center started conceptualizing an alternative mode of promoting awareness and appreciation, educating, and empowering a wide spectrum of stakeholders on the plight of agriculture. An innovative AgriMuseum and Learning Center in Agricultural and Rural Development for Southeast Asia, possibly the first in the region, is seen as an alternative education facility for getting across the message of the urgency of ARD to concerned stakeholders and to enjoin them to rally behind the cause.
The Southeast Asian AgriMuseum aims to
Advance the science and enterprise of agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia;
Promote awareness on and appreciation of the dynamics of agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asian/ASEAN nations and region as a whole; and
Stimulate discussion, learning, innovation, livelihood, and collaboration for inclusive and sustainable ARD in Southeast Asia.
The museum/learning center will be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of users including youths/students, farmers, development practitioners, policy and decision makers, researchers, media professionals, and the general public. This is so that they would appreciate more deeply the role of agriculture in their own lives and in national development; and favor venturing into various ARD professions, becoming ARD's staunch supporters and doers.
General Description and Features
Given its limited space, the AgriMuseum will employ advances in information technology to effectively showcase science-based knowledge, innovations, and recommendations for an inclusive and sustainable ARD in an interactive manner. As in traditional museums, it will also exhibit unique artefacts that will depict the nature of agriculture and the diverse farming culture in Southeast Asia.
Specifically, it will feature the essential beginnings of agriculture in the region; the ARD landscape from uplands to lowlands including coastal communities; peculiarities of ARD in the 11 member countries of SEAMEO; current challenges and issues, as well as successes and solutions in ARD, such as in climate change, food security, rural poverty and social inclusion, biotechnology, biodiversity, and environmental sustainability; the impacts that ARD movers have made in Southeast Asia; and simulated experiences using augmented reality that invite museum visitors to help shape its future.
Its operation will be integrated in SEARCA's core programs that invite partnerships with governments and the development community in implementing the Center's five-year plans. Hence, unlike traditional museums, the AgriMuseum will be dynamic, changing exhibits that respond to the overall evolving agricultural landscape as well as the current and emerging issues and challenges in ARD.
The AgriMuseum experience will complement a total experience offered by the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and other institutions in the Los Baños Science Community (LBSC), where SEARCA serves as member, in living up to the municipality's label as a Science and Nature City1. It will provide the Southeast Asian regional experience in ARD.
The AgriMuseum's estimated total cost, including its structure and exhibits comprising artefacts, digital hardware, and content, is one million eight hundred thousand United States dollars (USD1.8M). It will occupy approximately 1,000 sq. m. of floor area in three levels of a new structure to be constructed and annexed to the existing SEARCA Headquarters at UPLB, which is among the strongest agricultural universities in the region.
________________________ 1 The International Rice Research Institute has Riceworld and UPLB has a Museum of Natural History and previously, an agritourism park, among others.
SEARCA believes that the project becomes more meaningful and effective if it is jointly and cooperatively established and owned by the very stakeholders who believe in it and stand to benefit from it. Contributions in financial, material, archaeological, historical, intellectual, and other kinds of resources required by the AgriMuseum are very much welcome.
Office of the Director Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture College, Los Baños, Laguna 4031, Philippines