Remaining upbeat in steering an inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural economy, the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) brings to the fore the significance of value chain development toward improving market system productivity while highly regarding marginalized farmers' inclusivity.
This is the core of the Value Chain Development Course conducted by SEARCA from March 12 to 16. The academe, national government agencies, local government units, and non-governmental organizations are represented by participants from the Philippines, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.
With social inclusion as one of ISARD's defining elements, the course pushes how marginalized actors can be given precedence to economically and socially include or upgrade them in the agricultural value chain.
SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. pointed out the importance of value-chain development in driving agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia. He counts training course among SEARCA's efforts to strengthen social inclusion to promote greater participation and productivity of farmers and rural producers.
He noted that the training is a vital step in developing a value-chain framework that will facilitate the equitable integration of smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs in regionally integrated and borderless agribusiness markets.
"We believe that efforts to integrate small-scale farmers into commercial food systems is key to national and overall regional development, especially in view of the ASEAN economic integration," Saguiguit said.
Meanwhile, Prof. Wilfredo Carada of the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Public Affairs and Development, who led the team of resource persons, affirmed that looking through a value-chain lens defines inclusive and pro-poor development in its truest sense.
He advocated the use of "VCD4ISARD" as a call to action toward developing sound interventions for smallholders, small-scale businesses, landless laborers and women, who participate in agricultural value chains as producers, traders, processors, laborers and retailers.
Carada noted that VCD4ISARD could be a tool to make these marginalized sectors get a fair share in the value-chain process.
"What we need to embrace is the inclusive definition of the value chain. This means we need to make the poor participate directly in economic activities, and make their participation translate into increased income and improved well-being. We must not merely rely on the 'trickle down' process in aiming for sustainable development," Carada said.
The five-day course is composed of three interactive workshops and nine lecture-discussion sessions. It combines the fundamental frameworks, principles, components and processes of the value-chain system and their practical skills and application.
Workshop participants were tasked to work in groups that developed a value-chain development plan for cocoa, rice, abaca, sugar, coconut and swine—commodities identified as having great potential and relevance to ISARD. Each plan includes a sector situationer, value-chain analysis and mapping, value-chain development strategy, institutional arrangements, and monitoring and evaluation design.