SEARCA graduate alumni hold conference on enhancing smallholders' capacity toward food security and climate change adaptation
VIENTIANE, Lao PDR - The SEARCA graduate alumni have long recognized that climate change is a serious issue in the region as it affects smallholders and eventually food security. This was affirmed during the 1st Regional SEARCA Fellows Association (RSFA) Regional Conference on Food Security and Climate Change with the theme â€œEnhancing Smallholdersâ€™ Capacity toward Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation in Southeast Asiaâ€ on 4â€“5 December 2013, which was hosted by the National University of Laos (NUOL) at Don Chan Palace Hotel, Vientiane, Lao Peopleâ€™s Democratic Republic.
Thirty-four participants composed of SEARCA graduate alumni from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Timor Leste, and Vietnam, along with NUOL, SEARCA, and the University of the Philippines Los BaÃ±os (UPLB) officers and staff attended the regional conference.
The activity, which was an off-shoot of the SEARCA-DAAD Alumni Associations Regional Consultative Workshop on 28â€“29 May 2013 at SEARCA, Los BaÃ±os, Laguna, Philippines (see related story), provided the venue for SEARCAâ€™s graduate alumni to share and exchange research and extension initiatives and other best practices towards building capacities of smallholders in attaining food security and climate change adaptation in Southeast Asia.
The program was formally opened by Associate Professor Lammai Phiphakkhavong, Vice President, NUOL. In his welcome message read by Dr. Editha C. Cedicol, Program Head for Graduate Scholarship, Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., SEARCA Director, affirmed the urgency of the issue at hand and stressed that â€œwe should not postpone looking at how to secure sufficient, nutritious, and safe food amidst the impacts of climate change. We should now keep on finding solutions and employ the best strategies to combat the effects of climate change, to capacitate the smallholders to adapt to it, and to ensure that the people in our respective countries are ready to face these challenges and know what to do when adversities strike.â€
Moreover, Dr. Cecilia N. Gascon, President of the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) in the Philippines, and the RSFA, said that Typhoon Haiyanâ€”the recent catastrophe that struck the Philippines, and the strongest recorded typhoon in historyâ€”is likewise an evidence of what climate change can do. This is why the theme of the two-day conference is very fitting and important.
The opening program was highlighted by the keynote presentation of Dr. Sitha Khemmarath, Vice President of Savannakhet University in Lao PDR, likewise a SEARCA graduate alumnus. Sharing and exchange of information, according to Dr. Sitha, is very important especially among Lao PDR SEARCA graduate alumni who work on areas related to food security and climate change adaptation. In the future, the country will likewise need location-specific research and development projects that will provide the foundation for strategic initiatives toward food security.
Dr. Wilfredo M. Carandang, Assistant to the Chancellor and Professor at the UPLB College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR) presented a paper on the Conservation Farming Village (CFV) project, an agro-forestry based community development initiative toward improving the resilience of communities to adapt to climate change.
During this two-day activity, SEARCA graduate alumni presented their innovative projects and initiatives that focused on assisting smallholders in their respective areas to improve agricultural production amidst the threats of climate change.
A side event of the conference was the formation of the Laotian SEARCA Alumni Association, likewise facilitated by the RSFA and the election of its first set of officers, namely: President- Dr. Oudom Phonekampheng, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, NUOL; Vice President- Mr. Keopeth Phoumphon, Training Expert, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center; Secretary - Dr. Poutthasone Sibounnavong, Lecturer, Faculty of Agriculture, NUOL; and Treasurer - Mr. Linglong Sithixay, Technical Officer Planning Division, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
NUOL Vice President Associate Professor Lammai Phiphakkhavong welcomes the RSFA delegates to Vientiane, Lao PDR
SEARCA Program Head for Graduate Scholarship Dr. Editha Cedicol reads SEARCA Director Saguiguitâ€™s welcome message
Dr. Cecilia N. Gascon, RSFA President in her opening message