Southeast Asia faces complex challenges amid emerging opportunities. Foremost of these are its continuously increasing population with increasing and changing food and nutrition needs coupled with decreasing land area available for agriculture and food production; water and natural resources constraints exacerbated by climate change and unpredictable weather patterns; periodic and unpredictable food shortages and price volatility; and lingering rural poverty. In the midst of these challenges is the integration of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which started in 2015 and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) that could potentially usher in regional supply chains inclusive of small-scale farms in rural areas. Addressing these challenges and opportunities requires policies and programs that are informed by science, which highlights the need for strong research capacity in the countries of Southeast Asia.
The International Foundation for Science (IFS) contributes towards strengthening the capacity of developing countries to conduct relevant and high quality research on the sustainable management of biological and water resources. In Southeast Asia, the developing countries that IFS serves include Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, Timor Leste, and Vietnam. IFS provides support to scientists in their early careers to pursue high quality research on relevant problems of their countries within the three thematic clusters of biological resources in terrestrial systems; water and aquatic resources; and food security, dietary diversity, and healthy livelihoods.
Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) works to strengthen institutional capacities toward inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD) in Southeast Asia through graduate education, research and development, and knowledge management. Its priority themes include social inclusion and environmental sustainability focused on climate change adaptation and resiliency, and natural resources management.
Given their aligned themes on food and nutrition security and environmental sustainability, and a shared desire to strengthen their respective parallel efforts in building research capacities in Southeast Asia, IFS and SEARCA have agreed to jointly implement the IFS-SEARCA Collaborative Research Grants Pilot in Southeast Asia.
The IFS-SEARCA partnership commenced on 1 August 2015 and will run until 31 December 2019.
The IFS-SEARCA partnership aims to strengthen research capacity in food and nutrition security and environmental sustainability toward inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia.
Specifically, this collaborative research grants approach is expected to strengthen collaborative research capacity of young researchers and scientists in the field of Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CChAM) as it relates to agriculture and rural development in the region.
The pilot project is focused on research on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation (CChAM), which is based on the Umbrella Program on CChAM for Southeast Asia developed by SEARCA and partner institutions in consultation with other stakeholders in the region. In particular, the priority thematic areas of the grant are:
Assessing climate change impacts and risks for policies, plans, and investments;
Advancing low-carbon agricultural and rural development;
Enhancing pro-active adaptation to climate change variability and extremes;
Enabling policies and governance for climate-resilient agricultural and rural communities.
Considered eligible for the grant were young scientists from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Vietnam with a Masters or PhD degree (or equivalent academic degree); attached to a university, national research institution, or a research-oriented NGO; willing to undertake research on CChAM; and not more than 35 years of age for men and 40 years of age for women (for first time applicants).
Proposals, Grant Applications, and Review Process
Eligible scientists who expressed their interest were invited to an IFS social networking platform to interact with other prospective applicants and form research teams of three to five individuals each, decide on their research topics, and develop proposals aimed at providing science-based solutions to current issues and concerns in climate change adaptation and mitigation. The proposals were subjected to rigorous review by an international Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). Grant administration and research implementation have started in May 2017.
Status of the Project
Eighteen (18) collaborative research teams progressed beyond the pre-screening stage of the review process and participated in a capacity building workshop hosted by SEARCA.
The Workshop on Collaborative Research, which was jointly organized by IFS and SEARCA, took place from 30 August to 1 September 2016 at SEARCA, Los Baños, Laguna, involving 55 of the 64 eligible scientists and researchers from eight Southeast Asian countries, with six mentors from the first and second pilots of the IFS collaborative research grants program in Africa.
The 18 research teams submitted their improved proposals in September 2016. After the rigorous review by the SAC, 12 teams were awarded with the grant and are now implementing their respective collaborative research.
Mentors, subject matter experts, and those well-versed in collaborative research were shortlisted and are available to the teams for consultation in the course of the actual research and project implementation.