Tagaytay City―A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Taiwan-based World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) for institutional cooperation on the sidelines of the International Conference on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems.
The signatories to the agreement on Nov. 7 at the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) here were Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. on behalf of SEARCA as Chair of its Governing Board and Dr. Marco Wopereis, Director General of WorldVeg.
Formerly known as Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center or AVRDC, WorldVeg is an international nonprofit R&D institute established in 1971 by seven countries, including the Philippines.
Today, WorldVeg has regional bases in Africa, Asis and Oceania with 44 international scientists and 300 national scientists and support staff dedicated to the mission of alleviating poverty and malnutrition through the increased production and consumption of nutritious, health-promoting vegetables.
Dr. Sanchez said the thread that binds the parties in this MOU is the common objective to push for a more nutrition-sensitive approach to agriculture and sustainable and diversified cropping systems.
Dr. Wopereis said the WorldVeg is determined to contribute to realizing the nutritional and economic potential of vegetables.
He said they can't do it on their own, so they are always looking for strategic partners "and I'm so thrilled that we have found SEARCA [which is] a very, very strong strategic partner for us."
He added that while WorldVeg hosts ASEAN-AVRDC Regional Network on Vegetable Research and Development (AARNET), a network of research institutes in ASEAN, including the Philippines, SEARCA has been the secretariat of the Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, which it established in 1989.
SEARCA is also an associate partner of the Food Security Center, a global project of Germany's University of Hohenheim since 2009; the European Union (EU) program called Exchange by Promoting Quality Education, Research and Training in South and Southeast Asia (Experts); and Asia: Life Sciences, Food, Agriculture, Biology, Economics, Technology (Alfabet) funded by the EU Erasmus Mundus program.
Moreover, SEARCA is a partner of Agreenium, a consortium of French research organizations and higher education institutions in life, agricultural, environmental, and veterinary sciences whose members altogether boast of more than 300 research labs.
SEARCA has also recently formalized its partnership with Agropolis Foundation, which as a scientific network of 41 higher education institutions and research units.
So by teaming up, Dr. Wopereis affirmed that SEARCA and WorldVeg "will be able access each other's networks, develop joint research programs, and organize roundtable conferences to come up with new insights and perhaps also reflect on joint scholarship programs."
Dr. Wopereis said it is fitting that the MOU was signed during the International Conference on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems.
"I am convinced that SEARCA and WorldVeg together will contribute significantly to greater diversity of what's on the farm and what people can find on their plates."
SEARCA is mandated to promote inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development through its core programs on graduate education and institutional development, research and development (R&D), and knowledge management. It serves the 10 ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, plus Timor-Leste.