The meeting cum workshop brought together 20 researchers and country focal points from Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Philippines who are involved in the project "Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI-ASEAN)" funded by IFAD and with IFPRI and SEARCA as implementing partners.
During the Focal Points and Researchers Meeting held on 31 October, representatives from the five target countries discussed and selected their priority commodities for the national-level policy studies, which are as follows: maize for Cambodia and Lao PDR, mung beans for Myanmar, and swine for Vietnam and the Philippines. The establishment of the National Project Steering Committees (NPSC), as well as the project deliverables and budget were likewise tackled during the event.
On the other hand, the Training-Workshop on Rapid Value Chain Assessment (VCA) was held on 1-3 November based on the 2007 Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO) "Guidelines for rapid appraisals of agrifood chain performance in developing countries" by Dr. Carlos da Silva and Dr. Hildo M. de Souza Filho. The main purpose of this training-workshop was to learn and employ a common, cost-efficient yet pragmatic research methodology for the conduct of the national-level policy studies under the ATMI-ASEAN project.
The rapid transformation of agrifood systems in Southeast Asia has important implications for the inclusion of smallholder farmers. It also presents and creates opportunities that smallholder farmers can take advantage of, and benefit from, across the value chain. This transformation was mainly driven by factors such as urbanization, changes in patterns of food consumption, farm intensification and mechanization, growth in non-farm employment opportunities and land markets, and increasing private sector investment across all segments of supply chains. The use of the rapid VCA approach will help the project researchers of each target country to identify possible areas for further growth and value chain performance improvement.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Bessie M. Burgos, Program Head for Research and Development Department (RDD) of SEARCA, highlighted the importance of the workshop. She added that there is a need to agree on and adopt a more cost-efficient yet effective methodology in the conduct of national level policy research studies on selected priority commodities that will facilitate the engagement of all relevant stakeholders from governments, civil society, research and academia, farmers' associations, and the private sector. Dr. Burgos likewise believed that this Rapid VCA is the appropriate methodology to use, given the objectives of the project and limitation in time and budget.
Aside from the group exercises on chain selection and performance assessment, one of the main outputs of the activity was the application of the Rapid VCA Methodology in the preparation of the countries' plans of study for their selected priority commodities. The group presented their initial outputs during the training-workshop for comments and suggestions. The final plans of study will be submitted to SEARCA for review and approval prior to the release of the funds.
Dr. Carlos da Silva, one of the authors of the FAO Guidelines, served as the technical coordinator cum facilitator of the training workshop. He was ably supported by the SEARCA delegation composed of Mr. Jimmy B. Williams, ATMI-ASEAN Project Support Unit (PSU) Coordinator; Ms. Rosario B. Bantayan, Program Specialist, Knowledge Management Department-Training Unit; Ms. Bernice Anne C. Darvin, Project Associate and Ms. Loise Ann M. Carandang, Project Support Staff, both from RDD. (Rosario B. Bantayan, Bernice Anne C. Darvin, and Loise Ann M. Carandang)
Participants working on the training-workshop exercises for their respective country presentations.