The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) convened the second virtual Governing Board Meeting (GBM) on 4-5 October 2021.
SEARCA’s highest decision-making body is the Governing Board (GB). It performs an annual evaluation of the Center's work in the region and conducts an annual assessment of SEARCA's programs on graduate education, training, and research. The GB also examines the Center's financial health and operational performance in FY2020/2021.
The GB is composed of representatives from the 11 member countries of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). The 69th GBM was chaired by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Chew Fook Tim, Country Representative of Singapore to the SEARCA GB.
For the first time since 2005, the SEARCA GBM had a full house with complete attendance of all 11 member countries, namely: Dr. Suhaimi bin Haji Abdul Wahab, IBTE Satellite Principal, Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE), Brunei Darussalam; Mr. Ty Channa, Director, Department of Personnel and Human Resource Development under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia; Dr. Ir. Paristiyanti Nurwadani, M.P., Secretary, Directorate General of Higher Education under the Ministry of Education, Indonesia; Dr. Somphong Chanthavong, Acting Dean, Faculty of Agriculture and Environment, Savannakhet University, Lao PDR; Prof. Dato' Dr. Zulkifli Idrus, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation), Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia; Dr. Ye Tint Tun, Director General, Department of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Myanmar; Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr., Chancellor, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Philippines; Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sutkhet Nakasathien, Dean, Faculty of Agriculture, Kasetsart University, Thailand; Dr. Acacio Cardoso Amaral, President, Institute of Polytechnic of Betano, Timor-Leste; and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen The Hung, Chancellor, Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry, Vietnam.
Gracing the meeting were Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones as the guest of honor; Mr. Aswin Chittachumnonk, Mr. Tanyawarawat Chalermpatanasuk, and Ms. Paparwarin Sangpradab all of the SEAMEO Regional Center for Sufficiency Economy Philosophy on Sustainability (SEPS); Dr. Orawan Sriboonruang, Research, Evaluation and Assessment Specialist, SEAMEO Secretariat (SEAMES); Dr. Ethel Agnes P. Valenzuela, SEAMES Director; and Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, as GB ex-officio members; as well as Mr. Joselito G. Florendo, SEARCA Deputy Director for Administration who also chairs the SEARCA GB Secretariat, along with program and unit heads, and support staff.
During the meeting, GB members shared their country experiences and challenges in bracing for the new normal. In addition to the agenda were the developments on the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation (SHARING) and strategic infrastructure projects, the Center’s financial investments in the preceding fiscal year, and updates on its human and core staffing.
At the opening ceremony, Dr. Gregorio expressed his appreciation to past and present GB members; UPLB for its support and continuing partnership with SEARCA as its host institution; DepEd as its focal agency in the Philippines for its continuing support in promoting agriculture among Filipino children; and partners from the academe, industry, and government for their continued service and commitment to SEARCA in the previous years. Dr. Gregorio also gave a glimpse of SEARCA’s implementation of the first year of the 11th Five-Year Plan focused on Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN).
“SEARCA carried out its programs most especially in partnership with other institutions and organizations that share its goals in advancing agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia. These include joint scholarships, knowledge events convened using the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE) platform, research and development projects, and emerging innovative technology such as agri-incubation and technology transfer,” said Dr. Gregorio.
The Director emphasized how SEARCA pushed for ways to cope up with food insecurity at the height of the pandemic that brought challenges in agriculture in the region. He added, “at SEARCA, we made ourselves visible through our annual COVIDeo Contest that is for and by the youth, SOLVE topics related to the global health crisis in the context of ARD, and distribution of seeds and planting materials in the community and school institutions.”
SEARCA’s celebration of its 60th year at 55 was also underscored by the Director to the members of the GB. He told the participants that there will be a series of major events starting with the 55th anniversary “demonstrating the relevance of the Center now and in the future to our next generation of ARD leaders.”
Moreover, he said that SEARCA at this stage is “stepping-up and stepping-out.” “This past year, we have been stepping up, by taking the challenge of becoming more relevant in this time of the pandemic, stretching our limit as frontliners in education and agriculture and making a difference. This year, we continue our mission while also stepping out – stepping out to expand, scale up, and go beyond our comfort zones towards a better, bigger, and smarter SEARCA,” concluded Dr. Gregorio before he introduced the guest of honor.
In her opening message, Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones emphasized the alignment of SEARCA’s programs with SEAMEO and the Philippine Government through DepEd and lauded the SEARCA GB members for taking the time to listen to the Center’s milestones.
Dr. Briones assured the policymaking body that SEARCA can play a key role in the long run in facilitating agricultural innovation through education, research, and emerging technologies towards meaningful agricultural and rural development even during a pandemic. She expressed her gratitude that the Center’s mission is very much aligned with the Department’s goals that articulate the Philippine educational development agenda.
Dr. Ethel Agnes P. Valenzuela, SEAMEO Secretariat (SEAMES) Director, presented the updates from different meetings that put center stage SEAMES’ milestones and the 2021-2030 strategic plan. She also conveyed her admiration for SEARCA’s accomplishments in recent months and its advocacy in promoting agriculture among the youth.
Echoing the words of Dr. Valenzuela, all GB members led by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Tim complimented SEARCA for engaging young staff to present the Center’s accomplishments. Dr. Gregorio reinforced one of SEARCA’s priority is gender and youth engagement in ARD thus, its mission to make the youth involved in one of the most important milestones of the Center.
On top of the discussion on SEARCA’s performance in FY2020/2021 and ways to move forward in the succeeding fiscal year, the GB members had their election of the new GB Chair, Vice Chair, and Chief Rapporteur.
Garnering a unanimous decision, Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr., Chancellor, University of the Philippines Los Baños, and Country Representative of the Philippines, was elected as Chair of 70th GBM. This was followed by the election of Dr. Ir. Paristiyanti Nurwadani, M.P., Secretary, Directorate General of Higher Education under the Ministry of Education, and Country Representative of Indonesia; and Mr. Ty Channa, Director, Department of Personnel and Human Resource Development under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Country Representative of Cambodia; as Vice Chair and Chief Rapporteur respectively.