Local government officials of Los Baños sought the support of SEARCA for the municipality’s development, including the crafting of an updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), improving the livelihood of upland communities with interventions that complement forest and biodiversity conservation, strengthening cooperatives, and identifying alternative livelihood options for persons with disability.
These were discussed during the visit of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Los Baños to SEARCA on 9 February 2021. The SB or municipal council is the local legislative branch of the municipal governments in the Philippines and is thus responsible for passing local ordinances. It is composed of elected councilors but presided by the municipal vice mayor.
Led by Vice Mayor Josephine S. Evangelista, the SB came in full force with all municipal councilors in attendance during their courtesy visit. They were received by SEARCA officials led by Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, and Mr. Joselito G. Florendo, Deputy Director for Administration.
Dr. Gregorio welcomed the delegation and thanked them for their efforts in managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the municipality. He said SEARCA is rebranding itself to be more relevant not only to its long-established stakeholders across Southeast Asia but also to its immediate community, that is Los Baños, and not only to farmers but also to the youth and even the elderly.
The concerns for which the Los Baños government officials sought SEARCA’s assistance were expressed after a briefing of SEARCA on its strategic directions from 2020 to 2025 focused on Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN), its programs that may be relevant to Los Baños, and its current project that is helping farmers in Barangay Bayog shift from flower farming to growing food crops.
Among the SEARCA initiatives presented is a project that addressed technical and market constraints of calamansi farmers in Oriental Mindoro, Philippines through the partnership of academic institutions, local government units (LGUs), and the private sector in keeping with SEARCA’s strategy to strengthen academe-industry-government (AIG) interconnectivity. Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership, said SEARCA organized the calamansi farmers cooperatives into a federation, helped them establish their identity, and linked them to new markets.
Dr. Orencio also talked about the value chain analysis of carabao and carabao-based products in the Philippines and the action research project to pilot models of inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development in Inopacan, Leyte, which were both implemented by SEARCA.
On the other hand, Dr. Rico C. Ancog, SEARCA Operations Consultant for Emerging Innovation and Growth, presented the SEARCA innovEIGhts model that will support, facilitate, and implement co-created and co-piloted agribusiness incubation, information and technology transfer projects, and impact- and action-driven extension and technical assistance engagement for Southeast Asia.
He also presented possible areas of collaboration wherein SEARCA can support the municipality along its Executive Legislative Agenda 2020-2022. He said such areas could be in the delivery of the economic and infrastructure development program, which may include providing farmers with technical support to increase agricultural production and updating of the municipality’s CLUP.
The local government officials were also informed of the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation (SHARING) that will soon be launched. Dr. Ancog said SHARING will showcase “play and build prototypes” of a tractor model and 3D printing applications in agriculture, agriculture startup stories and products, a showroom for digital agriculture platforms, a virtual AgriMuseum, and an interactive space for featuring real farms.
Dr. Ancog added that complementing SHARING will be the planned SEARCA iCREATE Innovation Café, which will specifically target students to encourage youth engagement in agriculture. It will provide a training facility for prototyping, design thinking, and other capacity building activities that promote innovation.
Vice Mayor Evangelista thanked Dr. Gregorio for his leadership and “inviting the municipal council to discuss the budding partnership between the LGU and SEARCA.”
Noting that many people have lost sources of income because of the pandemic, Vice Mayor Evangelista added that the LGU is eager to work with SEARCA in establishing a wider access to sustainable livelihoods, promoting urban agriculture, and crafting policies that support agricultural innovation.
The SB delegation included Municipal Councilors Miko C. Pelegrina, Janos S. Lapiz, Geronimo A. Ciceron, Marlo PJ A. Alipon, Mike Dexter A. Concio, Mark Lester B. Dizon, Cris Dayril B. Bagnes, Arlene P. Delos Santos, and Jozylyn N. Manansala.