Rural Development Advocate earns Outstanding SEARCA Scholarship Alumni accolade

  • 12 October 2016


A genuine passion to support the underprivileged is needed for development to happen. This passion is seen in the eyes of Prof. Dr. Ir. Mochammad Maksum, who now wears a number of important hats in Indonesia. Foremost, he is a Professor at the Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). He is also the Rector of the newly established Universitas Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta, an academic institution of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest religious organization in Indonesia, and for which Prof. Maksum also currently serves as the Vice General Chairman of the Central Board.

Prof. Maksum completed both his Master’s and PhD degree programs at the University of the Philippines Los Baños through the SEARCA scholarship program.  What makes him more prolific is that his Master and PhD degrees had different specializations. He earned his Master of Science degree in Agricultural Engineering, while his Doctor of Philosophy degree is in Agricultural Economics. Even during his graduate studies, his passion for the things he did had been evident. On top of his graduate studies, Prof. Maksum was also actively involved in the Indonesian Students Association, where he was able to uphold the Muslim customs and tradition in the university town.

Right after completing his graduate programs, he immediately returned to UGM as a lecturer. There he rose from the ranks and was eventually appointed Professor in the Faculty of Agricultural Technology, a testament to his academic excellence. Other than being a good teacher-mentor, his involvement with the Center for Rural and Regional Development Studies provided him the opportunity to work hands-on with the rural poor for their empowerment and development. Prof. Maksum’s campaign focuses onoverall access to justice, inclusive development based on locality, and an understanding of socio-cultural system that appreciates different religions, social practices, and indigenous technology.  He also espoused these in his local newspaper column in Yogyakarta.

His passion for his religion and drive to help the rural poor served as his strong foundations in his development work. As one of the revered leaders of NU, Prof. Maksum strictly adheres to the concept of Islam Nusantara, which Prof. Maksum described as “100 percent faith, 100 percent tolerance.” With this principle, he believes that Islam, through its inter-faith and intra-faith dialogues could be an instrument of peace and equality.

It was not long before local and national authorities took notice of his developmental efforts. Appreciation and prestige are, however, the least of Prof. Maksum’s priorities. An interesting fact is that he has turned down two high level ministry positions just to focus on his role in agricultural development unfailingly.

For his genuine passion to serve the rural poor and advocate for agricultural development, Prof. Maksum is awarded the SEARCA Outstanding Scholarship Alumni award.  The award gives recognition to SEARCA’s graduate alumni who have personified SEARCA’s values and philosophy and have distinguished themselves through their personal achievements, professional accomplishments, public service, and other meritorious endeavors. This is the first time since its establishment that SEARCA will be giving such prestigious recognition to its alumni, who it considers as ambassadors for agriculture and rural development in the region. Prof. Maksum and 10 other OSSA laureates will be conferred the award during SEARCA’s golden anniversary celebration on 25 November 2016.