NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines—The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), through its Research and Thought Leadership Department (RTLD), in partnership with the Central Philippines State University (CPSU) and Kansas State University, kicked off the Second International Conference on School-plus-Home Gardens cum Biodiversity Enhancement and Enterprise (SHGBEE2) with a series of mobile workshops on 14–15 November 2023 in Kabankalan City and Danjugan Island, Negros Occidental.
The SEARCA delegation was led by Dr. Nur Azura Adam, deputy director for programs, with Dr. Gerlie Tatlonghari, program head; Mr. Jerome Cayton Barradas, project coordinator II; Ms. Anna Gale Vallez, program specialist; and Ms. Danellie Joy Medina, project associate, all of RTLD. They were joined by Ms. Loise Ann Carandang, senior associate for communications, Partnerships Unit (PU); Mr. Kim Louisse Patagnan and Ms. Ivy Rosemarie Ortiguero, both project associates of the Emerging Innovation for Growth Department (EIGD), who won the two-week plant-growing competition organized by PU under the green skills activity of the Center's youth program.
The first mobile workshop was in the school garden of Tabugon Farm School in Kabankalan. CPSU staff and representatives from the Department of Education (DepEd)-Kabankalan toured the participants around the school grounds featuring aquaponics and hydroponics facilities jointly maintained by the School Governance Operations Division (SGOD), City Federated Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and City Demo Farm in Kabankalan, and the solar-water pump system and green mining technology transferred by CPSU to the school. These facilities are envisioned to ensure food security among teachers and students and become an enterprise potential for the school.
The next set of workshops was conducted in the agriculture-related facilities of CPSU. The first one was in their muscovado mill and small-scale processing facility, where students of CPSU's bachelor's program on sugar technology conduct hands-on applications of muscovado production and processing. Adjacent to this facility is CPSU's vermicomposting site, which houses African Nightcrawlers, an earthworm species. In line with the university's zero-waste efforts, the wastes from the muscovado mill are pre-decomposed and fed to these earthworms. The vermicompost production capacity of all CPSU campuses combined contributes to the university's income generation initiatives and support provided to the community.
Dr. Aladino Moraca, CPSU president, led the succeeding tours of their facilities. He started with the Pandayan ng Bayan para sa Bagong Magsasaka, a foundry managed by the Camingawan-Tagukon Farmer's Association (CATAFA), which is a partnership between the private sector, through Mr. Ramon Uy, businessman and founder of RU Foundry and Machine Shop Corporation, and CPSU under Dr. Moraca's leadership. Dr. Moraca emphasized the importance of aligning the academe and private sector's interests—to empower and provide livelihood for the smallholder farmers and ensure the success of their technology transfer programs.
Other CPSU facilities were featured during the mobile workshop. These were the assembly line and shared-service facility of their engineered bamboo production center and their lemongrass and citronella essential oil production and processing center. They also showcased their biogas facility, which includes a small pond adjacent to the pig pens, as well as equipment and facilities on the field, such as an Oggun tractor and the university's green mining technology for sweet potato production. Also featured were various demonstrations, such as fabrication of farm tools in their engineering department, weaving, and drip irrigation.
Day 1 of the mobile workshops ended with the participants taking turns riding the Tagukon Agricultural Tramline, a farm-to-market project of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist at a farming community in the area. Like the foundry, the tramline is managed by the smallholder farmers in the area with support from the local government units and is a partnership between CPSU and RU Foundry and Machine Shop Corporation.
The second and last day of the mobile workshop featured Danjugan Island, a 43-hectare biodiversity conservation area in Cauayan, Negros Occidental. The island includes the Moray Lagoon, which hosts a seagrass ecosystem. It is also the location of the island's learning center, where marine and wildlife camps, workshops, and seminars are held. Participants also toured the island's cave, home to cave-dwelling fruit bat species and occasionally to pythons and actively hunting bats, and Danjugan's longest beach, Turtle Beach, a nesting site for hawksbills and green turtles.
During the CPSU-hosted dinner, faculty members of the Kansas State University emphasized the youth component of the conference and the young people's role in achieving the conference thematic areas—promoting food and nutrition security, advancing people and planet health through sustainable agri-enterprises, biodiversity enhancement and agriculture, and harnessing collective action for SHGBEE.
One of the objectives of the youth's participation in the mobile workshops is to immerse them in agricultural innovations and agripreneurship possibilities and entice them to choose agriculture-related careers or start an environmentally conscious agri-enterprise. SHGBEE2's theme of "Nurturing Healthy, Biodiverse, and Entrepreneurial Communities" is aligned with the theme of the 2023 International Youth Day, and SEARCA youth staff members' participation in the mobile workshops was well-suited as the culmination of the Green Skills for SEARCA Youth program.
The mobile workshops were followed by a conference consisting of plenary and parallel sessions on four thematic areas from 16 to 17 November 2023 at Zaycoland Resort and Hotel, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.