The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the Provincial Government (PG) of Quezon signed virtually on 18 January 2021 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the Letter of Agreement (LOA) to develop a project on the coconut industry growth areas in the province of Quezon. Sharing a common goal of contributing to the improvement of the quality of life of farmers and farming families through agricultural innovations, both parties agreed to scale SEARCA’s agricultural and rural development (ARD) model in the province employing action research strategies. Identified collaborations will mainly focus on product development, strengthening market linkages, and capacity building for farmers’ organizations.
Dr. Pedcris Orencio, Program Head of the Research and Thought Leadership Department (RTLD) of SEARCA, gave a background of the said collaboration. He cited the study of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) which revealed the status of the coconut value chain and the role of the private sector in addressing the gaps and needs of the industry. He also stated that it is in this perspective that the coconut industry development program of the province of Quezon was crafted. Dr. Orencio underscored the role of SEARCA in complementing the program by bringing in interventions that will benefit agricultural systems transformation and increase the levels of agricultural investments. He also stressed the importance of incorporating the Academe-Industry-Government (AIG) connectivity in shaping the project.
The ceremonial signing of the MOU and LOA was led by SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio and the Governor of Quezon Hon. Danilo E. Suarez, with Prof. Joselito G. Florendo, SEARCA Deputy Director for Administration, and Mr. Roberto D. Gajo, PG Quezon Provincial Agriculturist and Provincial Administrator, as witnesses.
Messages from the heads of the institutions were delivered after the signing. Dr. Gregorio thanked the PG Quezon, especially the Governor, for welcoming this opportunity to collaborate. He said that SEARCA’s priority is to extend its expertise to its neighboring communities in Region IV-A. He also mentioned the long-standing partnership between SEARCA and Quezon province since 1985. He affirmed that the project is an expansion of an alliance that was started years ago, with a parallel objective of linking the farmers to modern networks and innovative markets. Dr. Gregorio also brought up the Center’s current coordination with government, state universities and colleges (SUCs) and industries that is stipulated in SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan (FYP) that is anchored by the umbrella theme “Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation” (ATTAIN), which is timely and relevant to the complex and evolving nature of the agriculture industry. The Director declared the Center’s confidence in this partnership that will lead farmers and farming families to a better, bigger, and smarter future of agriculture in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.
Hon. Danilo E. Suarez likewise expressed his gratitude to SEARCA in forging this partnership. He commended the Center’s aim of contributing to the country’s food and nutrition security and poverty reduction. He admitted that pursuing these goals is not an easy task because these require substantial investments. He also shared the existing programs and projects of the province’s office of provincial agriculture (OPA) to help improve the socio-economic condition of the famers, fisherfolks, and rural community. These include farm mechanization, enterprise development, and marketing. Gov. Suarez wants to further solidify the agricultural sector status of Quezon as the top producer of agriculture and fishery commodities and known as the “food basket” in the region. He believes that the province needs to do more for its stakeholders despite its achievements. He proclaimed that this is where SEARCA can be of best assistance, with its knowledge and expertise on extensive research. On behalf of PG Quezon, Governor Suarez hopes that, through this partnership, both organizations can establish an inclusive and sustainable ARD system in the province.
The subsequent portion of the program was allotted for discussing the way forward including packaging a proposal for a project. RTLD staff and representatives from OPA shared their insights on the project preparation and scoping activities. Dr. Orencio led the discussion of the necessary information for undertaking the project scoping using a template for scanning and for assessing the situation of the coconut industry growth areas. The scoping activity will be conducted in the next coming months with the PG Quezon and stakeholders in the province to establish the project’s baseline.