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SEARCA recognizes outstanding alumni

  • 1 August 2016

searca recognizes outstanding alumni 1

LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA, Philippines -- In the advent of its golden anniversary, SEARCA confers the “Outstanding SEARCA Scholarship Alumni” title to 11 esteemed alumni who were able to champion inclusive and sustainable agriculture and rural development and inspire positive change in their community, the country, as well as in the region. While SEARCA has long considered its graduate scholarship alumni as partners in its pursuit for development in Southeast Asia, this is the first time that the Center launched such a prestigious accolade for its so-called “ambassadors” in the region.

 The award gives recognition to its scholarship alumni who have personified SEARCA’s values and philosophy and have distinguished themselves through their personal and professional accomplishments, public service, and other noteworthy endeavors.” This was underscored by Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., SEARCA Director. He added that the remarkable achievements of the SEARCA graduate scholarship alumni are also an affirmation that SEARCA has been achieving its goal of producing high quality human resources for agriculture and rural development.

The laureates are individually acknowledged for creating positive impact in four different categories, namely: Teaching, Research, Public Policy and Governance, and Advocacy.

Aside from the 11 OSSA awardees, SEARCA is also giving a special citation called the Emerging Leaders in Transition Economies (ELITE) award. This category recognizes the graduate scholarship alumni who are actively contributing to the rebuilding of their nations through their transformative leadership.

The OSSA and ELITE awardees will be honored on 25 November 2016 during the 50thanniversary celebration of SEARCA. A grand alumni homecoming is also slated on the said occasion.

The OSSA awardees


Dr. Naomi Tangonan, Philippines (PhD Plant Pathology, 1984, UPLB). Dr. Tangonan’s passion for teaching and academic excellence is not only confined to the four corners of the classroom but extends to the field and the farmers, out-of-school youth, and women. While she has already retired from the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in North Cotabato, she was appointed by the USM President as head of the Plant Pathology Research Laboratory, where she continues to mentor high school, college, and graduate students. This passion has translated to a lot of milestones in her life, including her being appointed as first woman dean of USM’s College of Agriculture, first USM faculty to reach the Professor-level, and national honors in teaching and research including Metrobank Foundation’s Outstanding Teachers Award and Award for Continuing Excellence and Service, and designation as Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Lifetime Scientist.  But what Dr. Tangonan primarily considers as the “fruits of her labor” are the students that she has mentored through the years, who are now successful in their chosen fields or professions: agriculturists, entrepreneur-farmers, teachers, doctors, engineers, businessmen and businesswomen, even priests, pastors, and nuns.


Dr. Klanarong Sriroth, Thailand (MS Food Science and Technology 1976, UPLB). Thailand’s starch and sugar technology is almost synonymous with the name KlanarongSriroth. As a director of Kasetsart University’s Cassava and Starch Technology Research Unit since its establishment in 1993, Assoc. Prof. Klanarong has fully dedicated his effort in developing both research and industry in Thailand. This has greatly contributed to improving the efficiency of the cassava and starch production process in the country, making the industry one of the vital players in Thailand’s economy. Aside from his strong ties with the Thai industrial sectors, he has also been building up the research network with international researchers from world class universities and research institutes in the field of starch technology. On the other hand, Dr. Klanarong’s major contribution to the sugar industry is the pricing system of sugarcane and sugar in Thailand. This system became an important criterion for Thai farmers to improve and maintain the sugarcane production quality, which eventually benefited all partners and stakeholders of the sugarcane and sugar industry in Thailand.

Dr. Phan Hieu Hien, Vietnam (MS Agricultural Engineering, 1974, UPLB). Vietnam’s success in rice production can be partially attributed to mechanization, which has helped even the smallholders. And Dr. Hien’s research in agricultural machinery and postharvest technology has a lot to do with this. His flat-bed dryer has been adopted and improved by local manufacturers and farmers in the Mekong Delta region. The other rice harvesting machinery introduced by Dr. Hien included the axial-flow thresher; mechanical reaper, developed through the International Rice Research Institute(IRRI); and the Chinese-PhilRice mini combine-harvester. In 2005, he started the research on laser-controlled land levelling, which is now being continuously improved by his colleagues in Nong Lam University. Dr. Hien has spent 33 years in teaching and research and has mentored a number of undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom are now continuing his legacy in the university. Thus in 2008, he was awarded the “People’s Teacher” award, the highest merit in education in Vietnam, given by the President of Vietnam.

Prof. Dr. Mahiran Basri, Malaysia (PhD Protein Chemistry, 1992, UPM). Dr. Mahiran Basri is a Professor at the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia.  Aside from leading various research projects, owning around 20 patents and publishing more than 250 articles in international journals and book chapters, Dr. Basri is known for her pioneering research in organic syntheses using enzymes as biocatalysts, which has paved the way for new areas in the production of new compounds through green processes. These nature-identical, environmentally friendly processes and products are now applied in the cosmetic, drug, and pharmaceutical industries. Prof. Basri is also working on silico enzyme design and nano-delivery systems and formulations, through molecular modeling and dynamics, to explore and understand the underlying theories and principles of the interactions of the molecular systems. With this understanding, informed decision could be made in further improving the processes and products formed, thus, avoiding wasteful processes in the industry.


Prof. Dr. Ir. Mochammad Maksum, Indonesia (PhD Agricultural Economics, 1988; MS Agricultural Engineering, 1985, UPLB).Prof. Maksum has been a staunch advocate of agricultural development in Indonesia. As a Senior Researcher (and once Director) of the Center for Rural and Regional Development Studies of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), he has led numerous projects focused on farmers’ sustainable development. For this to be realized, Prof. Maksum’s campaign focus on overall access to justice, inclusive development based on locality, and an understanding of socio-cultural system that appreciates different religions, social practices, and indigenous technology.  An interesting fact is that he has turned down two high level ministry positions just to take on his role in agricultural development consistently. He now serves as Vice General Chairman of the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama, Pengurus Besar Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest religious organization in Indonesia. NU, known for its inter-faith dialogues at the local, national, and global levels adheres to the concept of Islam Nusantara (Islam of the Indonesian Archipelago) described by Dr. Maksum as “100 percent faith, 100 percent tolerance.” 

Dr. Lucrecio L. Rebugio, Philippines (PhD Community Development, 1977, UPLB). After serving the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) for more than 37 years, Dr. Rebugio now serves as UPLB Professor Emeritus of Social Forestry and Forest Governance. He is the major prime-mover in advancing social forestry education, not just in the Philippines, but in other Asian countries, as well. His productive scholarship and his educational administrative leadership have left indelible imprints on the thinking and doing (practice) of forestry and natural resource professionals, nationally, regionally, and internationally. It was under his leadership that the College of Forestry was transformed into the College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR), preparing the college to be more responsive to the forestry education challenges of the 21st century. 

Dr. Generoso G. Octavio, Philippines (MS Agricultural Economics, 1976, UPLB).  Dr. Octavio’s reputation in rural microfinance is unchallenged. His passion for helping the poorest of the poor led him to establishing the Ahon sa Hirap, Inc. (ASHI, Rise from Poverty, Inc.), a non-government organization, which replicates the Grameen Bank approach in the Philippines. This approach, developed by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Prof. Mohammad Yunus, provided the poorest women direct access to non-collateralized loan funds to help them increase their income and employment opportunities without passing through the rigid requirements of the traditional lending institutions like banks. Now on its 25th year, ASHI has helped more than 37,000 families mostly living in hard-to-reach areas. ASHI’s total loan portfolio has reached PHP 491,097,959. Retention rate has been maintained at 94 percent in the past 5 years, and the repayment rate at 98 percent.

Public Policy and Governance

Prof. Dr. Musliar Kasim, Indonesia (PhD Agronomy, 1991, UPLB). A Professor and Lecturer at the Universitas Andalas (UnAnd) in Indonesia, Dr. Kasim served as the country’s Deputy Vice Minister for Education from 2006 to 2009. There, he chaired the steering committee that developed the Kurikulum 13 or K13 that advocates balancing knowledge, skills, and attitude to make for “productive, creative, innovative, and affective” students. Now a national policy, K13 is foreseen to be fully implemented by 2019 all throughout the country. Prior to reforming the national education, Dr. Kasim was able to create ripples of change in his home University. When Dr. Kasim assumed the leadership role in the university, he introduced a new paradigm for UnAnd students and graduates: the appreciation for entrepreneurship and strengthening of character, which until now, the university is widely known for.

Dr. Chya Suthiwanith Thailand (PhD Agricultural Education, 1972, UPLB). A few years after earning his PhD, Dr. Chya was offered the mission of setting up the Faculty of Natural Resources of the Prince of Songkla University in the southern part of Thailand. Despite hesitations, he accepted the challenge and eventually served as the Faculty’s first Dean. He was an inspirational leader, drawing capable and committed professionals to help in developing the faculty. It was only a matter of time when its departments eventually developed into other faculties: its Department of Agricultural Development, for example, expanded to Agricultural Economics, which became the Faculty of Economics, while the Department of Food Sciences is now the Faculty of Agro-Industry. Prince of Songkla University consistently ranks among the top universities in Thailand, and is the premier agricultural university in Southern Thailand.

Dr. Delfin J. Ganapin, Jr., Philippines (MS Forest Biological Sciences, 1983, UPLB). Dr. Ganapin’s leadership role progressed from local, to international, and to global. He now serves as the Global Manager of the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF-SGP) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  As the head of the project, Dr. Ganapin was able to increase funding for the SGP, from less than USD 50 million to about USD 200 million on the average, for every four-year phase. He likewise expanded its reach from 54 participating countries to more than 100 country programmes, making it the biggest program of the Global Environment Facility for community and civil society. As of 2016, more than 24,000 community and civil society projects in environmental protection and the conservation of productive landscapes and seascapes are in place worldwide.

Dr. Segfredo R. Serrano, Philippines (PhD Agricultural Economics, 1988, UPLB). Dr. Serrano has been with the Philippine’s Department of Agriculture (DA) for more than 18 years. With the new government, he has now served 13 secretaries of agriculture and four presidents. His dedication to the department and the sector it serves remains unparalleled. He initiated the crafting of a unified development policy framework for DA’s programs, particularly the agriculture and fisheries chapter of the Philippine Development Plan and its accompanying Medium Term Public Investment Plan. This served as the Philippines’ development agenda for the next five years (2011-2016). Dr. Serrano is most known for his vital work as the chief negotiator for agriculture and fisheries in all international trade negotiations that the Philippines is a signatory to, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO); ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA); Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which folds in all regional trade partnerships into ASEAN Central; Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA); and the Trade and Investment Facilitation Agreement (TIFA) with the United States.

The ELITE Awardees

Dr. Seng Mom, Cambodia (MS Integrated Tropical Agriculture and Forestry Science, 2001, SetSAF, Gottingen University).Dr. Seng Mom currently serves as the Vice Rector for the Royal University of Agriculture (RUA), and has pushed forward the internationalization of the University in various extents, by forging partnerships with European and Asian institutions that paved the way for student and faculty exchanges, as well as collaborative researches and other initiatives. She has leveraged on her affiliation with various international organizations and committees to bring together a number of conferences and forums that have become venues for knowledge sharing and networking.

Mr. Agustinho Da Costa Ximenes, Timor Leste (MSc in Agronomy, 2010, UPLB). Having served as the National Food Security Officer of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO) in Timor-Leste, Mr. Ximenes showed his commitment on improving the capacities of the government staff to collect, analyze, and disseminate information from the National Information and Early Warning System on Food Security, for government's and other stakeholders' appropriate actions and effective responses to improve the food and nutrition security of vulnerable families and communities. Through this effort, policies were developed such as the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy, the Zero Hunger National Action Plan, as well as the policy on the proper management of rice imports in Timor-Leste.