SEARCA releases new agri-rural dev’t books

  • By Monalinda B. Cadiz
  • 15 November 2021, Monday

Three publications showcasing institutional and field experiences in implementing an effective agricultural and rural development model were recently launched by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, described the launching of the monograph Championing Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development in Southeast Asia: SEARCA’s 10th Five Year Plan Plus One in Retrospect as a “celebration of the success and legacy of SEARCA’s 10th five-year plan.” The plan pertains to SEARCA’s blueprint in 2014–2019 anchored on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development or ISARD.

The retrospective monograph “tells the story of the ISARD years,” shared its writer and former SEARCA program head, Dr. Maria Celeste Habito Cadiz. “We hope this builds the reader’s appreciation of how SEARCA traversed its ISARD pathways with committed partners and stakeholders,” stressed Dr. Cadiz.

Designed to respond to the needs of the Southeast Asian region at the time, ISARD tackled social inclusion, environmental sustainability, regional and sub-regional cooperation, and institutions and governance.

SEARCA’s former director, Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, who helmed SEARCA’s ISARD years, explained that ISARD’s thematic focus is “articulated through agricultural value chains and agribusiness commodity systems, food and nutrition security, productivity enhancing innovations and technologies, climate change adaptation and resiliency, natural resource management, sub-regional cooperation in trade and investment, and policy reforms and institutional innovations.”

Dr. Saguiguit added that SEARCA “established pilot sites in strategic locations in the Philippines to prove that ISARD principles and practices could truly spur ARD and make a difference in the lives of the target communities.”

As the learnings from these pilot sites were envisioned to be replicated in other countries in Southeast Asia, a guidebook and a case studies monograph were developed by SEARCA as references. The SEED Guidebook: Scaling and Expanding for Effective Development the Experiences and Learning from the SEARCA Project ISARD is an offshoot of the research outputs, lessons learned, challenges, and recommendations of SEARCA’s project Piloting and Upscaling Effective Models of ISARD. It was in partnership with the Visayas State University, the then Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology, and the municipal governments of Victoria and Inopacan in the provinces of Oriental Mindoro and Leyte, respectively.

The guidebook presents principles, concepts, and applications for the generation, processing, packaging, and sharing of local and science-based knowledge employed in the ISARD project. It also highlights the project implementation framework, which espouses the sustainability strategy of combining the strengths of the academe as source of experts and technologies, and the local governments as provider of public goods and extension services.

The SEED guidebook aims to serve as a reference for the academe, local governments, farmer organizations, and development institutions on replicating or scaling up the project model across different crops and commodities in various geographical contexts. Hence, the guidebook shares the actual templates, tools, and formats used in implementing the ISARD project.

Dr. Jose Bacusmo, former project leader of the ISARD pilot project in Inopacan and former president of the Visayas State University, attests to the effectiveness of the ISARD model based on the project site’s experience in developing various enterprises.

“Following the ISARD model improved production and income. I recommend it to local governments and state universities and colleges,” affirms Dr. Bacusmo.

The ISARD pilot sites transformation stories are chronicled in the monograph The Learning Organization: Group Dynamics, Institutional Linkages toward Technology Adoption, Value-Adding Innovation, and Sustainability.

The pilot-testing of the ISARD model in the two sites in central and southern Philippines was in small-scale and multi-commodity production systems. A two-way interdisciplinary approach was utilized to examine and assess the ISARD model’s viability and simultaneously draw important lessons for more effective implementation of ARD initiatives.

The Victoria project site focused on revitalizing the then faltering calamansi industry of the town, while the site in Inopacan focused on jackfruit, banana, and tilapia enterprises development. The common vital denominator of the models for both project sites was the strengthened linkage among farmers, the local and national governments, the academe, and the industry sector.

Mr. Ruel Sanchez, president of the Victoria Kalamansi Farmers Federation said that ISARD became a “platform to revitalize the calamansi industry not only in Victoria (town) but the whole of Mindoro Oriental (province).”

He recalled how calamansi farmers, pre-ISARD, would throw away their harvest during peak season because of the low market price. Mr. Sanchez shared that through ISARD, “enhanced linkages and value adding technologies improved the income of calamansi farmers and attracted investors.” He added that the processing plant that their federation established during the ISARD implementation is thriving and widened the group’s industry network. It paved the way for new projects, post-ISARD, from various sectors interested to partner with the farmer federation. 

Resonating the reflection of ISARD collaborators, Dr. Gregorio affirmed that SEARCA’s partners are “indeed important to support leaders and the academe-industry-government interconnectivity for the sustainability of transformation we (both) want to happen.”

With ISARD as its springboard, SEARCA is currently implementing its 11th five-year plan, rallying behind its banner Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation or ATTAIN or ATTAIN.

All three ISARD publications are available for free download from searca.org on its publications page. Limited print copies are also available at the SEARCA headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.