SEARCA and RSAA unite for scholar and alumni conference

  • 6 May 2024

SEARCA and RSAA unite for scholar and alumni conference

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), together with the Regional SEARCA Alumni Association (RSAA), organized a conference for its scholars and alumni on 25-26 April 2024, at SEARCA headquarters, Los Baños, Laguna. With the theme, "Cultivating Tomorrow: SEARCA's Insights for Agriculture's Future," the conference showcased the research accomplishments of selected SEARCA scholars as of A.Y. 2023-2024. During the two-day conference, 22 scholars presented their research in five sessions: agriculture policy and development, natural resource management, food and biological sciences, agronomy and plant sciences, and innovation in agricultural applications. Twenty-two alumni also participated in the event. They served as session moderators as well as plenary and inspirational speakers and provided constructive feedback to the scholars' presentations. Meanwhile, 14 ongoing scholars from UP Los Baños joined the activities to support their fellow SEARCAns.

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA center director, opened the conference and reinforced SEARCA's commitment to cultivating young minds to become agriculture and rural development champions. He acknowledged the contribution of both scholars and alumni in the Center's 11th Five Year Plan on Accelerating Transformation through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN). He hopes that this support will extend to the 12th FYP on shaping agriculture's future of carbon farming towards sustainable and inclusive food systems.

Distinguished SEARCA alumni graced the event, including Dr. Ir. Asdi Agustar, professor at Andalas University, Indonesia, and president of RSAA, who extended warm greetings to all participants. Professor Dr. Muhammad Firdaus, education and culture attaché of the Indonesian Embassy to Malaysia, delivered the inspirational address, reflecting on his professional journey and emphasizing the importance of perseverance and courage in achieving success.

Three plenary speakers shared their contributions to agricultural development. Ts. Jason Choy Min Sheng, senior assistant director of the Industry and Community Collaboration Division, Department of Polytechnic and Community College Education, Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia spoke about the Role of Transnational TVET Studies - Malaysia's Experience. He discussed the governance and strategic documents guiding TVET development in Malaysia, the country's initiative to enhance cooperation among ministries and industries, and the efforts to shape the future of TVET in Malaysia and the ASEAN region. Ts. Jason shared his advocacy to champion the transformative power of education, create fairness, and drive positive change in education to ensure a brighter future for the youth.

Dr. Jonathan Sabiniano, director of the National Livestock Program - Department of Agriculture, Philippines, discussed government-led initiatives that will shape agriculture's future. He contextualized Philippine agriculture in terms of sector performance, AFMA implementation, challenges faced, and government support. Dr. Sabiniano also discussed the sector goals, thrust, and strategic agenda as well as the Department of Agriculture's plan, "Para sa Masaganang Bagong Pilipinas" (Towards a More Prosperous Philippines).

Mr. Natalino Babo Martins, deputy project manager of Conservation International, Timor Leste, provided insights into the prospects of NGOs in strengthening agriculture's future. He expounded on the role of NGOs in agriculture development as they provide technical assistance, training, and financial support to smallholder farmers. They also facilitate knowledge sharing and promote sustainable farming practices. Mr. Natalino enumerated the prospects NGOs bring such as community empowerment, knowledge transfer, access to resources, and sustainable practices. NGOs, however, are still hindered by limited resources, policy and regulation restrictions, and low community engagement. Mr. Natalino also shared the best practices in his field such as the participatory approach in engaging the community and the use of market-oriented interventions, encouraging farmers to diversify their crops and income source.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Weerapon Thongma, president of Maejo University and RSAA vice president, emphasized the importance of intergenerational collaboration and imparted valuable advice encapsulated in the acronym L-O-V-E W-I-N-S, urging scholars to embrace Leadership, seize Opportunities, prioritize Value addition, uphold Ethics, cultivate Wisdom, drive Innovation, foster Networks, and Serve society.

SEARCA and RSAA unite for scholar and alumni conference

Aside from the conference, SEARCA organized the SEARCAMustahan on 25 April, providing scholars and alumni with an opportunity to reconnect and reminisce about their academic journey. A Food Fest was held in the afternoon of 26 April which showcased the different cuisines of the Southeast Asian countries.

SEARCA, through its Education and Collective Learning Department (ECLD), has reignited the tradition of hosting regular events tailored to the needs of current scholars and alumni to foster continuous learning, collaboration, and camaraderie within the SEARCA community and beyond.