SEARCA’s SFRT grantees gather for a year-end review

  • By Donna Bae N. Malayang
  • 17 June 2022, Friday

Los Banos, Philippines – Fifteen grantees of the Seed Fund for Research and Training (SFRT) Program gathered virtually via Zoom platform on 7 June 2022 for a year-end review.  The SFRT is one of the support programs offered by SEARCA which aims to provide start-up funds to researchers and scientists in the Southeast Asian (SEA) region who want to make significant contributions in research, development, and knowledge dissemination but are hindered by lack of funds. It also seeks to expand SEARCA’s reach in the areas of research, capacity building, and knowledge contribution on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development in the region. Since the first SFRT grants in FY 2005-2006, 113 have been awarded up to 2019-2020.

The participating grantees from SEA countries like Indonesia (1), Malaysia (1), Myanmar (1), Philippines (5), and Vietnam (7) have presented their research results, the planned dissemination and use of the results, other follow-up activities, and opportunities for post-SFRT grant. These grantees and their teams had implemented their respective projects under extremely challenging circumstances. The pandemic has resulted to changes in plans, methodologies, timelines, among others, and the pace with which projects were conducted. The review aimed to ensure sustainability and uptake of the gains of the SFRT projects as well as sustain project gains beyond the grant period.

The program started off with a presentation by Dr. Pedcris Orencio, Program Head of the Research and Thought Leadership Department (RTLD). He discussed the assessment of the research projects through monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL) process and how the results of SFRT grant implementation could lead to outputs, outcomes, and impacts. Dr. Orencio highlighted the obligation of the researchers to create knowledge and to achieve the initially determined goals and desired impacts for development through the various research activities they undertake.

The results of the research projects were presented through two sub-themes: topics about youth, agriculture, education, social impacts, value chain, food, nutrition, and food security were clustered together in breakout room 1 while the other set in breakout room 2 includes topics focusing on climate change, biodiversity, ecosystem, forestry, rural community, renewable energy, and free trade.

Breakout Room 1 Sub-themes: Youth, Agriculture, Education, Social Impacts, Value Chain, Food, Nutrition, and Food SecurityBreakout Room 1 Sub-themes: Youth, Agriculture, Education, Social Impacts, Value Chain, Food, Nutrition, and Food Security

Breakout Room 2 Sub-themes: Climate Change, Biodiversity, Ecosystem, Forestry, Rural Community, Renewable Energy (Biogas), and Free TradeBreakout Room 2 Sub-themes: Climate Change, Biodiversity, Ecosystem, Forestry, Rural Community, Renewable Energy (Biogas), and Free Trade

Another important aspect of the SFRT Program is the use of the information system (IS) with the principal objective of providing assistance for effective management of the grant through a computerized database. On behalf of Mr. Jaymark Warren T. Dia, Unit Head of the Management Information Systems Unit (MISU) of SEARCA, Mr. Renz B. Tabadero reintroduced the Grants Information System (IS) and had a demonstration on the different functions and features of the IS. Currently, the Grants IS houses both the SFRT and Travel Grants Program. The latest version of the information system is more secure and consistent with the SEARCA’s IS in terms of user interface (UI).

Ms. Monalinda Cadiz, Program Specialist of SEARCA’s Applied Knowledge Resources Unit (AKRU), discussed the Center’s publication process, publication formats, and the requirements for each. SFRT grant outputs are generally published under the discussion paper series (DPS) and with policy implications highlighted in policy briefs, other formats such as monographs and Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development (AJAD) articles were included as well in the presentation. This provided clarity to the grantees' concerns on their outputs and their publication.

Toward the end of the year-end review, Ms. Rochella B. Lapitan and Ms. Donna Bae N. Malayang facilitated the interactive evaluation of the SFRT IS using Mentimeter. Fifteen questions were prepared to get the impressions, comments, and suggestions of the grantees when it comes to their hands-on experiences on the use of the SFRT IS. The evaluation brought out the grantees’ view on the IS’s relevance, usefulness, functions and features, and user-friendliness. Suggestions on how to further improve the IS were also gathered from the participants. The decision-making processes in the grant management system depend heavily on the amount and quality of information that is made available within the system.

The whole event provided useful insights for the SFRT Program in moving forward with the plans and activities for the next fiscal year 2022-2023. Items for discussion include enhancement of the current guidelines, strict implementation and use of the Grants IS, completion of the remaining SFRT publications, and developing the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools and strengthening M&E visits to the project sites to assess the progress and identify bottlenecks in implementation.