SEARCA support programs aim for enhanced relevance and effectiveness

  • 15 January 2019, Tuesday

LAGUNA, Philippines – The result of the external review of SEARCA support programs was presented to the Executive Committee of the Center on 17 December 2018. The review of the programs Seed Fund for Research and Training (SFRT), Travel Grants (STGP), and the Regional SEARCA Professorial Chair (RSPC) aimed to assess their contribution to the achievement of SEARCA's Five Year Plans (FYPs), specifically the eighth, ninth and tenth FYPs, when these programs were being implemented; evaluate the relevance of the programs to the Center's mandate as well as to the current and emerging development needs of the region; and evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the programs. 

The review found that all of the support programs are highly consistent with the strategic thrusts of the FYPs and are strongly aligned with the Center's mission of building the capacities of institutions and individuals in the region. Two of the three support programs are highly relevant to the thrusts of SEARCA's umbrella programs and are significantly consistent with the strategic thrusts of the food security framework of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The review further noted the synergy between and among the three support programs and the initiatives of the Center.

SEARCA is at the forefront of efforts to develop researchers/scientists and practitioners/experts in agricultural and rural development (ARD) and related fields within Southeast Asia (SEA). A strong cadre of ARD professionals will help the Center in its mandate to strengthen institutional capacities toward inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD) in the region, which has provided the impetus for the support programs.

The SFRT recognizes that lack of financial resources serves as a barrier to undertaking research and knowledge dissemination initiatives and translating these into scientific outputs that could be applied to promote development. It therefore aims to provide start-up funds to researchers and scientists who can make significant contributions to the development of the region, to build capacities of researchers to develop research proposals and conduct research, and to expand SEARCA's reach in terms of research, capacity building, and contribution to the body of knowledge on the themes of the current FYP. Since the first SFRT grants in FY 2005-2006, 99 grants have been awarded up to 2016-2017.

The STGP is meant to reinforce the Center's efforts and resources in the promotion of ISARD (or the themes of the current FYP) toward food security and poverty alleviation in the region by providing grants to qualified agriculture and agriculture-related professionals and social scientists in SEA. It aims to provide opportunities to qualified SEA nationals to present/discuss scientific knowledge/evidence-based information vital to agriculture and rural development in relevant scientific conferences and fora and to facilitate linkages, partnerships and active collaboration among like-minded development organizations and donors. One hundred twenty two (122) travel grants have been awarded from FY 2006-2007 to 2016-2017.

The RSPC aims to give due recognition to outstanding Southeast Asian experts in the academe in specific fields of study relevant to the broad themes of the existing Five Year Plan of the Center at any given time. In recognition of the contribution of institutions and individuals who promote academic excellence in the fields of agriculture and related sciences, the Center awards Professorial Chairs to deserving individuals from universities in the region. To date, 28 professorial chairs have been awarded since it began in fiscal year (FY) 2012-2013.

Dr. Maripaz L. Perez, whose latest posts were as Regional Director for Asia of WorldFish from May 2008 to April 2016 and as Undersecretary for Regional Operations of the Department of Science and Technology of the Philippines from 2005 to April 2008, served as External Reviewer of the SEARCA support programs. (Carmen Nyhria G. Rogel)