In its commitment to further elevate the interest of young people and engage in agricultural sciences, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research and Agriculture (SEARCA) in partnership with the University of the Philippines Rural High School (UPRHS) organized five (5) agricultural biotechnology-related sessions under the UPRHS “Youth in Agriculture Online Engagement Program”. The sessions were held every Saturday via Zoom and Facebook Live from 24 April to 29 May 2021.
The sessions received an overwhelming response from junior and senior high school students, as well as their teachers, with over 18,000 views and reaching more than 24,000 people on Facebook. Majority of the attendees came from the Philippines while there were also participants coming from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Israel, Indonesia, Vietnam, Canada, and the United States.
Scientists and experts from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) were on hand to lead the discussions and address the concerns of the participants. They likewise shared their experiences in their respective fields of expertise and underlined the importance and potential of agriculture among the youth.
The speakers covered a broad range of agri-biotech topics, including principles and applications of crop biotech; science, safety, and benefits of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) crops; biofortification; and biotech for the environment. The students took part in various interactive activities such as Kahoot games, quizzes, and a DNA extraction exercise to make the sessions more exciting. There is also an ongoing poem-writing and jingle-making competition as an offshoot of the session led by UPLB Vice Chancellor and youth engagement advocate, Dr. Merdelyn C. Lit.
Following the online sessions, SEARCA and UPRHS will be co-developing at least five knowledge materials as a supplement to the discussions. These materials are to be housed in SEARCA’s Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources (AFNR) Knowledge Platform.
Aligned with the Center's initiatives under the Young Forces for Agricultural Innovation (#Y4AGRI), the UPRHS Youth Program on Agriculture is among the recipients of SEARCA’s Seed Fund for Research and Development (SFRT). The 18-week online program aims to engage students in agriculture and encourage the youth to pursue careers in agriculture and its related fields to help increase the workforce that can lead the country to food self-sufficiency. It is also seen as a potential alternative to the Senior High School Work Immersion (WI) for Grade 12 students under the Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) track as part of their graduation requirements from the Department of Education.
Visit the SEARCA Facebook page to watch the videos of the learning sessions.