Winrock partners with SEARCA on Regional Agriculture Innovation Network

  • By Leah Lyn Domingo
  • 30 June 2023

BANGKOK, Thailand—Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development (Winrock) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) to collaborate on the Regional Agriculture Innovation Network (RAIN) funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The ceremonial signing was held during the launch of RAIN at Centara Grand Hotel in this city on 21 June 2023.

The signatories to the MOU are SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio and Dr. William Sparks, Winrock chief of party.

“We are pleased to be forging a mutually strategic partnership with Winrock to work on promoting agricultural innovation and climate-smart technologies, particularly through the USDA RAIN project,” Dr. Gregorio said at the launch event.

Renowned as a global leader in social, agricultural, and environmental development, both in the United States and internationally, Winrock is dedicated to the upliftment of the underprivileged, expansion of economic possibilities, and the preservation of global natural resources.

Ms. Gwendolyn Cardno, chargé d’ affaires of the US Embassy in Thailand, said,“RAIN is a five-year project funded by the USDA and implemented by Winrock International to validate and scale climate-smart innovations (CSIs) across several agricultural value chains.” She shared that RAIN aims to improve productivity and markets through extension services and financial support.

Through promoting sustainable agricultural production, the RAIN project aims to boost the competitive edge of Thai agriculture and broaden the possibilities for agricultural commerce.

According to Dr. Sparks, “by 2027, RAIN will have promoted 30 CSIs for adoption by 30,000 farmers, and thereby helped reduce 76,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. The project will focus on economic crops, such as rice, cassava, longan, durian, coconut, and mangosteen.”

“The MOU between SEARCA and Winrock will facilitate our collaboration in areas related to accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation (ATTAIN) and scaling of climate-smart technologies that increase productivity, reduce environmental impact, and expand trade,” Dr. Gregorio affirmed.

Together, Winrock and SEARCA will conduct coordinated scanning for innovations, provide guidance to other universities and actors on scanning, and co-host learning sessions. They will also define best practices for bundling finance, extension, equality, and data into innovations.

Dr. Gregorio said that SEARCA and Winrock also agreed to develop a network of youth outreach programs or makerspaces to excite youth about innovations and to link youth to specific entrepreneurial opportunities.

Joint efforts to scale RAIN will include coordinating a grants program and conducting outreach to the private sector and other actors to contribute to the grant pool, selection process, and technical support.

In addition, Dr. Gregorio said that the the cooperating institutions would build on the SEARCA Ag4Life concept to define a community-level engagement activity that identifies and scales innovations. Ag4Life stands for Agriculture 4.0 Livelihood Integration towards Farming Enterprises.

“As the US government and our partners worldwide invest in new programs and innovations, we recognize that sharing information on the successes, challenges, and approaches can have broad global benefits,” Ms. Cardno said.

“It’s not enough for us to scale these innovations, but how we can share our practices and results and our process with others in the region,” Dr. Sparks stressed.

Toward this end, Winrock and SEARCA also agreed to define a common methodology for assessing impact, sharing results, and encouraging other actors to share data about the impact of innovations.

SEARCA and Winrock will likewise work on defining a training model to help universities in other countries conduct technology adoption activities from scanning to scaling innovations.

“We will also build on the Southeast Asia Platform to Attain Agri 4.0 Collaboration and Engagement (SPACE) concept initiated by the Center to establish a knowledge management hub for showcasing innovations, evidence, and partners,” Dr. Gregorio added.

This aligns with the RAIN initiative “to establish an international climate hub that facilitates the adoption of CSIs to increase productivity, reduce environmental impact, and expand trade in Thailand and Southeast Asia.”

SEARCA and Winrock also agreed to explore potential carbon market solutions for encouraging technology adoption at the farm level.

Winrock also signed MOUs with four other entities that will cooperate on RAIN, namely, Thailand’s Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) and National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA); Harmless Harvest Co., Ltd.; and CPS Weather Co., Ltd.

Others who represented SEARCA at the RAIN launch were Ms. Sharon Malaiba, unit head for partnerships; Ms. Beatrisa Martinez, executive coordinator, Office of the Director; and Ms. Leah Lyn Domingo, public relations specialist.