THE research focus for Southeast Asian development has inevitably focused on food security, Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca). A treaty organization, Searca serves the research requirements of the member-states of the Asean, all of which are preparing for economic integration scheduled by year-end.
Uneven development of agriculture and fisheries in Asean member-states have become a stumbling block to regional integration, with some countries seeking continued protection for vulnerable farmers and fishermen.
On the other hand, Saguiguit said that some economies enjoy comparative advantages over others, which puts them in a better position to compete as tariff rates are slashed throughout Asean to allow for the freer flow of commodities.
Besides regional economic integration, Saguiguit said the region has to contend with the need to raise output, upgrade the quality of smallholder agriculture and mitigate climate change.
In a recent 45-page paper for Searca authored by Saguiguit and Dinah Pura T. Depositario, titled, “Searca Research Thrusts through the Years: The Way toward Food Security,” they noted the increasing need for the institution to surpass its disciplinary limitations from 1969 and tackle multidimensional issues in a region that has been most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.
“Searca’s research projects underwent a paradigm shift in terms of the level of integration of disciplines among the researches—from discipline-based to multidisciplinary to interdisciplinary and more recently, transdisciplinary researches,” Saguiguit and Depositario said. Asean has been concerned with food security, and the issue has become a critical question as far as Searca research is concerned.
“The period from 1969 to 1979 can be described as the center’s discipline-based research period. This was when almost all technology-related researches were geared toward increasing agricultural productivity,” the authors added.
It must be noted that the period covered the expansion of farming areas as the Green Revolution boosted output, especially for rice, with the Philippines becoming self-sufficient in rice in 1974 to 1975.
“The multidisciplinary research period 1979 to 1999 followed, which was when most of the researches dealt with community development, rural development, gender and development, and agro-industrialization and agribusiness,” Saguiguit and Depositario said.
On the other hand, the interdisciplinary research became the dominant type from 1999 until today.
“This could be attributed to natural resource management and agricultural competitiveness being the center’s research thrusts during this period,” the authors noted. However, since 2011, transdisciplinary initiatives have been introduced in Searca and all of them were aimed at addressing the multi faceted issues of natural resource management, agricultural competitiveness and food security.
Saguiguit and Depositario said the dominant food-security dimension reflected through the years were observed to be linked to the phases undergone by Searca’s thrusts and researches.
From 1969 to mid-1979, the researches of Searca dealt more with increasing food productivity. In the latter part of 1979 to 1999, the researches focused more on food access and utilization.
Food stability was highlighted from mid-1999 until the present, which is covered by the interdisciplinary phase.
All food security dimensions were directly or indirectly reflected in the researches from 2011 onward.
The trend of Searca projects being more interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary will continue as it addresses complex, multidimensional issues such as climate change, natural resource management, poverty and food security, Saguiguit said.