Food security research grants for Covid-19 impacts available to PHL, Southeast Asians

Grants for research on transformation through agricultural innovation in Southeast Asia are available to Filipinos and from Southeast Asian countries of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.

The research grants are focused on food security during the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic and social impacts.

The grants are under the auspices of a Mentorship Program for Advanced Grants jointly funded by the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

This is the first activity under the agreement recently signed by IFS and SEARCA, a SEARCA news release said.

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said this is the second collaboration of Stockholm-based IFS and Philippine government-hosted SEARCA.

“The first was in 2015-2019 on the  IFS-SEARCA Collaborative Grants Pilot  in Southeast Asia, which awarded research grants to 12 teams composed of a total of 41 scientists and researchers from seven countries in Southeast Asia. The research focus then was on climate change adaptation and mitigation,” Gregorio explained.

He said the IFS-SEARCA grant is intended to enhance the research capacity of early career scientists in the specified Southeast Asian countries, the news release said.

Gregorio also highlighted the role of higher education and research institutions, particularly in the global pandemic, to “promote a transformative mindset and produce experts who understand the growing complex social concerns and are able to contribute positive change now and in the future.” 

IFS Director Nighisty Ghezae pointed out that “no single organization, no matter how large or well-funded, can address future challenges by itself. In this era of interdependence, strategic partnerships with like-minded institutions are not an option, but a necessity, Thus…. this MOA between our two organizations symbolizes a collaboration which we believe will lead to addressing short- and long-term food security challenges, enable us to invest in more resilient food systems, and take us closer to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.”

Ghezae said: “We are aware of SEARCA’s reputation for excellent work in this field and its strong commitment to creating a critical mass of early career researchers who can generate applicable knowledge.”

SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership Pedcris M. Orencio asserted that “research formally articulates the truth” and that collaborative research increases productivity and quality, the news release said.

He likewise affirmed the value of the mentorship program as an approach to enhancing the conduct of research and as an intervention to nurturing young minds and honing skills through the guidance of technical experts and those with decades of research experience.

On the other hand, Ghezae shared that “over the past 50 years, IFS has earned its own place by providing support to early career researchers in low- and lower-middle-income countries, many of whom now occupy leadership roles in the region and around the world.”

According to Orencio, “To be eligible for the grants of up to $20,000, applicants must be enrolled in a PhD program or have recently completed a master’s or PhD degree within the five years before the call, with proven limited access to start-up funds for their research.”

He added that proposed projects must contribute to knowledge and practice in food security.

The topic of proposed projects must also fall within the common thematic priorities of IFS and SEARCA, which are biological resources in terrestrial systems, water and aquatic resources, dietary diversity and healthy livelihoods, agri-business models for increased productivity and income, sustainable farming systems and natural resource management, food and nutrition security, transformational leadership for agricultural and rural development, gender and youth engagement in ARD, enhanced ARD towards climate resilience, EcoHealth/One Health applications to ARD.

Moreover, Orencio said the proposed projects must be applied or developmental research—that is, drawing upon explicitly referenced basic research, the news release said.