France, SEARCA push PH agri resiliency

Los Baños, Laguna—Aiming to reduce disaster risk towards a resilient agriculture sector, some 50 experts have convened in a forum at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture headquarters here and pledged to push for a resilient agricultural and rural communities.

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, said the experts during the forum were moved to sign a commitment statement to push for promoting cost-effective measures, policies, and regulations, and transferable solutions to address economic, social, and political barriers towards resilient agricultural and rural communities.

In collaboration with the Embassy of France in the Philippines, the forum gathered members of the academe, farmer group leaders, municipal and provincial agriculturists, disaster risk reduction and management practitioners, national and local government officials, experts from international development agencies, and representatives from nongovernmental organizations and the private sector. 

Dr. Gregorio said the forum focused on capturing the bigger picture of vulnerability that the agricultural sector faces as it critically looked into the robustness of current policies, adaptive capacity of institutions as well as actions and mechanisms that are crucial to reducing risks and shocks from natural disasters.

He also told the participants that in their more than five decades of work in the agricultural sector of the region, SEARCA believes that the battle for climate change is either won or lost at the grassroots level where localized interventions play a big role.

“That is why we are very happy that this forum includes representatives from local government units as well as farmer organizations who are at the forefront of efforts to build the resilience of the agriculture sector against these disasters,” he added.

For the French Embassy in the Philippines, Mr. Jean-Jacques Forte, Counselor for Cooperation and Cultural Affairs, has affirmed the French Embassy and SEARCA’s shared commitment to the long-term objective of strengthening post-disaster recovery programs for agricultural communities. 

Forte also expressed high hopes that the forum will redound to more targeted areas of common interests and interventions for cooperation projects in the agricultural sector.

Dr. Gregorio said the Philippines-France cooperation in research was encouraged by the participation of the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development Research Institution for Development and GECO Ingénierie.

At the forum, a total of 16 papers were presented which resulted in the identification of pragmatic and strategic areas for cooperation between and among the panelists and the participants. 

Topics discussed revolved on the responsiveness of DRR programs and challenges in its implementation at the local level; opportunities that development organizations can offer to agriculture and rural communities towards building resilience; innovative practices and programs to ensure sustainability of interventions; and existing modalities and mechanisms for support and assistance to target beneficiaries and communities in the agriculture sector.

Dr. Gregorio said representatives from NGOs and farmer group leaders shared their experiences on the ground as they narrated the realities of some agricultural communities in the country.

He said that in several workshop sessions, the participants outlined and presented their analysis on the existing risks and current strategies in place, gaps between available resources and needs, capacity building resources or support systems, and the facilitating and limiting factors towards improving action agenda for achieving sustainability of disaster-resilient agricultural sector.

“The participants also made personal pledges in a unified commitment to heed the call to action and way forward towards building and sustaining disaster resilience in agricultural and rural communities in the Philippines,” Dr. Gregorio said.