National Defense College students, faculty apprised of SEARCA initiatives for innovative, sustainable agriculture

NATIONAL Security students with faculty and academic support staff from the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) recently visited the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and were briefed on food security.

Led by Prof. Dr. Alan Lachica, the 17 NDCP students taking up Master in National Security Administration (MNSA) are composed of 11 military officers from the Philippine Army, Navy and Air Force; two military officers from Indonesia and Pakistan; and four civilians from the Philippine government and the private sector.

The delegation is part of the 65 MNSA Regular Course No. 57 students from seven countries. They were divided into groups that went to Regions 4A, 4B, 5, and 6 to conduct the National Security and Development Study (NSDS) during their academic field trips.

Integral to the MNSA course, NSDS enables the students to interact with key stakeholders and institutions and identify critical challenges and strategic prospects for development and national security, according to the NDCP.

SEARCA hosted the 17 MNSA students whose focus was on Region 4A comprising the province of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, and Rizal or Calabarzon.

Dr. Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, said the delegates' field visit also centered on agricultural research and development programs and initiatives for innovative and sustainable agriculture industry underscoring the importance of innovative and sustainable agriculture programs for food security.

"If you have food security, you have national security," Gregorio told the NDCP delegation explaining that these are intertwined and that rice sufficiency could contribute to national security.

A briefing on SEARCA's Research and Thought Leadership (RTL) and Emerging Innovation for Growth (EIG) programs and activities were led by Dr. Pedcris Orencio, SEARCA Program Head for RTL, and Glenn Baticados, SEARCA Program Head for EIG.

Orencio and Baticados responded to questions about opportunities for collaboration on social enterprises along the value chain, efforts on the ground to help farmers resilient to climate change, and additional information on some of the innovations presented.

During the briefing, Orencio noted that SEARCA has bridged the gap between the knowledge from research and technologies it is pushing and the capacity and willingness of farmers to adopt these new ideas and tools.

He said SEARCA was able to do this by empowering the farmers with training, technical assistance, services for technology development, and additional innovations together with partner institutions.

Baticados also pointed out that SEARCA also tries to involve the whole farming family in the design of the technology or innovation that they want to implement in their community.

"You will be surprised that the farmers are really excited and they really wanted to be engaged. And seeing that they have that kind of ownership makes it easier for us to initiate adoption of new technology," he added.

Baticados said they have also tried to engage the farmers' children for them to understand that farming is not just hard work but a lot of opportunities.

"At the end of the day, agriculture is the key to economic recovery," he said citing agriculture's positive performance during the pandemic.

Lachica expressed thanks to SEARCA for the warm welcome and noted that the NDCP and SEARCA have shared a common characteristic and that is both are graduate institutions tasked to develop and nurture future leaders in their respective fields of responsibilities – national security for NDCP and agriculture and rural development for SEARCA.

He said he was impressed that while the NDCP students only focus on national security, SEARCA is actually much higher than what they are doing and that the center's calling is much more reverent and crucial than what they are doing.

"We are just focused on national security; you are focused on the security of humanity and to ensure that the future generations will be secure insofar as basic needs for life is concerned, which is food," Lachica said.

"The discussions that we had about agriculture is not just an eye-opener again for us, but it also points us to the thinking how crucial agriculture really is not only to national security but also global security," he added.

The NDCP group also toured the SEARCA Hub for Agricultural and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation or Sharing, an interactive museum that is nearly fully operational.