LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – The Philippine agriculture sector, as well as related sectors, stand to benefit from the program and activities crafted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) under its 10th Five-Year Plan covering the period 2014-2019.
Also covered by the plan finalized by the SEARCA are the 10 other member-countries of its mother organization, the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO).
SEAMEO is an inter-government treaty body founded in 1965 to promote cooperation among Southeast Asian nations in the fields of education, science, and culture.
Over the past half century, SEAMEO has established 21 regional centers in the 11 member-countries through which it pursues its objective of accelerating Southeast Asia’s development process.
Set up in 1966, SEARCA, SEAMEO’s oldest center, is mandated to provide capacity-building interventions to promote agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia through graduate scholarship (doctoral or PhD and master’s or MS), research and development (R&D), and knowledge management.
Since its establishment, Philippine government-hosted SEARCA has been operating on the basis of five-year development plans which set out its vision, mission and goals, and outlines its major strategies.
The 10th Plan has been approved by the SEARCA Governing Board (GB) which is composed of a representative from each of the SEAMEO countries.
The Philippine representative to the GB is Dr. Rex Victor Cruz, chancellor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), SEARCA’s host institution.
The GB elevated the plan to the SEAMEO High Officials Meeting, which in turn endorsed it to the SEAMEO Council, the organization’s highest policymaking body composed of the education ministers of the 11 member-countries.
Education Secretary Armin Lusitro represents the Philippines in the SEAMEO Council.
SEARCA director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said the 10th Five-Year Plan is focused on inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD) to promote trickle-down flow, meaning overall growth should be felt at the lower levels especially for resource-poor farmers.
“The defining elements of ISARD are social inclusion and sustainability,” stated SEARCA as it emphasized that, among other things, ISARD is in support of the Philippine government’s move toward a more inclusive growth path.
SEARCA’s strategic thrust on social inclusion encompasses linking small-scale farmers – including women, indigenous peoples, and the youth – with the commercial food systems, strengthening the value chains and agribusiness commodity systems, food and nutrition security, modern technologies and innovations, and rural entrepreneurship.
Moreover, it would continue to focus on climate change adaptation and resiliency, risk mitigation, and management, climate-smart agriculture, and natural resource management.
Among SEARCA’s cross-cutting strategic thrusts are sub-regional cooperation in trade and investments, regional economic integration such as the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) and ASEAN Economic Community 2015, and government policies, institutions, and governance mechanisms and reforms.
Dr. Saguiguit said that in the pursuit of ISARD projects, teams would design intervention models toward ISARD, pilot-test them in selected agricultural communities, learn from the experience, and upscale or disseminate the ISARD model to other communities in Southeast Asia.
At the national level, the 10th Five-Year Plan puts particular focus on science-based studies to guide policymaking and decision-making.
A prime example is the study on smuggling of agricultural commodities in the Philippines done by a SEARCA-UPLB team funded by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR).
The study examined the dynamics of smuggling of agricultural products in the country and drew policy implications and recommendations to mitigate the problems brought about by the illegal practice.
Findings of the study prompted Senate hearings to identify remedial measures and policy reforms.
“The Center hopes that with this increased focus on emerging problems in the agriculture sector and translating the findings of research to policy directions, it will put true value to a research institution like SEARCA,” Dr. Saguiguit said.
Date: 27 Apr 2014