SEARCA, IUCN pilot training-workshop to enhance agri-innovation systems

THE Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently launched a pioneering program on Transformational Agricultural Innovation Systems for the New Future (TrAInS) to provide innovative solutions to the rising challenges in agriculture and the environment.

According to SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio, there are 30 participants from various Southeast Asian (SEA) higher education institutions, government ministries and agencies, non-government and farmers' organizations, and private and civil society organizations who are actively involved in research and extension activities.

TrAInS is a nine-week online training workshop that seeks to engage the participants in developing collaborative, transformative programs for agricultural development and is guided by the agricultural innovations systems (AIS) framework.

SEARCA's Education and Collective Learning Department-Training for Development Unit or T4DU oversees the implementation of the training workshop and will provide both the technical and administrative support for the program along with the Management Information Systems Unit.

TrAInS technical coordinator and lead facilitator Dr. Virginia Cardenas said that the online training workshop consists of five modules spread across eight sessions.

These include transformation of agriculture for sessions 1 and 2, promoting innovations in the agricultural systems for sessions 3 and 4, a new breed of agricultural leaders for sessions 5 and 6, promoting transformations in the agricultural innovations systems for sessions 7 and 8, and defining agriculture for the future.

Cardenas said the program has three specific outcomes, namely a roadmap, a competency gap analysis, and a proposed action plan for innovative interventions.

During the launching on November 16, 2022, associate professor Joselito Florendo, SEARCA deputy director for administration, explained that the program is SEARCA's response to the disruption of the region's food supply chain during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This is also a response to the pressure to meet the increasing demand for food and changes in food patterns and expenditures and to address climate change impacts and environmental degradation," Florendo added.

He said they are looking forward to seeing what the innovative program's participants will propose that may "positively impact their agricultural innovation systems and foster transformation towards the delivery of a triple win, that is increased productivity, improved food safety, and enhanced sustainability."

At the launch, the participants were welcomed by Dr. Dindo Campilan, IUCN's regional director for Asia and Oceania Hub.

Campilan said the online training workshop is "transformational, experiential and novel" that takes place at a time when there are parallel and ongoing dialogues, conversations, and changes happening around the world.

Inviting participants to look at the issues in agriculture through different lenses and levels, Campilan also reminded them that the challenges in agriculture are not confined and that transformation is not just happening within the agricultural sector and that what happens to agriculture happens to other sectors and vice versa.

With the topic "Agriculture and Development," Gregorio delivered the first lecture discussion taking into consideration SEARCA's vision of Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN).

He introduced SEARCA and its role in transforming the agriculture sector in Southeast Asia citing SEARCA's task under its 11th Five-Year Plan to contribute toward strengthening and transforming the agricultural food system in SEA.

Through this framework, Gregorio said the center aims to aid in reshaping and transforming the quality of life and well-being of farmers and farming communities, adding that transformation and innovation are atttained by working side by side with farmers.

"We want to walk with the farmers, learn from them, share our ideas with them, show them new innovative ways of farming, work with them, and change their mindset to make them more productive alongside cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit," he said, as he presented the programs and activities that SEARCA has initiated toward agricultural and rural development in the region.

During the presentations of pre-training assignment, participants presented the status of their country's agricultural innovation system, how research and extension contributed to the country's agricultural performance and AIS strengths and weaknesses.

An interactive workshop that allowed the participants to assess and reflect on the challenges and opportunities in agricultural growth was one of the highlights of session 1 which ended with Cardenas providing the synthesis of the workshop identifying challenges in agricultural growth, factors that influence agricultural performance, with focus on the role of research, extension, and market systems.

Succeeding sessions of the training workshop will feature experts including Dr. Rasheed Sulaiman, director, Centre for Research on Innovation and Science Policy; Pierre Ferrand, agricultural o (Agro-ecology), Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific; Dr. Jose DV Camacho Jr., chancellor, University of the Philippines Los Baños; Jim Leandro Cano, head, Knowledge Management and Digital Solutions, Nature Tech Innovation Group, Inc.; and Shermon Cruz, chief futurist, and executive director, Center for Engaged Foresight, Philippines.

Campilan shall serve as co-facilitator during the session on Guided Scenario Building and Program Planning.