SEARCA launches youth program for agri innovation

The Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) launched its special program on youth called “Young Forces for Agricultural Innovation” or #Y4AGRI on the International Youth Day last August 12.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio introduced #Y4AGRI at the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE) webinar on “SOLVE Youth Disengagement in Agriculture: Empowering Future Leaders in Southeast Asia,” which featured youth leaders from the Philippines, Latin America, and Africa.

“To show our commitment for the younger generations, our strategic plan for the next five years puts value on youth engagement in agricultural and rural development,” Dr. Gregorio stressed.

He said #Y4AGRI builds on SEARCA’s decades of experience in training the next generation of leaders in Southeast Asian agriculture through its scholarships and projects for the youth—from school children to young professionals.

To date, SEARCA has awarded more than 1,800 master’s and PhD scholarships in agriculture and related fields to Southeast Asians, including 477 Filipinos. SEARCA has also led a school-plus-home gardens project (S+HGP) that has been sustained by the pilot schools and adopted by other elementary and high schools in Laguna, Philippines. SEARCA is now bring the S+HGP to Palawan with a weekly e-training on school and home gardens cum biodiversity for teachers, program coordinators, parents from the seven pilot schools, and staff from the local government of Busuanga and Coron that runs from July 17 to September 3.

SEARCA’s youth program aims to elevate the interest of young people to venture into and pursue careers in agriculture and allied fields, said Mr. Sonny P. Pasiona of SEARCA during the SOLVE webinar.

He added that It also intends to enhance the individual, social, and technological capacities of young people through formal and non-formal education in agricultural innovation and food systems.

“#Y4AGRI is a platform for young people to be heard, engaged, and to be partners in attaining better, bigger, and smarter solutions for our farmers and farming families,” Dr. Gregorio stressed.

As such, SEARCA’s youth program will also “engage the youth in knowledge generation and policy dialogues on agricultural and rural investments.”

Forthcoming ##Y4AGRI activities include learning events, recognition of outstanding youth leaders, policy dialogues, social media campaigns, and partnership building to advance youth integration in agricultural and rural development.

During the #Y4AGRI kick-off, SEARCA also announced a “Youth COVIDeo Contest” that will promote youth solutions in food and agriculture during the COVID-19 pandemic. Themed “Youth and Locally Grown Food,” the contest will showcase local food production practices by young people during the pandemic in video format. The contest is open to Southeast Asians, including Filipinos, aged 15-35 with group or individual entries, until September 11, 2020. Winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $150 to $500 and a smart tablet for a special prize. The contest mechanics are published on the SEARCA website.