SEARCA launches youth program for agricultural innovation

To bring more young people to agricultural and rural development, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) launched a special program called Young Forces for Agricultural Innovation or #Y4AGRI on International Youth Day, August 12.

The #Y4AGRI program was introduced by SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio during the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE) webinar called “SOLVE Youth Disengagement in Agriculture: Empowering Future Leaders in Southeast Asia” that featured youth leaders from the Philippines, Latin America and Africa.

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

He added that #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.

More than 1,800 master’s and PhD scholarships in agriculture and related fields have been given Southeast Asians, including 477 Filipinos. It 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.

Gregorio said SEARCA is now bringing the S+HGP to Palawan with a weekly e-training on school and home gardens cum biodiversity for teach ers, program coordinators, parents from the seven pilot schools and staff from the local government of Busuanga and Coron. The e-training runs from July 16 to September 3.

During the SOLVE webinar, Sonny Pasiona of SEARCA said their youth program aims to elevate the interest of young people to venture into and pursue careers in agriculture and allied fields.

“SEARCA’s youth program 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,” Pasiona added.

Gregorio said ##Y4AGRI activities that are forthcoming 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 contest called “Youth COVIDeo Contest” that will showcase local food production practices by young people during the pandemic in video format.

Themed “Youth and Locally Grown Food,” Gregorio said the contest will promote youth solutions in food and agriculture during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and is open to Southeast Asians, including Filipinos aged 15 to 35 in 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 in the SEARCA website, he added.