SEARCA pushes sustainable, resilient food systems

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna: The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has co-organized the Summer School on Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems in Vulnerable Areas that has attracted students from 15 countries.

Maria Cristeta Cuaresma, SEARCA Program head for Graduate Education and Institutional Development, said the summer school was held at the SEARCA office here on July 15 to 31, with fieldwork in Camarines Sur from July 19 to 29.

Cuaresma said the summer school was hosted in rotation by the members of the SEARCA-initiated Southeast Asian University Consortium (UC) for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, which includes the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

Other members are universities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada, Germany, Japan and Taiwan. SEARCA serves as the consortium secretariat.

Glenn Gregorio, SEARCA director, said the course was jointly organized by the UPLB; University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna; Indonesia's Universitas Gadjah Mada, a UC member; and SEARCA.

"This year's summer school is on its fifth offering since the University Consortium adopted it in 2015," Gregorio said.

In 2017, the summer school was first offered as a required course of the Master of Science in Food Security and Climate Change (MS FSCC), a new degree program developed and offered by the UC member universities, with funding from the Erasmus+ of the European Union.

"In fact, this summer school is a pilot offering of a two-unit credit course called Assessment of Sustainability in Agriculture Production and Food Processing Systems under the MS FSCC," Gregorio said.

There were 44 student-participants from UC members and partner universities under the MS FSCC from the Philippines, Cambodia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, the United States and Vietnam. Also attending the summer school were 25 staff from the UC members and the MS FSCC project.

During the opening program, Gregorio said the summer school was organized in a way that provided the students with live and actual case studies, and experiences of farmers and farming communities in the Philippines.

"We hope that this mode of learning will give [the students] a better understanding of the link between food and nutrition security and climate change, as well as the interdisciplinary and indigenous approaches in addressing the issues that go with it," Gregorio said.