SEARCA: Smallholders should be central in farm development

  • 10 August 2018

Source: The Manila Times
10 Aug 2018

THE Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) recently conducted a one-day forum to consult on "Reshaping Agriculture and Development in Southeast Asia" at its headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, along its emphasis on cross-cultural, inclusive, and sustainable agricultural and rural development. Fifty leaders and experts attended the forum.

Fernando Sanchez Jr. PhD, University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) chancellor and SEARCA governing board chair, said there is a need for development organizations to keep abreast of the changing development landscape of agriculture and development in Southeast Asia, and to continue asserting their relevance in helping their various stakeholders, particularly smallholder farmers.

The center called for changing and enhancing the policy, implementation, and program management approaches that redound to improving the lot of the smallholder farmers who contribute 70 percent of the food produced in the region.

Knowledge partners during the forum included Grow Asia; Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security Research Program; and the National Taiwan University.

"You cannot transform unless you understand where you stand at the moment. At the end of the day, you should have a clear idea of how to transform or reshape the current [agricultural]situation and how to move forward," Paul PS Teng PhD, National Institute of Education International Pte. Ltd. at the Singapore's Nanyang Technological University managing director, said during the forum.

Teng, a SEARCA senior fellow and who also chairs the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotechnology Applications (ISAAA), also emphasized the need for vivid assessment of the Southeast Asian region's agricultural situation across all levels—taking micro, meso, and macro perspectives.

Another SEARCA senior fellow, Cielito Habito PhD, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Ateneo de Manila economics professor, explained that among the dominant concerns toward resiliency, inclusiveness, and sustainability in the region's agriculture are climate uncertainties and water scarcity, the promise of information technology, agro-industrial value chains and their integration of smallholders, and farm tourism and family farming.

The forum also discussed the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT), and pointed out technology is not the solution per se as it is only a tool.

SEARCA said such modern technologies can also empower smallholder farmers to link to global agricultural value chains in terms of trade and market access, among other relevant sub-topics on value chain integration.

Also discussed during the forum was how to attract the youth to agricultural activities and entice them to build enterprises in the rural areas.