SEARCA, USAID discuss food security involving 19 schools

THE Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) gave a briefing on its program on food security in the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia during the recent visit of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) officials.

SEARCA director Dr. Glenn Gregorio gave a briefing particularly on the center's programs under its 11th Five-Year Plan focused on Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN) to help promote food security in the Philippines and in the Southeast Asian region.

USAID officials led by General Development Advisor Dr. Brent Edelman visited SEARCA and they discussed the current food security situation in the Philippines, underlying causes of food insecurity, and potential short-term and medium-term solutions.

Edelman noted that the Philippines was actually doing quite well in addressing food insecurity in the past decade or so.

"However, with the Covid-19 pandemic, if we don't address the structural issues such as the vulnerability of the Philippines to international markets in terms of food, fuel and fertilizers, then how could we go back to normal in another five to 10 years?" he said.

Also, US Embassy Manila Economic Officer John Avrett said food insecurity is becoming an increasingly important issue for the US Embassy and the US Government here in the Philippines.

"We are trying to figure out what are the primary food security needs of the Philippines on a short, medium and long-term basis for us to provide development assistance," Avrett said.

In his briefing, Gregorio discussed food and nutrition security which is one of SEARCA's seven priority areas.

He said these activities include the scaling up of School-plus-Home Gardens cum Biodiversity Enhancement and Enterprise (SHGBEE) in eight schools in Busuanga and Coron in Palawan; the School Edible Landscaping for Entrepreneurship or SEL4E in 11 schools in Rizal province; and the First International Conference on SHGBEE with the Regalo ng Kilit Foundation and Kansas State University.

He also mentioned another activity which is the Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns or ATMI-ASEAN that established a Network of Policy Advisors and Analysts in the ASEAN Region or NePAAA, conducted high-level policy forums, and developed national and regional value chain roadmaps.

Gregorio also noted the large-scale investments identified under the National Agriculture and Fishery Modernization and Industrialization Plan (NAFMIP) 2021-2030 of the Philippines, which SEARCA was commissioned by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to formulate.

He explained that the interventions of the NAFMIP include consolidated production and postharvest facilities, construction of critical infrastructures spatially integrated within agri-fisheries industrial business corridors, modernized food terminal facilities, smart irrigation and water impoundment, and large scale infrastructures such as fish ports and ICT interventions.

"SEARCA strives to operationalize our international commitment within the frameworks of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development that includes SDG (Sustainable Development Goal) 2 or Zero Hunger, the Global Agenda of the World Economic Forum, and the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on ASEAN 2025," Gregorio said.

Receiving the USAID delegation during their visit on Sept. 8, 2022 were Gregorio, Assoc. Prof. Joselito Florendo, Corinta Guerta, Dr. Maria Cristeta Cuaresma, Asst. Prof. Glenn Baticados and Jerome Cayton Barradas.