The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Taiwan-based World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) formalized ties for institutional cooperation through the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) this past week at the Development Academy of the Philippines in Tagaytay City.
The signatories were Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez Jr. on behalf of SEARCA as chairman of its governing board and Dr. Marco Wopereis, director general of WorldVeg. The signing ceremony was held on the sidelines of the International Conference on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems, which was cosponsored by SEARCA.
The Philippine government-hosted and Los Baños-based SEARCA is mandated to promote inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development through its core programs on graduate education and institutional development, research and development, and knowledge management. It serves the 10 ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.
Meanwhile, WorldVeg, formerly known as Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), is an international nonprofit R&D institute established in 1971 by seven countries, including the Philippines. Today, WorldVeg has regional bases in Africa, Asia and Oceania with 44 international scientists and 300 national scientists and support staff "dedicated to the mission of alleviating poverty and malnutrition through the increased production and consumption of nutritious, health-promoting vegetables." Sanchez said, "The thread that binds us in this MOU is our common objective to push for a more nutrition-sensitive approach to agriculture and sustainable and diversified cropping systems."
For his part, Wopereis said, "The WorldVeg is determined to contribute to realizing the nutritional and economic potential of vegetables but we can't do it on our own, so we're always looking for strategic partners. And I'm so thrilled that we have found SEARCA. SEARCA is a very, very strong strategic partner for us."
Wopereis added that WorldVeg hosts ASEAN-AVRDC Regional Network on Vegetable Research and Development, a network of research institutes in ASEAN, including the Philippines. SEARCA has been the secretariat of the Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources, which it established in 1989.
SEARCA is also an associate partner of the Food Security Center, a global project of Germany's University of Hohenheim since 2009; the European Union program called Exchange by Promoting Quality Education, Research and Training in South and Southeast; and Asia: Life Sciences, Food, Agriculture, Biology, Economics, Technology funded by the EU Erasmus Mundus program.
Moreover, SEARCA is a partner of Agreenium, a consortium of French research organizations and higher-education institutions in life, agricultural, environmental and veterinary sciences whose members altogether boast of more than 300 research labs.
SEARCA has also recently formalized its partnership with Agropolis Fondation, which as a scientific network of 41 higher education institutions and research units.
"By teaming up," Wopereis affirmed that "SEARCA and WorldVeg will be able access each other's networks, develop joint research programs, and organize roundtable conferences to come up with new insights and perhaps also reflect on joint scholarship programs."
Wopereis said, "It is fitting that the MOU was signed during the International Conference on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems. I am convinced that SEARCA and WorldVeg together will contribute significantly to greater diversity of what's on the farm and what people can find on their plates."