Top agri scientists to attend in’t meet in Phl

  • 6 November 2014, Thursday

Source: The Philippine Star
26 October 2014

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – Four of Southeast Asia’s top agricultural scientists will speak at an international conference to be held in the Philippines on Nov. 12-13.

The top-level  “Second International Conference on Agricultural and Rural Development-2014 (ARD-2014)” would focus on the theme “Strengthening Resilience, Equity and Integration in ASEAN Food and Agricultural Systems”.

SEARCA director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said the conference would provide a venue for sharing the wide and diverse knowledge pool in ARD that exists within and beyond Southeast Asia. Specifically, it will highlight innovative technological and practical approaches in the processes comprising the agricultural system from  production to postharvest processing, marketing, transport, and logistics.

Expected to attend ARD-2014 are some 400 scientists, R&D administrators, academics, government policymakers, local government executives, farmer leaders and practicing farmers, representatives of civil society organizations, and other stakeholders from various parts of the world.

The meeting would be spearheaded by the Philippine government-hosted, Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in partnership with  international, regional, and national institutions through co-sponsorship.

The internationally acclaimed scientists who will participate in the session titled “In Quest of a Food-Secure ASEAN” are Dr. Vo Tong Xuan of Vietnam, Dr. Sharifudin Baharsjah of Indonesia, Dr. Charan Chantalakhana of Thailand, and Dr. Ramon C. Barba of the Philippines.

They have been recipients of the prestigious Dioscoro L. Umali Award in Agricultural Development in  Southeast Asia named after the late Dr. Umali, a national scientist who had served as dean of the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) and assistant director general for Asia and the Pacific of the United Nations-Food and Agriculture Organization (UN-FAO).

Launched in November 2007 as a collaboration of SEARCA, the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and DLU Foundation, the Umali recognizes “lifetime achievements of exemplary individuals who have advanced agricultural development in Southeast Asia.”

Dr. Xuan was honored for his immense contribution to the  transformation of  Vietnam  from a net rice importer to the world’s second largest rice exporter. He was instrumental in the dissemination of the modern cultivation techniques of high-yielding rice varieties to farmers in the Mekong Delta. He also has assisted Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos on their agricultural policies and technologies.                

Dr. Baharsjah, a former Agriculture minister of Indonesia, had led efforts to promote food security in his country through policies and measures, particularly the agribusiness approach, effectively increasing productivity of rice farmers and uplifting the welfare of Indonesian farms.

“His fearless pursuit of a ban on 19 pesticides ineffective in controlling brown plant hoppers led to the promotion and adoption of a natural equilibrium approach to controlling pests and diseases through farmer field schools. Natural equilibrium meant savings for farmers in addition to being  boon to human health and the environment,” SEARCA said.

He also built institutions that undertake research, provide policy support, work with farmers  and provide scholarships, among other things, to contribute to development not only in Indonesia but also in all of Southeast Asia.

Dr. Charan’s pioneering work on cattle and buffalo genetic improvement led to the development of a new cattle breed called “Kamphaeng Saen,” which weights three times those of native cattle. The new  breed has helped small dairy farmers reduce the cost of production and expand dairy herds in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, SEARCA noted.

Dr. Barba, a retired UP Los Baños scientist and professor, is known internationally for having developed the inexpensive and easy-to-use mango flower induction technology that overcame the biennial and erratic fruit-bearing characteristics of mango, thus making it available all year round.

His technologies have had unprecedented impact on both the small farmers and agro-processing sector not only in the Philippines, but also  in other countries beyond Asia, SEARCA said.

President Aquino recently conferred the Order of National Scientist on Dr. Barba for his “significant contributions to the field of science and technology.”