The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) recently launched a pioneering program on Transformational Agricultural Innovation Systems for the New Future (TrAInS) to provide innovative solutions to the rising challenges in agriculture and the environment.
According to SEARCA Director Glenn Gregorio, there are 30 participants from various Southeast Asian (SEA) higher education institutions, government ministries and agencies, non-government and farmers' organizations, and private and civil society organizations who are involved in research and extension activities.
TrAInS is a nine-week online training workshop that seeks to engage the participants in developing collaborative, transformative programs for agricultural development and is guided by the agricultural innovations systems framework.
SEARCA's Education and Collective Learning Department-Training for Development Unit oversees the implementation of the training workshop. They also provide both technical and administrative support for the program along with the Management Information Systems Unit.
Dr. Virginia Cardenas, TrAInS technical coordinator and lead facilitator, said that the online training workshop consists of five modules spread across eight sessions.
These include the transformation of agriculture for sessions 1 and 2, promoting innovations in the agricultural systems for sessions 3 and 4, a new breed of agricultural leaders for sessions 5 and 6, promoting transformations in the agricultural innovations systems for sessions 7 and 8, and defining agriculture for the future.
Cardenas said the program has three specific outcomes, namely, a roadmap, a competency gap analysis, and a proposed action plan for innovative interventions.
During the launch on November 16, Associate Professor Joselito Florendo, SEARCA deputy director for Administration, explained that the program is their response to the disruption of the region's food supply chain during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"This is also a response to the pressure to meet the increasing demand for food and changes in food patterns and expenditures and to address climate change impacts and environmental degradation," Florendo added.
At the launch, the participants were welcomed by Dr. Dindo Campilan, IUCN's regional director for Asia and Oceania Hub.
Campilan said the online training workshop is "transformational, experiential and novel" that takes place at a time when there are parallel and ongoing dialogues, conversations and changes happening around the world.
Inviting participants to look at the issues in agriculture through different lenses and levels, Campilan also reminded them that the challenges in agriculture are not confined and that transformation is not just happening within the agricultural sector. He added that what happens to agriculture happens to other sectors and vice versa.
With the topic "Agriculture and Development," Gregorio delivered the first lecture-discussion, taking into consideration SEARCA's vision of Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation.
He introduced SEARCA and its role in transforming the agriculture sector in Southeast Asia (SEA), citing SEARCA's task under its 11th five-year plan to contribute towards strengthening and transforming the agricultural food system in SEA.
Through this framework, Gregorio said the center aims to aid in reshaping and transforming the quality of life and well-being of farmers and farming communities, adding that transformation and innovation are attained by working side by side with farmers.
"We want to walk with the farmers, learn from them, share our ideas with them, show them new and innovative ways of farming, work with them, and change their mindset to make them more productive alongside cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit," he said as he presented the programs and activities that SEARCA has initiated towards agricultural and rural development in the region.
An interactive workshop that allowed the participants to assess and reflect on the challenges and opportunities in agricultural growth was one of the highlights of session 1, which ended with Cardenas providing the synthesis of the workshop identifying the challenges in agricultural growth, factors that influence agricultural performance, with focus on the role of research, extension, and market systems.