SEARCA, ACB, and partners pursue mainstreaming biodiversity in food and agriculture
BANGKOK, Thailand – The joint thematic initiative of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) on mainstreaming agrobiodiversity resulted in the conduct of the Multi-sectoral Workshop on Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Food and Agriculture in Bangkok, Thailand on 4-6 December 2018. The workshop provided a platform for the environment and agriculture sectors in the ASEAN Community to discuss and develop a common understanding of agrobiodiversity conservation and sustainable use. It likewise served as venue to identify and define areas of collaboration and supportive processes among the relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies and development partners towards mainstreaming biodiversity in the agriculture sector.
The event opened with messages from the co-organizers and the co-hosts led by Dr. Nattanich Asvapoositkul, Environmental Expert from the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand; Dr. Surmsuk Salakpetch, Director General of the Department of Agriculture (DOA) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, also of Thailand; Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim, Executive Director of ACB, whose message was read by Ms. Clarissa C. Arida, Director for Programme Development and Implementation of ACB; and Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., Governing Board Chair of SEARCA, whose message was read by Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, Program Head for Research and Development of SEARCA.
They highlighted the importance of biodiversity to agriculture but that biodiversity is compromised by intensifying production in food systems to meet the demands of changing diet patterns and of nutritional requirements of the rapidly growing population in the ASEAN region. Hence, there is a need to take concrete action towards inclusion of sustainable practices in agricultural plans, policies, and processes. They urged the participants to take advantage of the workshop to build strong collaboration towards addressing issues on mainstreaming biodiversity in food and agriculture.
The program covered various mainstreaming initiatives from ACB and SEARCA, Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in the ASEAN (BCAMP), Bioversity International, and the Non-Timber Forest Products - Exchange Program (NTFP-EP). Agrobioidversity-related issues were likewise presented through the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2025 Consolidated Strategic Action Plan (CSAP), ASEAN Strategic Plan on Environment (ASPEN), and the ASEAN Guidelines for Agrobiodiversity Development. National initiatives on agrobiodiversity were presented as well from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Key results and messages of the initial stocktaking workshop in Chiang Mai in 2017, the first collaboration of SEARCA and ACB on agrobiodiversity, were shared. These included the findings of the survey on the country status of agrobiodiversity in the ASEAN and a set of recommended joint actions for the conservation and sustainable use of agrobiodiversity in the region. Among the key recommendations were the development and implementation of a regional action plan for agrobiodiversity; cross-sectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration; inclusion of agrobiodiversity in educational system/curriculum; developing information materials to increase awareness; involving the younger generation; and strengthening networks and partnerships.
Dr. Percy E. Sajise, SEARCA Senior Fellow, Bioversity International Honorary Research Fellow, and UPLB School of Environmental Science and Management Adjunct Professor, emphasized the need for effective inter-sectoral linkages and collaboration and presented some options and recommendations for discussion. Like the earlier presentations, this served as a reference for the small group discussions that ensued. These discussions on the second day of the event identified priority actions in the short- (up to 2021), medium- (up to 2023), and long-term (up to 2015) as well as the possible mechanisms through which these could be done.
Participants went on a field trip on the third and last day of the event. They visited the Royal-initiated Wat Mongkol Chaipatana Area Development Project. This project is based on the “New Theory” of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a concept outlining an agricultural approach, which emphasizes proper management of land and water to create optimum benefits.
Representatives of the environment and agriculture ministries of the ASEAN Member States, relevant ASEAN sectoral bodies, ASEAN Secretariat, development partners, and relevant networks from the education and research sectors participated in the workshop. (Carmen Nyhria G. Rogel)