ASEAN universities review strengths, gaps and prospects of pasture, forage crops in R&D and university curricula

29 April 2019

Academic executives from six leading agricultural universities in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand were convened by the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) to revisit the status of curricula and research programs on pasture and forage crops at its headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna last April 24-25.

The participating universities are all members of the SEARCA-initiated Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC): Institut Pertanian Bogor (IPB), Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM), and Universitas Brawijaya (UB), all in Indonesia; Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM); Kasetsart University (KU) in Thailand; and University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Deans and heads of animal science and crop science departments of said ASEAN universities identified the strengths, gaps, opportunities, and challenges in curriculum and research programs.

They presented the status of their respective university’s curriculum and research programs on pasture and forage. Ensuing small-group brainstorming sessions enabled them to determine the common issues, gaps, and challenges.

Issues related to university curricula development included the need to increase the number of experts in the field of forage and pasture, strengthen policy support, standardize courses, reevaluate the number of credited units in the courses, improve laboratory facilities, and mobilize additional financial resources.

On the other hand, issues regarding research programs included the decreasing number of students taking up the course, weak communication and networking among forage scientists, lack of government support for research on forage and pasture, and decreasing land area for forage production.

The university executives thus formulated collaborative proposals that aim to help revitalize research and improve curriculum on pasture and forage crops. These include forming a Southeast Asian Forage and Pasture Science Society, conduct of workshops for curriculum standardization in the UC, teacher trainings and student exchanges/internships, joint researches, joint supervision of students, and joint publications, among others.

The roundtable was partially funded by the Food Security Center (FSC) of Germany’s University of Hohenheim. The FSC is one of five centers of excellence under the program EXCEED – Higher Education in Development Cooperation funded by the German Federal Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

SEARCA has been a strategic partner of the FSC since 2009.

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Los Baños, Laguna, 2 May 2019

SEARCA redefines value chain ‘inclusivity’ for regional agricultural and rural economy

To continually promote inclusivity and sustainability in the agricultural value chain development, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) offered its Value Chain Development Course for the second time last April 22-26.

Research and development professionals and practitioners representing the academe and government in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, participated in the course.

In its second offering, the course looked through the agricultural value chain lens to analyze and design interventions to promote value addition for various players, especially the marginalized actors in the process, but this time integrating the gender element.

The course covered the fundamental frameworks, principles, components and processes of the value chain system, and their practical skills and application. 

A more well-balanced facet of inclusivity was introduced through a session on gender mainstreaming in agricultural value chains and integrating gender in workshop discussions and outputs throughout the course.

SEARCA Governing Board Chair Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., currently the University of the Philippines Los Baños Chancellor, shared that the vitality of capitalizing on social inclusion has been the core of SEARCA’s campaign for inclusive and sustainable rural development (ISARD) in support of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 8: “Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all.”

“The challenge therefore is for various institutions and stakeholders, especially smallholder farmers and small-scale rural entrepreneurs, to step up to the plate and maximize the benefits of borderless trade,” Sanchez said.

UPLB College of Public Affairs and Development (CPAf) professors served as resource persons and training facilitators of the training-workshop.

At the outset of the course, UPLB CPAf professor Wilfredo Carada stressed the imperative of developing an inclusive value chain to steer increased vibrancy and productivity for the overall improvement of the agriculture and rural sector in ASEAN countries.

He explained that inclusivity means bringing positive and desirable change in the activities in the agricultural value chain, wherein advanced competency and productivity would also create an enabling environment for marginalized smallholder farmers and fisherfolks, and increase their integration and opportunities to secure a fair share in the value chain process.

In the same vein, NEXUS Agribusiness Solutions Managing Director Nerlita M. Manalili, one of the course lecturers, pointed out that greater capacities for the farmers should always be accompanied with increased market access and opportunities for sustainable growth and food security down to the household level.

Dr. Manalili also enthused the participants to fully understand the value chain context, wherein she highlighted the need to add “value” on product transformation across the stages and processes of the value chain.

She noted, however, that challenges brought about by the changing mix and dynamism of existing market players, commodities should be addressed by ASEAN countries towards efficiency-driven market integration in the current globalization of agricultural production.

The course participants identified gaps and designed interventions on how inclusivity could be integrated, considering the current socioeconomic dynamism, production technologies, and government and market structures in both national and regional context across Southeast Asia.

Value chain analyses and interventions for cinnamon, rice, mango, high-value crops, and white potato were developed by participants organized into one group per commodity. Each intervention design included a sector situationer, value chain analysis and mapping, value chain development strategy, organizational and institutional arrangements for value chain development, and a monitoring and evaluation plan.

Moreover, each participant produced re-entry action plans that outline how they will use, in their workplace or industry, the learning gains in the course.

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Los Baños, Laguna, 2 May 2019


Eminent rice scientist and academician appointed new SEARCA Director

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio has been appointed as new Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), an inter-government treaty organization hosted by the Philippine government on the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), for a three-year term and he assumed office on 1 May 2019.

Dr. Gregorio is the eleventh to hold the top SEARCA post since its establishment in November 1966 by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO).

Dr. Gregorio is also an Academician at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Philippines and is currently a professor at the Institute of Crop Science of the UPLB College of Agriculture and Food Science.

A distinguished rice scientist, Dr. Gregorio served the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for almost 30 years, including a five-year stint as IRRI’s rice breeder in Africa based at Africa Rice Centre station at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria from 2004 to 2009.

Throughout his career, Dr. Gregorio has bred more than 15 rice varieties, most of which are salt-tolerant varieties that have greatly helped farmers in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, and the Philippines. He also led efforts to develop micronutrient-dense rice varieties to address anemia and malnutrition in Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

But rice breeding is not Dr. Gregorio’s only forte. Prior to his appointment as SEARCA Director, he also served as Crop Breeding Manager for Corn at the East-West Seed Company, Inc. from 2015 to 2018 where he was the global lead of the sweet corn and waxy corn breeding programs for South and Southeast Asia, the Latin Americas, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr. Gregorio has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Outstanding Young Scientist Award (OYS 2004) and Outstanding Publication Award given by NAST; The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM 2004) in the field of Agriculture-Plant Breeding and Genetics; the Ho Chi Minh Medal Award for great contribution to the cause of agriculture and rural development in Vietnam; Ten Outstanding Youth Scientists (TOYS 1981) of the Philippines given by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) of the Philippines; Honorary Scientist, Rural Development Administration (RDA), Korea; and other awards for his outstanding research and research management achievements.

He has authored and co-authored at least 90 articles published in various scientific journals, chapters on rice breeding in 14 books, and five scientific manuals and bulletins. He mentored and supervised 20 PhD and 27 MS graduate students and more than 40 BS students in plant breeding and genetics at UPLB and other universities in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America; and he continues to hone scientists and future scientists as a mentor and teacher.

Dr. Gregorio obtained his PhD in Genetics, MS in Plant Breeding, and BS in Agriculture at UPLB.

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