SEARCA supports forum critiquing National Rice Industry Roadmap

this is an old release but still is relevant:

6 November 2018

The National Rice Industry Roadmap 2030 was dissected during the Annual Rice Policy Forum convened by the Asia Rice Foundation (ARF) in partnership with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and other co-sponsors last October 30.

The roadmap was prepared by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) through a series of multi-stakeholder consultations. It targets a “rice-secure Philippines” by making rice available, affordable, accessible, safe, and nutritious for the Filipino people. It intends to achieve these through improved competitiveness, enhanced resiliency to disasters and climate risks, and ensured safe and nutritious rice.

Specifically, the roadmap is expected to improve competitiveness, profitability, resiliency, and responsiveness of the rice industry through import substitution at 35% tariff level for 25% broken rice; increasing income from rice farming by at least 50%; mitigation, adaptation, and recovery from disasters and climate change; and catering to the needs of consumers for healthy food.

According to ARF, the roadmap has set a target “average yield of 6 tons per hectare (from the current 4.03 tons per hectare) at a production cost of P8 per kg of palay and a profit of P57,000 per hectare per cropping season.”

ARF added that along with the target are five bills pending in the House of Representatives lifting qualitative restrictions (QRs) in the importation of rice to be replaced by tariffs, that is, 35% for imports from ASEAN members and 50% from non-ASEAN countries. ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“These issues on lifting of QRs and imposing tariffs on rice imports as well as strengthening support to domestic rice production at a competitive cost are important policy directions that should be critically analyzed to benefit Filipino farmers,” ARF said.

The policy forum aimed to outline a cohesive policy and mobilize broad support for the rice roadmap and its implementation. It discussed the goals, implementing strategies, and strategic pillars of the roadmap and solicited recommendations on the specific policy measures to realize the objectives of the roadmap.

The main discussants include Dr. Leocadio Sebastian who leads the International Rice Research Institute Regional Program for Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (IRRI-CCAFS) Southeast Asia; Dr. Segfredo Serrano, DA Undersecretary for Policy and Planning; Dr. Cielito Habito, former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary; Dr. Fermin Adriano of the World Bank; Dr. Lourdes Adriano of Asian Development Bank; Dr. Leonardo Gonzales of STRIVE Foundation; and Mr. Senen Reyes of the University of Asia-Pacific Food and Agribusiness Center.

Others present were key officials from DA; Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD); SEARCA; and other co-sponsors as well as technical and policy experts on rice.

Based on the proceedings of the forum, ARF plans to publish a book on strengthening the Philippine rice industry from a policy perspective within the framework of the ASEAN economic integration.

SEARCA also shared with the forum participants copies of its publication titled “The Rice Economy and the Role of Policy in Southeast Asia” authored by Dr. Roehlano M. Briones of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, who also attended the forum. 


8 November 2018

SEARCA and World Vegetable Center partner for joint research, high-level forums to address nutrition-security

The Philippine government-hosted, Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and Taiwan-based World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) formalized ties in a memorandum of understanding for institutional cooperation signed on 7 November 2018 at the Development Academy of the Philippines in Tagaytay City on the sidelines of the International Conference on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture and Food Systems, which is co-sponsored by SEARCA.

The signatories to the agreement are Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. on behalf of SEARCA as Chair of its Governing Board and Dr. Marco Wopereis, Director General of WorldVeg.

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 (R&D), and knowledge management. It serves the 10 ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, plus Timor-Leste.

Meanwhile, WorldVeg (formerly known as Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center or AVRDC) is an international nonprofit R&D institute established in 1971 by seven countries, including the Philippines. Today, WorldVeg has regional bases in Africa, Asis 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.”

Dr. 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, Dr. 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.”

Dr. Wopereis added that while WorldVeg hosts ASEAN-AVRDC Regional Network on Vegetable Research and Development (AARNET), 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 (EU) program called Exchange by Promoting Quality Education, Research and Training in South and Southeast Asia (EXPERTS); and Asia: Life Sciences, Food, Agriculture, Biology, Economics, Technology (ALFABET) 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.

“So by teaming up,” Dr. 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.”

Dr. 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.


Los Baños, Laguna, 22 November 2018

SEARCA-led school-plus-home gardens project bags R&D award

The Los Baños Science Community Foundation, Inc. (LBSCFI) recognized the School-Plus+Home Gardens Project (S+HGP) led by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in partnership with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and Department of Education (DepEd)-Laguna.

Winning this year’s Philippine Agriculture and Resources Research Foundation, Inc. (PARRFI) R&D Award (Development Category) conferred by LBSCFI was the “School-Plus-Home Gardens Project: A Participatory and Inclusive Model for Sustainable Development.”

The award was jointly received by the S+HGP team represented by Dr. Blesilda M. Calub, Dr. Leila S. Africa, Dr. Bessie M. Burgos, and Mr. Henry M. Custodio, as well as the DepEd district supervisor and the principals and teachers of the S+HGP partner-schools in Laguna.

The school and home gardens project was piloted in one high school and five elementary schools in Laguna, namely: Labuin Elementary School and San Antonio Elementary School in Pila, San Andres Elementary School in Alaminos, Majayjay Elementary School in Majayjay, Crisanto Guysayko Memorial Elementary School in Nagcarlan, and Cabuyao Central School in Cabuyao, and Bagumbayan Elementary School and Pedro Guevarra Memorial National High School in Sta. Cruz. 

A brainchild of former DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro conceptualized with then SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., the project revived and redesigned DepEd’s earlier school garden programs to an innovative approach focused on nutrition, education, and economic well-being of school children, their families, and their communities.

He said the project focused on how the nutrition and education needs of school children may be addressed and, at the same time, introducing and making children appreciate agriculture at a young age.

Dr. Saguiguit said underlying all of these was how SEARCA, which is mainly concerned with higher education programs on agriculture and related fields, could assist DepEd whose focus is basic education and has limited expertise on agriculture.

The S+HGP was piloted in six schools in the province of Laguna with a model where harvests from the school gardens provided fresh vegetables for the school-based feeding program.

“The model also extended the gardening-feeding linkage to the establishment of food gardens in the school children’s homes. More than just establishing home gardens, the parents developed a greater sense of responsibility to ensure good nutrition for their children while also saving on food expenses,” said Dr. Bessie M. Burgos of SEARCA.

She added that the project championed the multi-functionality of school gardens as learning laboratories for educating pupils, teachers, and parents about sustainability concepts and interconnections of food and nutrition, organic agriculture, edible landscaping, climate change, and solid waste management.

“Mechanisms for sustaining and scaling up the initial success of the S+HGP were designed in a stepwise process where the pilot schools took the lead to pay forward and share their knowledge to other schools, particularly small schools in remote areas through intra-school and inter-district networking,” Dr. Burgos said.

The network has grown from the six original pilot schools in 2016 to additional two adopted schools and 25 brother and sister schools as of August 2018.

SEARCA is likewise poised to upscale the S+HGP throughout Southeast Asia after obtaining the endorsement of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) High Officials to the SEAMEO Council composed of Ministers of Education of the 11 Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.

The success of the S+HGP was also recognized when Labuin Elementary School won an international award for its exemplary achievements in education and sustainable development (ESD) stemming from its most successful implementation of S+HGP among the pilot schools. The 2017 SEAMEO-Japan ESD Award was conferred by SEAMEO and Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Science and Technology (MEXT) with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Regional Bureau of Education.



The S+HGP team receives the PARRFI R&D Award from the LBSCFI officers.


The memorandum of understanding for institutional cooperation between the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) was signed by Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr. (second from right) on behalf of SEARCA as Chair of its Governing Board and Dr. Marco Wopereis (second from left), Director General of WorldVeg. Behind them to witness the signing were Ms. Adoracion T. Robles (right), Officer-in-Charge of the SEARCA Office of Deputy Director for Administration, and Mr. Shun-Nan Chiang, SEARCA Visiting Research Fellow.

31 January 2019, Los Baños, Laguna

School and home gardens can help achieve sustainable development goals

The Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) shared at a recent Science Council of Asia (SCA) conference in Japan how its school-plus-home gardens project (S+HGP) contributed to the achievement of the United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the localities where the project was piloted.

The SDGs are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all peoples of the world agreed on by the UN General Assembly in 2015. They address the global challenges humanity faces, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice. The goals interconnect and the aim is to achieve them by 2030 in order to leave no one behind.

Co-implemented with the Department of Education (DepEd)-Laguna and University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), the S+HGP aimed to improve the nutritional condition and dietary habits of school-aged children by increasing production of locally adapted vegetables through school and home gardening and consequently contribute to the community’s food and nutrition security.

SEARCA presented specific strategies to contribute to achieving targets of SDGs through its S+HGP at the 18th Science Council of Asia (SCA) Conference held in Tokyo to highlight research, innovations, and programs that addresses the 2030 Agenda on SDGs across Asia. The SCA is the official body of all science academies in Asia.

In the paper “Addressing and Localizing SDGs through Grassroots-Based School-Plus-Home Gardens in the Philippines” presented by project leader and SEARCA adjunct fellow Dr. Blesilda Calub, SEARCA elaborated on how the S+HGP contributed to achieving at least four SDGs.

For SDG 2, Zero Hunger: The S+HGP showed that year-round production of diverse nutritious indigenous and common vegetables is possible by following a planting calendar.

For SDG 3, Good Health and Well-being: The promotion of organic agriculture in the S+HGP showed an alternative food production system that respects natural ecological processes and avoids using harmful synthetic farm chemicals that endangers the health of farmers, consumers, and the environment.

For SDG 4, Quality Education: Local government units were mobilized to allocate funds for school gardening plus feeding programs to improve academic performance of school children and reduce absenteeism and early dropping-out from school.

For SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production: Parents, teachers, and students appreciated that food can be better produced through sustainable organic methods. The school gardens were used as learning laboratories for teaching composting and responsible waste management, among others.

In 2018, SEARCA already conducted a training of trainers on scaling up the school-plus-home gardens model in Southeast Asia. The training was designed to ensure that lessons learned from the pilot stage of the project in the Philippines are picked up, implemented, and sustained in other schools in Southeast Asia.

The training of trainers on school-plus-home gardens focused on the step-by-step process of establishing locally appropriate models in consideration of the unique context of the schools and communities in neighboring Southeast Asian countries.