Southeast Asian center intensifies development support to Laguna province

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio (left) and Laguna Governor Ramil L. Hernandez exchange copies of the MOU between SEARCA and Province of Laguna.

SEARCA turned over seeds, fertilizer, and other farm inputs to the three aster farmers (seated) involved in the project during the project launch this month.

29 October 2020

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has formalized its ties with the Provincial Government of Laguna (PGL) this month to jointly pursue capacity development activities and exchange knowledge resources, including publications.

Laguna Governor Ramil L. Hernandez said SEARCA’s focus on scientific inquiry, agricultural extension, and rural development is vital to Laguna’s growth and development.

“We believe that SEARCA has the technical knowledge and skills to address the plight of our community. The Provincial Government of Laguna is willing to participate,” he said.

This was affirmed by Congresswoman Ruth Mariano Hernandez of the Second District of Laguna, who said “we are looking forward for an open-collaboration to help our farming communities here in Laguna to add yield on their crops especially with your research on rice fortified with iron and zinc.”

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said the partnership with the Province of Laguna is an essential move to help the farmers and farming communities in the province.

Moreover, SEARCA also began a community gardens project in Los Baños, Laguna to help flower farmers in Brgy. Bayog, a major aster-growing area, to shift to growing good-quality food for their consumption and as an alternative source of income now that there is little demand for aster because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a launch event attended by Los Baños government officials led by Mayor Cesar Perez, SEARCA turned over seeds, fertilizer, and other farm inputs to Marcelino Aragon, Gerardo Banasihan, and Salvador Tordacilla, the three aster farmers involved in the project.

“As a post-crisis strategy, the project will be piloted on three farm lots sized 3,800 sq.m., 2,800 sq.m., and 2,000 sq.m. with a grant provided through the SEARCA Grants for Research towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS),” said Dr. Rico C. Ancog, SEARCA Emerging Innovation for Growth program lead.

“SEARCA will also provide technical support in terms of land and site preparation, planning the community garden design, and setting up and monitoring of the community garden,” Dr. Ancog said.


27 October 2020

Filipinos sweep Southeast Asian “Youth “COVIDeo Contest”

Three Filipinos won the top prizes of the Youth COVIDeo Contest of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). Their videos bested 72 other entries from five countries.

The contest aimed to showcase how the youth played a part in local food production during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of SEARCA’s Young Forces for Agricultural Innovation (#Y4AGRI) program.

Themed “Youth and Locally Grown Food,” the contest sought video stories from Southeast Asian youth on how and why young people grow their food at home, in school or in the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Frontliner-turned-farmer Marcelino Padilla of Northern Samar bagged the top prize with his story of how he transitioned from being a nurse to pursuing his passion for farming. His winning video shows his remarkable journey and skill in practicing and promoting environmentally friendly, circular, and zero waste integrated farming system. At the onset of the community quarantine, he germinated his reserved seeds and distributed seedlings to neighboring communities together with the members of 4-H Club, a youth organization. His video also showcased the benefits of home gardening to his family and how he encouraged the youth in his community to engage in agricultural activities during the pandemic.

The second prize went to Myka Fragata of Nueva Vizcaya, who, along with her sister, told the story of Arapaap Farm, her family’s passion project during the quarantine period. To ensure food and nutrition security for their family and community amid the COVID-19 crisis, they developed an idle land into a productive vegetable garden within three months. Her video gives a quick rundown of starting and sustaining a family farm.

Mr. Benson Cariñaga, a son of Albay, won both the third prize and the Popularity Award for the entry that garnered the most Facebook reactions. His video features the communal garden of Tinago Youth Volunteers (TYV) which was established during the community quarantine to promote local food security. His video shows TYV members providing practical tips in growing vegetables, composting, and harvesting.

The entries were evaluated by multimedia experts, agriculturists, and SEARCA experts and officials.

The top three winners and other finalists in the top 10 received cash prizes. A smart tablet was the prize for the Popularity Award.

“We are happy to see through your videos the different practices in growing food with your family and friends, and in promoting youth engagement in your community through productive activities in agriculture amidst the pandemic,” said SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio during the virtual awards ceremony.

Mr. Joselito G. Florendo, SEARCA Deputy Director for Administration, encouraged all participants to carry on with their involvement in agriculture, especially with their families and immediate communities.

He stressed that “our youth engagement agenda continues beyond this contest and we look forward to working with young people like you again in our efforts of engaging and empowering the youth in agricultural and rural development.”


15 September 2020

SEARCA leads development of national roadmap for PH pork-based processed products value chain

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is set to lead the development of national roadmaps for key agri-based value chains where smallholders play a prominent role in five countries, including the Philippines.

Under the five-year project “Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI-ASEAN),” SEARCA will take the lead in crafting the national roadmap for the pork-based processed products value chain in the Philippines.

The priority commodities in the other ASEAN Member States (AMS) covered by the ATMI-ASEAN project are maize for Cambodia and Laos, pulses for Myanmar, and pig for Vietnam.

The five countries recently completed a value chain study of their chosen commodity, which will serve as the take-off points for the roadmap development.

“The national roadmap is intended as a set of strategies, programs, and specific activities that will benefit the stakeholders at all levels of the value chain,” said Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership.

He explained that “stakeholders in the Philippines will identify a shared regional vision for the development of the targeted value chains in the ASEAN region, including the role of smallholder agriculture in their upgrade and scaling-up.”

Dr. Orencio added that such vision will help identify key policies, food safety and quality standards, and opportunities for cooperation in research and development. These, in turn, will support progress towards achieving an improved policy and regulatory framework at the international level and fostering the policy dialogue on regional food security and market integration among AMS.

SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio said “the national roadmaps to be crafted starting this month are expected to provide solutions to manage the process of structural transformation of smallholder agriculture and strengthen agriculture’s contribution to the competitiveness of Southeast Asian economies.”

“This aligns with SEARCA’s current focus on academe-industry-government interconnectivity to strengthen agricultural innovations and promote market-driven agribusiness development in the Philippines and the rest of the Southeast Asian region to accelerate structural transformation in the agriculture sector,” Dr. Gregorio stressed.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is the focal agency for the development of the national roadmap on pork-based processed products value chain in the country.

DA Assistant Secretary Lerey A. Panes earlier highlighted the importance of the ATMI-ASEAN project, particularly the pioneering value chain study, in revising the country’s swine industry and in helping smallholder or backyard hog raisers.

Dr. Imelda J. Santos, DA-Bureau of Animal Industry-National Veterinary Quarantine Services Division chief said during an ATMI-ASEAN roundtable discussion that there has been an upward trend in the country’s pig population in 2010-2019 and 65% of this are from backyard farms, while 35% are imported.

The value chain study also takes into account the African swine fever (ASF) that afflicted hogs in some provinces in Luzon. Dr. Santos described ASF as the most economically devastating swine disease during the same forum.

Dr. Orencio said the study on value chain of pork-based processed products in Luzon showed that Filipino families have a general preference for pork compared to beef and chicken, and that there is increase in pork consumption due to an increase in population and income.

He shared that initial policy recommendations of the study, which was conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Economics and Management Alumni Foundation, Inc. (UPLB-CEMAFI) for the ATMI-ASEAN project, include expansion of yellow corn production in light of the technological seed innovation as well as live animal improvement due to improved animal inventory.

Dr. Gregorio said “the ATMI-ASEAN project team noted how this pandemic has affected the export potential of the commodities and would be an important consideration in developing policies.”

He stressed that “the roadmap will allow the government to gain traction and engage the industry and private sector which are potent partners in improving the value chain.”

The national road mapping is part of the technical assistance on planning and policy development component of the ATMI-ASEAN project, which is funded by the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The ATMI-ASEAN project is jointly implemented by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and SEARCA.