Rural devt agency sets tenth five-year plan

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The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) is now the laying groundwork for its 10th five-year plan (FYP), championing sustainable and pro-poor agricultural and rural development (ARD) for a food-secure Southeast Asia.

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In a statement, Searca Director Gil Saguiguit said that the new plan would help address issues of rapid urbanization, impact of climate change in agriculture and declining research on farming in the Southeast Asian region.

“As with the rest of the world, the region is expected to face rapid population growth, fast-paced urbanization, increased income, shifting consumer demands, changes in dietary preferences, declining rural farmer population and ageing farmers in the near future,” he said.

Saguiguit stressed that to achieve a sustained inclusive and pro-poor growth that can benefit the agriculture sector, where majority of people are dependent, remained to be the major challenge for the Southeast Asian region.

Overall, Saguiguit said that the strategic themes of Searca’s 10th FYP are likely to include the optimization of resources for sustainable agricultural production, with emphasis on land and water resource management and agro-biodiversity conservation; climate change adaptation; trade, markets, value chains, agribusiness and entrepreneurship; ARD policy, governance and institutions; and integrated agricultural systems for food security and poverty reduction.

On a limited scale, Searca will support the pilot testing and transfer of workable models or approaches that will promote innovative agricultural systems, including models for integrating small farmers into the global supply chain and commercial food systems, that address the problems of resource-poor farmers/fisherfolk in the region.

Searca’s 9th FYP envisioned an enabled environment for rural poverty reduction and food security in the region through the agency’s core programs on graduate scholarship, research and development, and knowledge management that are focused on two priority themes—natural resource management (NRM) and agricultural competitiveness.

The agency is now nearing the conclusion of its 9th FYP covering the period 2009/2010 to 2013/2014.

Saguiguit said that recognizing that most of Southeast Asian countries are still predominantly agriculture-based and that majority of the population considered poor in the region are in the rural areas despite increasing urban population, it is incumbent upon Searca to focus its 10th FYP on the key drivers of ARD.

“We need to realize the critical role of agriculture in the food security and inclusive growth needs of Southeast Asia,” he said.

He added that capitalizing on its existing and future regional and global networks and linkages, Searca is well-positioned to connect to policy makers at the regional and national levels through quick response schemes.

Also, Searca’s graduate scholarship program will continue to become among the most visible activity of the agency in the region. As of school year 2012/2013, Searca has awarded 1,515 graduate scholarships.

Saguiguit said that the impact of Searca’s graduate scholarship program has been well documented, noting for example the important leadership roles of graduates in agricultural and rural development of their respective countries upon their return.

Searca was established by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization in 1966 primarily to provide to the participating countries high-quality graduate study in agriculture; promote, undertake and coordinate research programs related to the needs and problems of the Southeast Asian region; and disseminate the findings of agricultural research and experimentation.

James Konstantin Galvez

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