Australian and French envoys visited the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) to strengthen ties and explore avenues for new collaborations in agriculture in their host country.
New Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely and French Ambassador Thierry Mathou were at SEARCA to know more about the Center’s current programs and priorities.
Headed by Director Gil Saguiguit Jr., SEARCA has a long history of cooperation with both Australia and France on research and capacity building in agriculture in the Philippines.
In a span of 20 years, a series of land conservation projects with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has benefitted farmers in upland and sloping agriculture lands in the Visayas and Mindanao.
SEARCA also implemented ACIAR-funded policy studies on the economic and policy environment for the country’s agriculture sector and transportation of fruits and vegetables from Mindanao.
SEARCA recently completed an Australia-commissioned study on inclusive agribusiness in Southeast Asia focusing on the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
Funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the study results were presented at a high-level roundtable discussion in Vietnam.
Priority action points identified by the roundtable were the following areas: engagement with small and medium enterprises, public-private partnership models, inclusiveness metrics, value chain financing, and trade implications.
Ambassador Gorely commended SEARCA for its development programs in the region and expressed her support to renew the partnerships with Australian research and education institutions.
On the other hand, Ambassador Mathou said his top priority is to beef up cooperation in agriculture between the Philippines and France and is looking to collaborate with SEARCA on ensuing initiatives under such cooperation.
He told Saguiguit that a bilateral agreement between France and the Philippines will embody the different aspects of the cooperation focused on the latter’s agriculture sector, including education and research.
The French diplomat noted the many collaborations between SEARCA and the French government and institutions and discussed possible areas for renewed cooperation.
SEARCA earlier implemented with the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) a European Union-funded project on food production assistance to vulnerable sectors. The project benefited more than 22,000 Filipino farmers and fisherfolks.
Both envoys noted with keen interest SEARCA’s plan to establish a Southeast Asian AgriMuseum to promote the importance of agriculture, its centrality to people’s lives and its attendant challenges, particularly among the youth.
The facility’s groundbreaking is slated for November this year, in time for the commemoration of SEARCA’s 50th founding anniversary.