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SEA academics, scholars take stock of agriculture’s future

Scholars and alumni of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) have gathered in Los Baños, Laguna to discuss the future landscape of agriculture on April 25-26, 2024.

Titled “Cultivating Tomorrow: SEARCA’s Insights for Agriculture’s Future,” the conference is jointly organized by SEARCA and the Regional SEARCA Alumni Association (RSAA), the network of SEARCA scholars who have completed their graduate programs.

SEARCA Center Director Dr. Glenn Gregorio said the conference aims to showcase the research accomplishments of selected scholars as of academic year 2023-24 and raise awareness of their role in the future of agriculture.

Twenty-two scholars arep resenting their research in five sessions, namely, agriculture policy and development, natural resource management, food and biological sciences, agronomy and plant sciences, and innovation in agricultural applications.

“The conference seeks to provide a platform for sharing information, practices, knowledge, and skills generated from research and development activities; thereby strengthening the relationship among scholars and alumni,” Gregorio said.

He added that the event demonstrates the center’s support for the academic achievements of the scholars and recognizes their dedication to producing quality research that contributes to accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation.

Notable SEARCA alumni serve as plenary speakers, including Dr. Muhammad Firdaus, Education And Culture Attaché of the Indonesian Embassy to Malaysia who delivered the inspirational message; Ts. Jason Choy Min Sheng, Senior Assistant Director of the Industry and Community Collaboration Division, Department of Polytechnic and Community College Education, Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia, who will speak about the role of transnational TVET studies-Malaysia’s experience; and Dr. Jonathan Sabiniano, Director of the National Livestock Program at the Department of Agriculture in the Philippines, who will discuss government-led initiatives that will shape agriculture’s future.

The other speakers, also respected SEARCA alumni, are Natalino Babo Martins, Deputy Project Manager of Conservation International in Timor-Leste, who will share insights into the nongovernment organizations’ prospects in strengthening agriculture’s future; and Dr. Asdi Agustar, Professor at Andalas University in Indonesia and RSAA president, and Dr. Weerapon Thongma, President of Maejo University in Thailand and RSAA vice president, who will deliver the welcome and closing messages, respectively.

Gregorio said SEARCA has organized the “Searcamustahan” on April 25, an evening of networking and camaraderie with the scholars and alumni as they connect over shared experiences and aspirations.

Scholars also indulge in a vibrant array of flavors and cultural delights as they partake in a food festival on April 26.

Since 1967, SEARCA has awarded 1,958 full master’s and PhD scholarships and PhD Research scholarships to nationals Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam to pursue advanced studies leading to master’s and doctoral degrees in agriculture, forestry, and related sciences. The graduates have formed a strong cadre of high-trained leaders and professionals working in agriculture and rural development, many of whom occupied positions of leadership in universities, research institutions, international development agencies, and government, among them is National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

The RSAA comprises country chapters in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. As such, RSAA has been a strong partner of SEARCA in conducting regional events focused on agricultural and rural development not only at the SEARCA headquarters in the Philippines, but also in other countries in the region.#

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