Govt asked to cut onerous 26-27% agri insurance tax that hinders entry of cash-rich private sector investors

April 2, 2021                                                                                                                   

The government should slash the onerous tax of 26-27% on non-life and agriculture insurance premium that blocks entry of cash-rich private sector investors that can significantly accelerate rural farm activity through financing.

  The misery of Filipino farmers is often blamed on the dearth of facilities on micro-financing and its constant aid micro-insurance.

   But agri-finance expert Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip asserts in a webinar hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) that cutting tax on insurance premium will significantly raise the number of private insurance offerings. 

   Alip is  chairman emeritus and pioneering founder of  the country’s largest microfinance firm CARD MRI (Center for Agriculture & Rural Development Inc.-Mutually Reinforcing Institutions).

   He said tax on non-life insurance, including those for crop or agriculture insurance, should be around the rate of life insurance which is only at a minimal 2%.  Other non-life insurance with high tax he cites are disaster insurance and health insurance.

   “If you want private sector participation, you must level the playing field.  You should lower down non-life premium tax (including tax for crop or agriculture insurance). I think there will be many private sector players (given this),” said Alip during SEARCA’s microinsurance forum.

   SEARCA held the virtual forum “Agricultural Investment Risks:  Empowering Smallholder Farmers through Micro-Insurance” as part of its thrust toward Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN).

   Government does need to subsidize agri insurance because the regime will be market-driven.

   “It will be the law of numbers and the law of efficiency (that will work).  The gap must be addressed.  Lawmakers should make non life insurance affordable,” Alip said.

   Alip, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee (2008), stressed micro-insurance plays a significant role in boosting private sector investment in micro-financing or in extending loans to small farmers.

     Once there is insurance or a guarantee program for farmers’ loans, banks are automatically willing to lend even to small farmers, Alip said.

   CARD pays insurance claims fast — precisely because there has already been a pre-deposited insurance premium for the disaster, calamity, or typhoon.

Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Dr. Jaime Aristotle Alip pioneers micro-financing in the Philippines

   “Within 8 hours we’ll pay.  If there’s an issue (problems) involved, in 48 hours we will pay.  The speed of payment shows how serious you are.   Microinsurance should be believable.  It should just be  like a  deposit when there’s a claim.  You pay it right away,” he said.

   Insurance or a loan guarantee is critically important in financing the marginalized farmers, in enabling them to get out of poverty.

   If farmers are paid right away, they will be able to re-invest in agriculture again after a misfortune.

   “Insurance is an important safety net so that the poor will not slide back to poverty.  If we’re able to pay farmers right away, their loyalty and affinity to insurance will be there,” he said.

   Because of digitization, CARD accelerated its payment systems.  It now pays  through mobile means (celfone).

   With the Covid 19 pandemic’s lockdowns, its clients do not need to go to its offices.  They can make payments, deposit, and withdraw online.

   CARD was put up in December 1986.  It has grown into a group of 23 mutually reinforcing institutions (MRI).

   “My vision was for a bank owned and managed by the poor.  I believe the reason why poor people are poor is not because of lack of access to resources.  It is the lack of control over resources,” he said.

   “After 10 years, we put up the first microfinance institution in the country, the CARD Bank, owned by its members.  We completely turned banking system upside down.”

   CARD Bank cut all bureaucracy in lending.  It releases loans just two days from application.

   It does not require collateral from borrowers.

CARD’s digital initiatives enable it to pay insurance claims fast.

   Instead of requiring small borrowers financial projections or feasibility studies and numerous documents, it just requires a one-page form for loan application. 

   Now it has spin-off companies engaged in lending in both rural areas and urban areas.

   It has the CARD MBA (mutual benefit association) owned by members and a non life insurance business linked with Pioneer Group

   “All policies, all regulations within the standard of the Insrance Commission, are implemented by the owners. What is our value proposition for these companies? Since they own it, we have a very small premium,” he said.

  Overhead cost of the company is only 1-2% while some insurance companies incur 40-60% overhead cost.

   CARD now has 3,482 offices in 85 provinces covering 1,577 municipalities and cities and 40,440 barangays.

   “The last frontier of the country is in Tawi Tawi, in Sitangkay.  We are present there,–

30 minutes away from there by pumpboat, you are in Malaysia.”

   It is in Balut Island in South Cotabato; 45 minutes to 1 hour from there, you are in Indonesia. It is also in Batanes, right near Taiwan.

    It has 17,157 full-time staff.  It has offices for OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in HOngkong, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

      “This is how we are exporting the technology of CARD in micro-financing and micro-insurance.”

   As of January 2021, it has so far served 7.43 million clients; insured 27.219 million individuals; has outstanding loan of P30.77 billion; savings of P28 billion; operational efficiency, 117.1%; financial sufficiency, 114.89%, number of stockholders, 120,252.

   It accounts now for 20% percent of the entire microfinance industry in the country.

   It has extended 14,761 scholarships; 9,783 graduate scholarships; and 4.693 million with access to its health services.

   It accounts for around 80% of entire insured Filipinos.  Those it insures are mostly in the poverty level who are given the chance to bounce back economically in times of difficulty and loss.

   Its repayment rate before the pandemic was 99.9 percent.  It faltered a bit due to the pandemic and is now recovering in repayment rate to a more stable 93-95%.

   “   “We’re not just in the business of microfinance and imicroinsurance. Were in the business of poverty eradication,” said Alip. “Our major focus is on very poor women.  If you’re able to help poor women to do business, their priority will always be the family, food for the children, education for the children.”

  These are among its functions:

  1. It owns hospitals, clinics and keeps doctors and nurses.  It has a pharmacy company that supports clients with affordable and generic medicine.
  2.    It has a marketing support for farmers and businesses engaged in cottage products  to help these expand and grow.
  3. It has a school on microfinance and microinsurance. 
  4. It has health insurance and hospitalization insurance
  5.    It has training programs and a school for college courses offering Entrepreneurship, Accountancy, Information Technology, and Tourism. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Plant breeders urged to use genomics to fast-track development of crops with superior traits

November 19, 2020

The Philippines should tap genomics to develop crops with “novel traits” and rich nutrition content such as as Golden Rice which solves blindness-causing Vitamin A deficiency with its pro-betacarotene content hitting 14 parts per million (PPM) through “gene transformation.”

   The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has pressed plant breeders to use the technology that makes use of gene transformation to fast-track development of crops with superior traits such that of pro betacarotene-rich Golden Rice.

   Golden Rice, just awaiting go-signal to be released to the market anytime, has hit pro-betacarotene (Vitamin) A rich level of 14 PPM compared to zero Vitamin A content for non-Golden Rice.

Human genome mapping in 1986 started a revolution in systems biology including crop development; Credit Natl Genome Research Institute

   Effectively, it is averting blindness for up to 500,000 children who go blind yearly due to Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD).  VAD also affects immunity and increased mortality among children in the developing world including Philippines.

   Such efficacy in significant nutrition supplementation holds true too for “Zinc rice” which has reached a level of 25 to 51 PPM zinc content from zero. And “Iron rice” has likewise already reached the target at 12 to 15PPM iron content from zero.

   These crops are among the desperately needed by end-consumers.

   Meeting such market’s needs should be the focus of genomics—an interdisciplinary field that revolutionized research in many fields and systems biology that started in human genome’s mapping in 1986.

   “Most important for us is genetic gain– the difference genomics gives to a new product from the original. If you have molecular markers or gene editing, that’s where you increase (and fast-track) selection (of a plant variety) with accuracy.  That  reduces  breeding cycle and product development time. You could see the genetic gain,” said Dr. Glenn B. Bregorio, SEARCA director.

   Gregorio himself was a plant breeder at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for 29 years and at hybrid vegetable producer East West Seeds.

   “I  am a plant breeder, and I’m very familiar with (molecular) marker-assisted selection.  As I get older, I realize the importance of sales, of commercialization. We should have market-aided selection so that our selection for traits should be based on the market, not only markers (molecular markers). There should always be a business component in everything we do,” Gregorio said.

Breeding with genetic selection fast-tracks development of crops with superior trait

   Breeding costs can be reduced by 32% and is even faster using genomics, he said.

   Molecular markers of desired traits in genes — identifying targeted novel or superior traits in plants — have since the human genome mapping in 1990 played a huge role in fast-tracking crop development. 

   Such desired genes – disease resistance or high yield, for example–  are inserted into the “transformed” crop.  

C4 rice now has the yellow content representing the protein corn originally has

    Genomics, and other “omics” disciplines – eg. Metabolomics which studies metabolites in relation to precision medicine in metabolic diseases–  should have huge commercial function in the following according to Gregorio:

  1. Developing more cereals by up to 45% in 2030 and raising yield of rice by 2.5% increase yearly as in the 1970-1990 era in order to meet population food demand. Rice yield growth slowed down to 1% yield yearly from 1990 to 2011.
  2.  Developing more climate-smart products as the C4 rice (ongoing development) which has “photosynthesis-efficiency” as that of corn. That means C4 rice is more drought resistant and produced with half the irrigation water used in normal rice.  It  even has 50%  yield increase due to nitrogen efficiency.

“We have to copy what has been done in corn. Because of hybrid, because of GMO (genetically modified organism), corn increased productivity very fast,” said Gregorio.Super diet rice, corn, and vegetables; low-glycemic cereals; and crops with novel traits such as the blue rose.

3. Crops grown with low carbon footprint demanded in rich markets as Europe.

4. Super diet rice, corn, and vegetables; low-glycemic cereals; and crops with novel traits such as the blue rose. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Malunggay, dilis help fight malnutrition, SLSU developed highly marketable Malunggay Powder and Dilis Flour

September 28, 2020

Amid the threats of Covid-19, malunggay and ‘dilis’ is turning out to be a “go to” for nutrition as the Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) has developed a highly marketable Malunggay Powder and Dilis Flour (MPDF).

   The SLSU in Tagkawayan, Quezon has developed the MPDF which is now a product deemed as highly marketable under the Technology and Investment Profiles (TIP) monograph series published by Southeast Asian Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).  The project is funded by the Bureau of Agriculture Research (BAR).

   Results showed that the malunggay products have met the parameters for each tool to be identified as a financially viable investment project.

   The SEARCA- feasibility study of MPDF used cash flow analysis, net present value, benefit-cost ratio, and financial internal rate return.

   SEARCA Director Glenn M. Gregorio said that SEARCA is now actively promoting technology-based innovations among local enterprises.  This is under SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan focused on Accelerating Transformation Though Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN) program.

   The experts said MPDF technology can be used as food ingredient in many dishes and as flavoring to various food delicacies including ham, longganisa, tapa, sausage, pork-fish siomai, kropek, macaroni soup, porridge, polvoron, squash cake, ensaymada, pizza pie, toge, tart, and hotcake, among others. With this, it aims to increase home consumption of inexpensive yet highly nutritious food.

   The project was led by Dorris N. Gatus, project leader;  Veronica Aurea A. Rufo, project coordinator; and Nemia C. Pelayo, technical adviser.

   It also targets to create livelihood opportunities for residents and non-residents of Tagkawayan, Quezon, Philippines

   The authors of the TIP said that the technology’s market and use extends from feeding programs of school children, bakers from five municipalities in Quezon Province with high incidence of malnutrition (i.e., Tiaong, Catanuan, Dolores, Quezon, and Mulanay), and local restaurants.

   Its target consumers include other institutional buyers (e.g., bakeshops, eateries, restaurants, hotel establishments, and hospitals); entrepreneurs who are engaged in food processing business enterprises; households, particularly those with lactating mothers and malnourished children; vegetarians, especially those suffering from anemia; and government agencies implementing feeding programs.

   Many times richer in vitamin-C, malunggay (Moringa oleifera) is being touted as “better than cure” as it may help prevent many other diseases.  It has been known that fresh malunggay leaves haves seven times the vitamin C of orange, 4 times the vitamin A of carrots, and 4 times the calcium of milk.

   This popular vegetable is part of the Filipino diet for generations.  ‘Tinolang manok’, chicken cooked in papaya will not be complete without malunggay leaves.  For Ilocanos, the leaves of the malunggay and its pods are perfect when cooked with other vegetables and fish.  Those who know this often has a malunggay tree beside their house.    

   Some are now using malunggay powder to fortify the all-time favorite pan de sal. Malunggay’s use has been promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a low-cost health enhancer in poor countries around the globe.

   Millions of Filipinos, particularly children, are suffering from undernourishment and malnutrition not just because of hunger and poverty, but also because of poor diet and eating habits.  Access to nutritious food has also been identified as the reason for this alarming health concern.

   Meanwhile, dilis or Philippine anchovy, more known in its dried fish form, is abundant in the market.  While they are quite popular among the older generation, they are not a hit to the young ones.

   Like malunggay, dilis—a small, common saltwater forage fish—has been identified as rich in protein and other minerals and vitamins with high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Specifically, anchovies are a good source of minerals, including calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and sodium. Moreover, anchovies are rich in vitamins such as B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12), vitamins A, C, E, and K.

   The SEARCA-published monograph on technology of malunggay products may be downloaded for free from the SEARCA website:  


   Dilis, according to BAR, paper, can is a flavouring for “sauces, salad dressings, pasta, and pizza.”  It is also a snack for the native Filipino.

   SLSU Professor Doris Gatus said sensory analysis and consumer acceptability studies have already been conducted for the MPDF. The product has also been tested in

 school feeding activities to supplement children’s nutritional requirement and intake.

    Recommended ratio for the product mix (maluggay to dilis) is 1:1, 3:1, and 3:2 (depending on the use)

   “One kilogram of fresh malunggay leaves can produce 300g malunggay-powder and 1kg. dilis (utilizing the fleshy part) can likewise produce 100g dilis powder,” said Gatus.

   Through the program,  Filipinos in rural areas are hoped to improve their productivity and while increasing home consumption of  the highly-nutritious yet inexpensive MPDF.

   “For every 100 grams of dilis flour fortified with malunggaypowder, the following nutritional values can be achieved: carbohydrates (3 percent), protein (5 percent), vitamin A (40 percent), vitamin C (2 percent), calcium (40 percent), and iron 10 (percent),” said Gatus.

Technical Panel for Agriculture reconstituted to make agriculture a poverty reduction tool, Gregorio appointed chief

August 18, 2020

A Technical Panel for Agriculture has been reconstituted by the government as part of an emerging trend to put agriculture as a preeminent policy tool in poverty reduction and economic growth that begins by massively hitching up intellectual capital.

    The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has appointed Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, director of ASEAN agency Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) as chairperson of its Technical Panel for Agriculture (TPA).

   “The reconstitution of technical panels is anchored on the need to align higher education to standards, priorities and needs in international, regional, and national settings. The experts from academe, government and industry will assist the Commission in policy formulation,” said CHED Chairman J. Prospero E. De Vera III.

   As agriculture remains a major engine of economic development in most Southeast Asian countries, Gregorio reiterated the strategic position of higher education (HEIs) to pursue initiatives on food and nutrition security.

   Development economists have long been proposing a reform in the country’s agriculture education as rural poverty has prevailed along with wealth distribution inequalities.

   Not only has interest among the youth to take a career on agriculture declined.  This has adversely affected innovation and technology development in the agriculture sector.  

   “Agricultural modernization is essential in the Philippines’ strategy for inclusive growth. The mandate of many public sector higher education institutions is to create a pool of skilled workers to increase the competitiveness of our agriculture and fisheries sector,” according to Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) President Gilberto Llanto.

   As early as in 2007, economists proposed  to former Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo three major components of the agriculture education reform. These are

policy research, institutional capacity enhancement for entrepreneurship, and support to agri-enterprise building in SUCs (state universities and colleges).

   “This program came about at a time when pressing issues on spiraling food prices, food security, climate change, and environmental degradation brought agriculture to the limelight. These have prompted calls to rethink development efforts in agriculture,” they said.

   “The support to this program recognizes that universities have a crucial role to play. Apart from being the knowledge and resource base in their localities, the SUCs should be able to churn out graduates as champions in fueling development and sustainability in the countryside.”

   Llanto said the decline in skilled labor force arising from a decrease in Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources (AFNR) enrolment makes Philippines’ future prospect in agriculture questionable.

   The proposal to Arroyo was supported by experts both from PIDS and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

   “Now is the most opportune time to implement the long overdue rationalization of SUCs to allow them to offer agri-oriented Technical Vocational Education and Training programs, focusing on agribusiness-oriented agriculture,” according to Dr. Patricio Faylon in “Higher Education in Agriculture, Trends, Prospects, and Policy Directions.

   The country’s agility in designing curricular and extension programs (technology transfer from the hands of scientists to farmers) to produce professionals who can engage in achieving food and nutrition security goals is critical, Gregorio said.

    The diversification of the agriculture sector and AFNR-related programs will significantly address the changing needs of the local and global economic environment in employment and better income.

   “Agriculture diversification, agribusiness promotion, and investment in rural and market-related infrastructure should  be pursued,” said Faylon, a former PCAARRD executive director and five other co-authors in a separate position paper on “State and Future Supply and Demand for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Graduates in the Philippines.”

   A major component of the reform is the provision of venues for students to have practical training on entrepreneurship and technology business incubation.

   HEIs and SUCs must supply the needs of business and industry for skilled labor which consequently will prop up demand for agriculture graduates.

   “SUCs might need to reinvent themselves as producers of a new breed of students and graduates like agribusiness entrepreneurs engaged in lucrative enterprises. When wage employment prospects are dim, graduates can opt to employ themselves through their self-run agricultural businesses.”

   Faylon’s co-authors are Ruperto S. Sangalang, Albert P. Aquino, Melvin B. Carlos, Richard B. Daite, and Ernesto O. Brown.

   The students themselves should have “adequate immersion” in managing and operating actual enterprises.

    This includes introducing new modes of training through Educational Income Generating Projects (E-IGPs), Technopreneurial Learning Projects (TLPs),Technology-Based Enterprise Development (DATBED), and Technology Business Incubators (TBIs), according to Faylon’s group.

   The proposal to Arroyo  envisioned AFNR graduates as professional entrepreneurs capable of “exploring and exploiting business opportunities in AFNR.”

   The PIDS and PCAARRD experts stressed, “Economic theory suggests that formal education is a productive investment in human capital, an important determinant of economic growth (quoting other economic theorist Schultz, 1971 and Becker, 1975).”

  “Education is deemed to increase the productivity and efficiency of the work force, thereby facilitating higher output, and consequently stimulating economic growth. At the micro-level, investment in education increases the potential for employment and enhances earnings of individuals ((Mincer 1958).”

   PIDS research experts said the role of agriculture and environment sectors in economic development has been placed in the backseat in favor of manufacturing and services.

   “More so is the importance of education and human resources development in the AFNR sea mctor itself,” said Roehlano M. Briones, PIDS senior research fellow.

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio

    Gregorio said reforming the agriculture curriculum in the country’s HEIs is critical in making labor competencies more relevant to  future job markets.

   Other members of the TPA from the academe are Dr. Candida Adalla and Dr. Domingo Angeles, former College of Agriculture deans from the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, and Dr. Danilo Abayon from Aklan State University. Representatives from the industry are Nikole Ma. Nimfa Alicer, farmer and founder of Kalipayan Farms. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

‘Knowledge economy’ pushed; harness ‘intellectual’ capital to boost food security, economic recovery from COVID 19

July 19, 2020

The government was urged to tap “intellectual capital” of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to boost food security and economic recovery by fostering a “knowledge economy” amid the COVID 19 crisis.

   An eight-point recommendation has been pushed by experts at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) who believe developed countries have put up incentives for a “knowledge economy” (KE). 

   This is to meet their people’s needs.  KE accelerates economic growth objectives.

   Top 10 countries in 2008 that have high knowledge economic index (KEI) based on a criteria of the World Bank Institute are Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. Philippines ranked 79.

   KEI measures the conduciveness of an environment to use knowledge for economic development.

   It maximizes use of human capital to enrich productivity and aid in food production and manufacturing and services industries.

   “A country like the Philippines needs an adequate cadre of researchers who appreciate the need to shorten the gap between research productivity and its translation to economic development,” according to “Food Security Amid the COVID 19 Pandemic” (FSACP).”

    “Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored.” 

   The FSACP recommendations are being pushed by Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, and Rico C. Ancog who is also with the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB).

  Their recommendation is for HEI’s human capital to contribute to the development of the following priority areas relevant to four pillars of food security:

  1. Food availability— (incomplete list) commercial and industrial farming, organic farming, Big Data system, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence; urban agriculture; integrated pest management; pest and disease control, nutrient-enrichment of food; biotechnology (genetically modified food production); 
  2. Access to food —Transport and logistics (to bring food from producer to consumers), use of online and internet based solution, automated weather stations (predicting weather for more stable food production);
  3. Stability of food supply—financial technologies; agricultural policies and regulations (e.g. a ban on GM food restrains food security); and GM food labelling
  4. Utilization of food for nutrition, health and safety—transboundary food quality standards, trade regulation and standards; responsible consumption, food quality and safety, and food technology for health and wellness; bioefficacy and bioavailableit of novel products, and pesticide use and regulations.
Key priority areas for “Knowledge Economy” enhancement in agriculture

   To foster this advanced KE economic phase, incentives must be given so that the intellectual capital in HEIs (faculty, researchers) can generate commercialization tools that will meet Filipinos’ imminent needs–food security, in particular, amid the pandemic.

   Many agencies considered HEIs are also administered by the government –State Universities and Colleges (SUC). These institutions offer not only college courses but master’s and Ph.D. As part of the academic activities, considered output in HEIs are researches.

   Now, such researches must not be done just for academic exercise.  But these should reach out to the needs of society— produce food, solve hunger and malnutrition, help farmers develop into profitable entrepreneurs.  

   While agriculture HEIs in the Philippines have long been established, these institutions need to partner with the government that provides policies and funding for initiatives in technologies. 

   And their partnership should be with the private sector which has know-how in sustaining economic activities through business and commercial tools.

    Agricultural researches should have a “reorientation as seen from business perspective

 to afford systemic change of the agriculture sector,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   These are among their eight-point recommendations under an Academe-Industry-Government (AIG) collaborative setup:

  1. Provide incentives so HEIs’ human capital will stimulate generation of more revenue-producing economic activities.  The incentives are to be given based on “profit” and four other P’s – people, partnerships, patents, and product.
  2. Re-orient HEIs’ human capital so that they will generate tools in commercialization used in businesses. These are  patents in technology (for instance, food and medicine products) and other intellectual property assets (utility model, trademarks—for instance, consumer health, cosmetics, and nutrition products). 

   HEI human capital’s  reorientation must also include expertise on technology transfer systems (business models) and technology business incubation (starting new businesses). 

   These incentives empower them to partner with venture capitalists, financiers, investors and investment houses that offer IPOs or initial public offerings, and startups/entrepreneurs so their technology will be sold to consumers or end users.

  • Provide HEIs’ human capital with all they need – grants, financial assistance, conducive policies for them to legally partner  with private companies, the industry, and all enterprise stakeholders.

   These partnerships should enable them to tap the entire “supply chain” – from production of goods and services, packaging, storage, distribution, logistics, marketing, and retailing to end consumers.

  • Provide HEI human capital all they need to produce innovative and technologically advanced goods and services.  Such production of innovative goods usually come from teams and partnerships of multi-discipline experts.  Such partnerships should be encouraged.

   “(We should) provide the enabling environment for faculty members and researchers to be encouraged in mutual-learning and co-learning through the establishment of multi-and interdisciplinary research laboratories, centers, and institutes,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   KEI of the World Bank Institute is based on 4 pillars:

  1. a regime that provides incentives for the use of knowledge and in enhancing entrepreneurship;
  2. an educated/skilled population that uses knowledge;
  3. an innovation system of “firms, research centers, universities, consultants that tap a stock of knowledge to meet people’s needs and create technology;” and
  4. use of information and communication technology to share and process information.

   KE, also called “post-industrial economy” and related to “information” and “digital” economy, is a migration from the agrarian age and manufacturing (industrial) and service phases of economic development. It taps not just the basic factors of production—labor, capital, land—but largely human intellectual capital.

  These are Gregorio-Ancog’s other suggested initiatives that should be under the Academe-Industry-Government collaborative projects:

  1. Resource sharing both in  human and financial capital to facilitate strengthened linkage between basic and applied researches with the industry needs.
  2. Designing and implementing digital agriculture infrastructure and open-systems innovation systems across the agricultural supply chains.

   “For universities and research organizations managing scientific journals, investment towards real-time online publications or advanced online publication is a must to be relevant in this time where researchers need to publish their research results as early as possible and make it readily accessible to all.”

   KE evolved from the tenets of economists particularly Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter who believe that competitive advantage lies in continual innovation arising from technical knowledge.  Usually referred to here are knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and relevant multi-disciplines practiced by biotechnologists, chemists, biologists, among others. 

   Models of knowledge economies prevail in “Silicon Valley in California; aerospace and automotive engineering in Munich, Germany; Biotechnology in Hyderabad, India; electronics and digital media in Seoul, South Korea; and petrochemical and energy industry in Brazil,” according to Sanna Ojanpera and co-authors of the “Engagement in the Knowledge Economy: Regional Patterns of Content Creation with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.”

   “The need to ensure that research efforts would have significant societal impacts is a philosophy that must be widely upheld. Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored so it can be customized to their specific needs,” said Gregorio and Ancog. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Small Mindanao vegetable farmers, Dong Lieu starch farmer- processors in Vietnam now ‘agricultural clustering’ success models

June 1, 2020

Small Mindanao vegetable farmers and the Dong Lieu cassava starch farmer-processors in Vietnam have levelled up to global competitiveness, being now success models of “agricultural clustering” and of achieving efficiencies through ‘economies of scale.’

   The Mindanao farmers have raised income by 47% after having been aided by a project of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) focused on organizing them to become somehow “big.”

Tomatoes yield higher through technologies obtained from agricultural clustering

   The Catholic Relief Services was also an institutional support.

   The Mindanao model, along with the Dong Lieu Root Crop Center (DLRCC-Vietnam) and the Malaysian Rice Cluster (MRC) are also now success models of the more profitable agricultural clustering.

  This was reported by think tank Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in a study authored by Dr. Glenn M. Gregorio and six researchers.

   “Small is beautiful.  But big is powerful,” said Gregorio, also SEARCA director.

   Upon having been organized, Mindanao farmers collectively raised their production for nine vegetables out of a total of 11 that they grow.

   The increased volume of produce was accompanied by an increase in value. 

   This is as the united group captured the market of institutional buyers— supermarkets, hotels, hospitals, restaurants, and fast food chains.

   Selling to these bigger customers became possible as the combined farmers had a bigger volume of produce.  This empowered them to negotiate for a higher price.

   They raised revenue from sweet pepper from (figures approximated) P27,000 when they were yet disorganized to P39,000 upon clustering; bitter gourd, from P5,100 to P13,000; squash, from P1,000 to P10,000; and eggplant, from P4,500 to P41,000.

   The other gainers were chayote, from P3,000 to P28,000; string beans, from P3,000 to P3,500; tomato, from 9,000 to P42,000; okra, and from 2,000 to 4,000.

   The winning was also true in terms of net income for each of the vegetables.  For  sweet pepper, bottomline recovered from a loss of (figures approximated) P11,000 to a positive earnings of P22,000; bitter gourd, from P2,000 to P9,000; squash, from a loss of P1,000 to a net income of P7,000. 

   For chayote, it was a leap of net gain from P1,000 to P27,000; string beans, from P1,000 to P2,000; tomato, from P4,000 to P24,000; and okra, from P500 to P2,000.

Clustered farmers are more productive, more powerful

   At the Dong Lieu Root Crop Processing Center in Vietnam, farmers succeeded as the cluster enabled them to produce h igher-valued, higher-priced cassava starch.     

   They used to just grow raw cassava and canna roots. Now they are not just farmers but food processors.

   “They extracted and processed the starch through grating, filtering, and sedimentation.  The  actors of the clusters extended from root crop producers, root crop traders, starch processors,” said SEARCA.

   Their association with each other empowered them to use technology in farming to produce bigger quantity of the root crops. 

   “It also introduced the use of equipment, such as mechanical filtration, root washer, water filters, and tiling of tank walls with ceramic tiles to improve quality. The diffusion of technology  were greatly influenced by the linkages built with local engineers.”

   The cluster became an organized group of not only farmers but root traders  (built links with cassava and canna production zones in other provinces; communal engineers (repaired old and built new machines); and residue collectors (collected root processing by-product from household processors).

   The other cluster players are fish/pig raisers (utilized by-product of residue collector in fish and pig production as feeds) and maltose processor  (purchased starch from household processors for maltose production.

   There are also candy manufacturer that make candy from maltose, starch refiners and traders, and canna noodle makers.

. In another success model, the Malaysian Rice Cluster  remained to be producers of the Asian staple— rice– before and after  organizing themselves.

   The difference that raised their productivity and competitiveness is knowledge transfer between farmers and the ability to produce more.  This was after having availed of credit from Agrobank.  They also received government subsidy.

      “(Knowledge transfer) pertains to  appropriate input use. Information was obtained through informal channels such as observation of good practices from neighboring farmers.  This also includes information about the prevailing market risk, source of inputs, and awareness of new technologies.”

   The Malaysian cluster was able to attract more winning stakeholders that support each other–  local enterprises and market, research and development agencies, financial institutions, government agencies, and other marketing firms.

   The success of these organized farmers were attributable to several factors, according to Gregorio and co-authors Rodolfo V. Vicerra, Rico C. Ancog, Nikka Marie P. Billedo,  Rebeka A. Paller, Ma. Christina G. Corales, and Imelda L. Batangantang.

   First, farmers were linked to each other.  They were able to share the same techniques and best practices in farming- exchanging innovation in production.

  Marketing-wise, they have been able to commit a fixed quantity and a level of quality of produce to institutional buyers that demand a bigger volume of quality supply.  Their ability to supply the quantity and quality enabled them to negotiate for the higher price.

   Small farms that are “clustered” to achieve economies of scale face vast economic opportunities from the globalized market—only if they are aided to organize.

   “There are 500 million small and medium farms worldwide, 87 percent of which are in Asia Pacific.  Majority  are in remote locations and are geographically dispersed, making it harder for them to access modern technology, services, and information. Their profit margin is negatively affected by the market intermediaries involved in the value chain who could take advantage of the farmers’ limited knowledge of the market.”

    “They face difficulty in entering bigger and overseas markets where they can sell their produce at a higher price.  They experience higher transaction costs due to changing preferences of the consumers, which resulted in different and new sets of standards and regulations set by larger firms. Smallholder farms lose competitiveness, relative to the commercial farms, due to difficulty in accessing financial institutions and modern innovations that would help boost their productivity.” Melody Mendoza Aguiba

COVID 19 to reduce agricultural production in Southeast Asia (MT) by 3.11%, 100.77 million farmers affected

May 21, 2020

COVID 19 is foreseen to substantially reduce by a significant 3.11% the volume of agriculture output in Southeast Asia (at 17.03 million metric tons or MT) for the first quarter of 2020 as a result of a decrease in farm labor affecting 100.77 million farmers. 

   This loss is equivalent to $3.76 billion or 1.4% in gross domestic product (GDP) for the Southeast Asian region, according to the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

   In a policy paper, “Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Agriculture Production  in Southeast Asia: Reinforcing Transformative Change in Agricultural Food Systems,” SEARCA asserts that a unique balance must be achieved among Southeast Asian countries on two important goals—trade and food security. 

   It is understandable that countries would first think of its own food security before others. But a
“collective” enhancement of capacities leading to higher agricultural productivity is crucial.  It will benefit all ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, the paper of Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director and Rico C. Ancog suggested.

   “While most of the efforts are targeted within a country, it would be critical that policies supporting trade in ASEAN must be strengthened to simultaneously support productive and inclusive agricultural systems that ensure food security in the region.”

   As COVID 19 has become a universal problem in ASEAN that requires a region-wide approach, more collaborations may be done via the platform of the ASEAN Economic Cooperation (AEC).

   Factors and actions that block more open trade flows and enhanced partnerships must be controlled.

   “Effective coordination mechanisms among countries to reduce trade and food insecurities both at the national and regional levels in the long-term must be continuously pursued.” Further studies are recommended on this collaboration.

   Agri-entrepreneurship, rather than considering farming as a mere job, must be supported through policies at the domestic fronts. 

Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Agriculture Production in Southeast Asia

   That would need to train and mentor significant number of a new breed of farmer-entrepreneurs, given that the average age of traditional farmers in the Philippines is 57-year old. It should include the youth, and especially women who usually take the the lead in a family’s food and nutrition aspects.

   In light of ongoing pandemic, this also urgently calls for a food policy on immune system-boosting, and the need for a COVID 19-controlling nutritional food orientation.

   “At the individual and household levels, information related to healthy diets and lifestyles, agricultural produce that are nutritious and rich in micronutrients, food preparation and preservation techniques, as well as waste management strategies must be made accessible.”

   Obviously, critical in this “transformative” food security policy is financing.

   Newbies in agriculture will be afraid to try a new business, risk-laden at that due to its vulnerability to changing climate.

   “As risks and uncertainties arise related to price volatilities, inclement weather, and climate-change related hazards that characterize farm production systems, there is a need to support (studies on) design of financial technologies for farmers,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   That finance access includes more inclusive loans and and accessible insurance to assure farmers a reserve capital to start planting anew when calamities like typhoon strikes.

   Such innovative system of financial technologies need to be brain-stormed so that wider participation could be ensured

   The purpose is also to make financing of agricultural activities benefit a significantly larger scale of population.  This is to include middle class in urban areas that may engage in urban farming and more especially resource-poor communities in rural areas.

   Agriculture remains a major job-generating sector in ASEAN with 31% of combined population employed in agriculture.

   This is antithetical as the sector’s contribution to GDP has been decreasing.

   “Except for Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam, at least 23% of total labor force of each of ASEAN countries has agriculture as its main source  of livelihood, and as high as 62% in the case of Lao PDR.”

   Regrettably, this is the sector where the poorest people and income inequality among the population in Southeast Asia are found.

  For a five-year period from 2015 to 2019, SEARCA noted 36 million people live below the international poverty line of $1.9 (approximately P100) per day.

   Poverty among farmers is blamed on many factors—“small farm holdings; problematic land and tenurial systems; limited availability of high quality seeds; pests and diseases; constrained access to farm inputs, irrigation, and recommended agricultural practices; weather and climatic hazards; environmental degradation; absence of sufficient safety nets and financial support; and lack of strong market institutions.”

    That poverty among farmers is not without severe consequences to food security and nutritional status of the region’s population.

   The COVID 19 lockdown, along with the poverty factors just cited, is further draining the number of agricultural labor force, dragging GDP lower.

   The COVID-19 constraints on transportation and people’s movement results in a 1.4% decrease in labor supply (International Policy Research Institute or IFPRI).

   “This decrease in GDP could mean more families being pushed below the poverty line. Poverty impacts in Southeast Asia could push an additional 14.68 million families to live below the $1.90 a day threshold thereby straining the region’s ability to meet its poverty eradication targets per Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030 .”

  Moreover, as of 2019, there were 81.7 million undernourished population in South East Asia. The Philippines itself has critical undernourishment level – at around 15% of population as of 2017, placing third next to the most undernourished countries in ASEAN (Lao PDR and Cambodia).

   Nevertheless, the following transformations, among other recommendations, are reinforced to radically improve agriculture sector’s role in socio-economic development and in addressing poverty:

1.       Changing a mindset that “agriculture is mere production” into “agriculture is sustainable agribusiness.”

2.      Rather than thinking agriculture is highly dependent on government, a strong collaboration between private enterprises, the academe which is the center of innovation and technology, and government should be nurtured.  Here, government strengthens its role as an “enabler”.

3.      Value chain thinking (maximizing profit from producing just raw materials or value added products) is upgraded into “ecosystem thinking.”  Consumers’ or market needs are the central consideration in value adding and production.  Convenience and cost efficiency are achieved through digital transformations.

   “Consumers are now becoming more aware of the intricate link between what they have on their plates and the quantity and quality of farm production.  This could be capitalized to encourage more programs and budget allocation from governments as well as private initiatives related to agriculture, such as farm-based small-and-medium enterprises.” Melody Mendoza Aguiba

“Rethink” agriculture interventions as COVID-19 lockdown reduces number of farmers, their income, and GDP – SEARCA chief

 May 8, 2020

The government should “rethink” interventions in agriculture as the COVID-19 lockdown has further cut number of farmers and their income,  —resulting in depressed demand for goods, food insecurity, and declining Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

   Onto the second month of the lockdown, a decline in Philippines’ agricultural production is being placed at 2.97% due to a decrease in the number of farmers tilling the land.

   “Due to lockdown, mobility restrictions result to quantity reduction in farm labor.  If it continues longer, this would translate to reduction in agriculture productivity,” according to Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

   “The loss of income and economic slowdown would also result in decrease in demand, particularly among the farmers and farming families with no safety nets,” said the SEARCA chief over SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagements (SOLVE) webinar on food security.

   The downturn in agricultural production is worsened by farmers’ limited access to farm inputs and markets to sell produce. 

   This has already resulted in profit losses and wastage of farm produce such as that in vegetable capital Benguet.

   Finally, the decrease in labor productivity due to COVID-19 could translate in reduction in GDP among ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries.

   Reduction in GDP due to farm labor productivity decline is placed at 1.4% (although this decline may be applied on most ASEAN countries affected by COVID-19).

Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA chief, suggests an intensive collaborative approach to solving food security problems.

   Gregorio suggested a more collaborative approach in solving the food security problem.

   Collaboration should be intensified between government, industries, and the academe—the center and origin of many innovations and technology.

   “Our experience with COVID-19 highlights the importance of how we define food security. This becomes the basis of how we design programs and projects,” Gregorio stressed.

  Gregorio added that what is positive about the crisis from the pandemic is the increasing support of consumers as a result of their understanding between “what is on their plate and agriculture.”

   This is what government should capitalize on.

   Consumers have realized during the COVID-19 lockdown that if they do not support Filipino farmers and the farm sector, they will have nothing to eat—not the ideal nutritious kind everyone desires.

   Now everyone wants to turn to farming.

   “The agriculture sector could capitalize on this increasing support to identify several investments needed to strengthen the agriculture systems as food systems,” he said.

Massive Rice Imports

   An example may be on rice policy. 

   In the past, government has been threatened by imminent consumer protests against any high price in the staple.  Rice has become a political issue that compels government to come up with a food security policy with the fear that rice rationing may destabilize government; hence the massive rice importation.

   However, the liberalized rice importation has been pushing down local palay price.  If not complemented with appropriate safety nets program, this could send vulnerable farmers to avoidable poverty.  

   With present consumer support, government must expedite implementing more programs that also prioritize raising farmers’ income. 

   Reforms may zero in on producing value-added farm goods or consumer-demanded finished products.

Food security laggard

   As of 2019, the Philippines stood as one of the laggards in Global Food Security Index (GFSI) in ASEAN.  It placed fourth from bottom at around 60 points. 

   Other laggards are Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Myanmar which placed first to third from bottom.

   Those faring higher in GFSI among ASEAN countries are Singapore at  87.4 which was  reported by the GFSI March 2020 to be the most food secure in the world. 

   It was followed by Malaysia (73.8), Thailand (65.1), Vietnam and Indonesia (both 63 to 65).

   GFSI is a widely accepted metric in measuring food security based on food availability and affordability.

   While food availability and food affordability are two concerns, an underrated issue is nutritional security.

   It is a critical concern as Philippines was recorded to already have serious undernourishment level at around 15% of population as of 2017, making it the third most undernourished ASEAN country.

   “The highest prevalence of undernourishment (2017) in terms of percentage of the total population of a country was noted in Laos PDR (16.5%) and Cambodia (16.4%).Clearly, agriculture must not just aim for increased food production but also to improve the nutritional status of the population,” said Gregorio.

Five-Year Plan

   SEARCA under its 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) named these agenda  on Agriculture 4.0 which is a  concept of the future of agriculture focusing on use of technology for business efficiency.

    One is Open Innovation and Agri-Incubation. This entails partnering with the players and actors of the innovation community such as incubator houses, venture capital funders, universities, research institutions, as well as startups, small and medium enterprises, and corporations could support the goal of SEARCA.

  “While most startups are focused on developing digital technologies, incubators, and start-ups focused on Agriculture Research and Development technologies do not appear as popular in Southeast Asia,” said a SEARCA report.

Also on SEARCA’s agenda is Knowledge and Technology Transfer through an INtellecual Property Policy.

   SEARCA will also work with industry partners to implement Grants for Research Towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS) through four mechanisms: 1) Graduate Research with an Industry Partner, 2) Call for Research Proposals Based on Industry Need, 3) Engaging the Industry and the Youth in Promoting Agriculture and Rural Development, and 4) Academe-Industry-Government Interconnectivity.    

   Echoing the United Nations, Gregorio said food security is the combination of three elements:

   First is food availability which means food  must be available in sufficient quantities and on a consistent basis. It considers stock and production in a given area and the capacity to bring in food from elsewhere, through trade or aid. 

   Second is  food access  which means people must be able to regularly acquire adequate quantities of food, through purchase, home production, barter, gifts, borrowing or food aid.

   Third is food utilization which means consumed food must have a positive nutritional impact on people. It entails cooking, storage and hygiene practices, individuals ‘health, water and sanitation, feeding and sharing practices within the household.

  “Food stability has been added as a fourth pillar especially in consideration of the inherent exposure of Southeast Asia to weather and climate change-related hazards,” Gregorio said. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Agri digitalization, e-agriculture, e-Kadiwa pushed as COVID-19 threatens food security, drags down farmers’ income

April 29, 2020

A new approach on digitalization, e-Agriculture and e-Kadiwa is being pushed by government and agriculture institutions as the global COVID-19 lockdown has threatened food security, dragging down farmers’ income.

   The Department of Agriculture (DA) will partner with Grab and other enterprises with online-driven platform in doing business as part of speeding up movement of food and agricultural products from provinces to consumers. 

   DA Secretary William D. Dar said this Tuesday in a webinar hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

   The three types of Kadiwa will all be technology-steered as delivery of goods is now available to consumers online through Grab, among others, and will just be expanded via “Kadiwa Express,” Dar said.

   The Kadiwa Express will use cloud and other information systems in tracking goods—possibly including RFID  (radio frequency identification)  that can monitor where goods are located while in transit or where the blockade in their transport happens.

   The “Kadiwa on Wheels” may similarly be able to track where the goods are needed and may become venues for consumers to buy food direct from farm producers.

   The “e Kadiwa” may enable consumers to order agricultural goods at their fingertips (cellphones and portable devices).

   Such digitalization will make food not only more available but affordable.

   The lockdown due to COVID-19 restricted delivery of food and agricultural goods, sending much volume to waste.  Worse, consumers suffer from higher prices due to supply logistics bottlenecks.

   “Because of COVID-19, food affordability, not only availability, becomes critical.  The threat (food affordability) is as real as hunger itself.  If the supply chain is disrupted, food produced in rural areas just go to waste,” said Dar.

   “Price stability, price affordability, is key to grow the economy.  We need to promote  digitalization of agriculture even in marketing.”

   SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said during the SEARCA webinar that despite the odds due to the global pandemic, the COVID-19 lockdown has opened opportunities for urban agriculture. 

   It is further opening up the agriculture environment to the envisioned Agriculture 4.0 which SEARCA plans to pursue under the11th Five Year Plan (FYP).

   Agriculture 4.0 is  a concept of the future of agriculture focusing on the use of big data, Internet of Things (IoT), precision farming, and disruptive agriculture for increased business efficiency (Proagrica). 

   It is unfortunate that COVID-19 has not only raised food price but also threatened nutritional security for Filipino consumers, said Gregorio.

  This becomes a critical concern as the Philippines was recorded to already have serious undernourishment level – at around 15% of population as of 2017, placing third after Cambodia (21%) and Laos (20%).

   Nevertheless, the global health crisis brings about  a change in perspective of consumers.  They have now become interested in urban agriculture—even producing their own food from their backyards—no matter how small.

   “Now everyone is interested in agriculture.  Consumers now appreciate the (connection between) the quality of food on their table and agriculture,” Gregorio said.

   The “new normal” where people are encouraged to “work from home” has prompted SEARCA to exercise its strength in conducting forums—even involving a large audience—via digital means.

   This in order to harness and distribute learning and knowledge in agriculture where SEARCA has expertise to benefit a greater number, not only farmers but also consumers and the economy.

   SEARCA, along with its partners, facilitates the distribution of high-quality seeds to not only provincial but city dwellers interested in urban farming. 

   SEARCA will beef up the supply of seeds of the DA and its attached agency Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).

   The quality of seeds, Gregorio said, is the foundation of good soil cultivation and farming.

   BPI Assistant Director Gerald Glenn F. Panganiban said that since the COVID-19 lockdown started in mid-March, BPI has been flooded with calls from people requesting seeds and inquiring on urban farming.

   “We have never received more calls at BPI than what we receive now daily,” said Panganiban who also confesses to receiving a huge volume of email from interested urban farmers.

   Garry Hidalgo, Farmers’ Factory general manager, said in the same SEARCA webinar that no matter how small residences are, city dwellers are likely to find a space for urban farming. 

   He is in this webinar series to give tips on urban farming—including the use of portable or used containers as pot materials. Containers may be positioned anywhere in the house or even hung in windows and walls. 

   Dar said government eyes 10 to 15 percent of the area of Metro Manila for urban farming—beefing up  food security level in the National Capital Region.

   DA has started distributing seeds to the cities through local government units (LGU).  It has so far partnered with the LGUs of Quezon City and Manila on this project.

   DA is adopting new strategies for raising the country’s food security level which include the following plans:

1.       Lending via the Sure Aid program not only to individual farmers but to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) at P10 million per SME payable in 5 years at 0 interest.

2.      Promotion of Small Brother Big Brother program that raises farmers’ cooperatives’ participation in value adding and export of agricultural goods. This is by tying them up with bigger companies that can enter contract growing agreements with cooperatives.  Economies of scale will drive private sector to invest more in agriculture.

3.      Training of young farm entrepreneurs and young farm technicians who will monitor and implement agricultural projects (teaching farmers proper fertilization).  DA will provide grant and startup fund for agri-entrepreneurship.

4.      Development of infrastructure—roads food terminals, irrigation, rain water harvesters.

5.      Supporting a “whole of nation” approach to making sure farmers in farflung rural areas have access to internet and technology through partnerships with the Department of Information and Communications Technology  (DICT).  Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Food security solution through “urban agriculture” seen as a “new normal” in a digital brainstorming webinar of SEARCA

April 27, 2020      

Agriculture experts are stirring interest in urban agriculture as a proposed “new normal” as an alternative food security solution in urban areas and will be the maiden subject at SEARCA’s digital brainstorming webinar.

   To be held on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 10am via Zoom, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) envisions to widen citizens’ participation in solving an impending food security problem in urban areas.

    The inaugural run of SEARCA’s SOLVE  (SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement) tackles food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
   As many parts of the world remain in lockdown due to COVID 19,  SEARCA brings discussions direct to its stakeholders and the general public via Zoom: or FB

  “SOLVE IS SEARCA’s own way of channeling proven and tested solutions to a number of  problems in agriculture sector and farm operations,” said SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio

   “Solutions to these problems actually abound so we are offering SEARCA as a gateway for these information to be made more accessible to farmers, farming families, and farmer organizations.”

   Dr. William T. Dar, Agriculture secretary, will elaborate on the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program as an extensive food problem solution even in farflung rural areas. .

   To provide concrete examples of what can be done at the farm level, Garry A. Hidalgo, general manager of Farmers’ Factory, will share specific urban agriculture approaches like containerized and modular farming strategies.

   The “new normal” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic has firmed up SEARCA’s resolve to embark on new modalities and use technology-mediated platforms of interactions to effectively deliver valuable services to its stakeholders– farmers and the public.

   Gregorio himself will give a talk on  “Rethinking food security, Sowing seeds of curiosity: What, Where and How for the Philippines and Southeast Asia.”

   SOLVE will highlight concrete actions in the production, processing, marketing, retail, consumption of agricultural goods.

   “SEARCA will use its SOLVE webinar series as a venue to expound on the importance of transformational change to systemically revitalize agricultural systems and strengthen food systems,” said Gregorio. Melody Mendoza Aguiba