The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has launched three new publications documenting experiences and outcomes of its sustainable agriculture and rural development initiatives.
One of the new books is titled “Championing Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development in Southeast Asia: SEARCA’s 10th Five-Year Plan Plus One in Retrospect.” The plan is SEARCA’s development agenda carried out from 2014 to 2020 that was anchored on Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (ISARD).
“Designed to respond to the needs of the Southeast Asian region at the time, ISARD tackled social inclusion, environmental sustainability, regional and sub-regional cooperation, and institutions and governance,” said SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio.
He said launching the retrospect book is a “celebration of the success and legacy of SEARCA’s 10th Five-Year Plan.”
Former SEARCA Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., who led the implementation of the plan, explained that ISARD was articulated through programs and projects on agricultural value chains and agribusiness commodity systems, food and nutrition security, productivity enhancing innovations and technologies, climate change adaptation and resiliency, natural resource management, sub-regional cooperation in trade and investment, and policy reforms and institutional innovations.
Dr. Saguiguit added that SEARCA implemented a flagship project on ISARD that “established pilot sites in strategic locations in the Philippines to prove that ISARD principles and practices could truly spur agricultural and rural development and make a difference in the lives of the target communities.”
The Victoria, Oriental Mindoro project site focused on revitalizing the then faltering calamansi industry of the town, while the site in Inopacan, Leyte focused on jackfruit, banana, and tilapia enterprises development. The common vital denominator of the ISARD models for both project sites was the strengthened linkage among farmers, the local and national governments, the academe, and the industry sector.
The other two new publications are offshoots of the SEARCA ISARD flagship project. One is a guidebook on “SEED: Scaling and Expanding for Effective Development,” which illustrates the step-by-step process for setting up models of ISARD. The other is a volume titled “The Learning Organization: Group Dynamics, Institutional Linkages toward Technology Adoption, Value-Adding Innovation, and Sustainability,” which chronicles the ISARD pilot sites transformation stories.
The SEED guidebook was developed as a reference on the learnings from the Oriental Mindoro and Leyte ISARD pilot sites, which are envisioned to be replicated in other Southeast Asian countries. It presents principles, concepts, and applications for the generation, processing, packaging, and sharing of local and science-based knowledge used in the ISARD project.
The project was carried out in partnership with Visayas State University (VSU), Mindoro State University (then known as Mindoro State College of Agriculture and Technology), and the municipal governments of Victoria, Oriental Mindoro and Inopacan, Leyte.
The sustainability strategy of combining the strengths of the academe as source of experts and technologies, and the local governments as provider of public goods and extension services espoused by the ISARD project is highlighted in the guidebook. It shares the actual templates, tools, and formats used in implementing the ISARD project. As such, the guidebook will serve as a reference for the academe, local governments, farmer organizations, and development institutions in replicating or scaling up the ISARD model across different crops and commodities in various geographical contexts.
On the other hand, the book on “The Learning Organization” presents case studies that show the importance of group dynamics in technical assistance, capacity building, knowledge management, and linkaging and networking. The Oriental Mindoro and Leyte pilot sites served as the natural setting for a social laboratory analyzed in depth in the case studies.
Dr. Jose Bacusmo, former VSU president, who led the ISARD pilot project in Leyte, attested to the effectiveness of the ISARD model based on experience in developing various enterprises in the project site.
“Following the ISARD model improved production and income. I recommend it to local governments and state universities and colleges,” affirmed Dr. Bacusmo.
Meanwhile, Ruel Sanchez, president of the Victoria Kalamansi Farmers Federation, said ISARD became a “platform to revitalize the calamansi industry not only in Victoria, but also in the whole province of Oriental Mindoro.”
He recalled how, before the ISARD project intervention, calamansi farmers would throw away their harvest during peak season because of the low market price. He said through ISARD, “enhanced linkages and value-adding technologies improved the income of calamansi farmers and attracted investors.”
Sanchez added that the processing plant established by their federation during the ISARD implementation is thriving and widened the group’s industry network. It paved the way for new projects, post-ISARD, from various sectors interested to partner with the farmer federation.
In view of the ISARD collaborators’ testimonials, Dr. Gregorio affirmed that SEARCA’s partners are “indeed important to support leaders and the academe-industry-government interconnectivity for the sustainability of transformation we want to happen.”