Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture
|Motto||"Science and Education for Agriculture and Development"|
|Formation||27 November 1966|
|Type||Non-profit research and training center|
|Purpose||Research and Training|
|Headquarters||Los Baños, Laguna|
|Region served||Southeast Asia|
|Main organ||Governing Board|
|Parent organization||Southeast Asian Minister of Education Organization SEAMEO|
SEARCA or the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture is the firstborn among the 21 regional centers of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). Founded on 27 November 1966, SEARCA is mandated to strengthen institutional capacities in agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia through its core programs on graduate scholarship, research and development, and knowledge management. These programs are anchored on SEARCA twin priority thrusts of agricultural competitiveness and natural resource management.
SEARCA serves the 11 SEAMEO member countries, namely: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Timor-Leste. The Center is hosted by the Government of the Philippines on the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) in Laguna, Philippines.
Agriculture has always been a centerpiece of national development programs of developing countries in Southeast Asia. However, rapid population growth, food insecurity, and widespread poverty -- exacerbated by a host of environmental issues -- continue to hound the region, and significantly impede efforts toward agricultural development.
Against this backdrop, there came a realization that Southeast Asia is in dire need of highly trained professionals who will provide leadership in advancing agricultural and rural development and generating new knowledge and technologies through research.
In November 1965, the education ministers of Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, together with a representative from the government of the United States, convened to explore opportunities for regional cooperation in education, science, and culture. This meeting formed an interim Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Secretariat (SEAMES) which drew up a discussion paper detailing the region's priority projects from which third in list is the idea of instituting a center for graduate study and research in agriculture.
Having established its reputation as a premier agricultural university in the region, the then University of the Philippines College of Agriculture (UPCA) was considered as an ideal home for the envisaged regional center for agriculture. Dr. Dioscoro L. Umali, then Dean of UPCA, immediately called a select few of his colleagues to draft a position paper proposing the use of existing resources for the project instead of establishing a new institution from scratch.
By 1966, the Philippine delegation submitted the proposal to the SEAMES Technical Workshop held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A Task Force was consequently formed to thoroughly evaluate the feasibility of instituting the center and the probable institution that can serve as its home. It was also tasked to recommend a framework for the operation of the institution.
The Second Conference of SEAMES held in Manila and Quezon City witnessed how the Philippine delegation led by Dr. Gil F. Saguiguit, Sr., Dr. Dioscoro L. Umali, and Mr. Onofre D. Corpuz reworked the report to propose and develop a plan for grafting the proposed institute to the UPCA. Their efforts paid off as the proposal was approved on November 30, 1966 and the institute was officially named the "Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)."
Just a few years shy of its 50th founding anniversary, SEARCA continues to carry out its mandate to strengthen capacities of institutions working toward agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia through its core programs on graduate scholarship, research and development, and knowledge management.
SEARCA awards graduate scholarships to deserving Southeast Asian nationals who wish to pursue graduate programs in agriculture, forestry, and related fields. Scholars may opt to study at the Institut Pertanian Bogor or Universitas Gadjah Mada both in Indonesia; Universiti Putra Malaysia in Malaysia; Kasetsart University in Thailand; UP Los Baños, UP Diliman, and UP Visayas, all in the Philippines, or at a university that has institutional arrangement with SEARCA.
Since school year 1968-1969, SEARCA has awarded a total of 1,522 scholarships, of which 1,307 (771 MS, 536 PhD) had been completed (as of 30 June 2013).
SEARCA also administers scholarships for sandwich programs of graduate students and academic bridging programs.
The SEARCA Professorial Chair Program has evolved since 1974 to benefit outstanding Southeast Asian experts in the academe recognized for their excellence in teaching and research.
Moreover, SEARCA serves as the Secretariat of the Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC), which it initiated in 1989. Today, the UC links strong universities in Southeast Asia, Canada, and Japan.
Research and Development
SEARCA’s research and development programs are geared towards articulating policy direction and building institutional capacities that would lead to a highly viable agriculture sector while addressing emergent environmental concerns. Anchored on its thrusts on agricultural competitiveness and natural resource management, the Center's research initiatives are of regional relevance and are related to agricultural development, food security, and poverty reduction.
SEARCA also offers Seed Fund for Research and Training (SFRT) for researchers who wish to conduct promising research and training to promote development but have limited start up funds.
Southeast Asian professionals and social scientists working in agriculture and related fields may also avail of SEARCA Travel Grants to enable them to present scientific papers in international conferences or local forums.
Newly finished SEARCA scholars may also apply for a re-entry grant for a research proposal that they will undertake upon return to their home institution to ensure that immediate impact of SEARCA's capacity-building program.
SEARCA supports the continuous learning, knowledge sharing and use of decision makers, leaders, scholars, researchers, and key actors in agricultural and rural development through learning forums, seminars, trainings, and publications. In addition to books, monographs, discussion paper series, and policy briefs, SEARCA also publishes the Asian Journal of Agricultural Development (AJAD) and the Southeast Asian Agriculture and Development Primer Series.
Its training courses serve as SEARCA’s fast lane to developing the capacities of Southeast Asian nationals and institutions. SEARCA also maintains two virtual knowledge centers: Biotechnology Information Center (BIC) and the Knowledge Center on Climate Change (KC3).
With KC3, SEARCA serves as the subregional node for agriculture of the Asia Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN), a regional initiative under the Global Adaptation Network (GAN) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Project Development and Management
In support of its core programs, the Center's Project Development and Management Department (ProDev) facilitates the development flagship programs and special projects that promotes cross-cutting thrusts and core programs for greater impact along SEARCA's strategic framework. Through its Project Development and Management Program, SEARCA offers technical services to governments of SEAMEO-member countries and other international development organizations to implement high-impact projects on agricultural and rural development.
SEARCA specializes in projects on agricultural growth, rural income growth and poverty alleviation, agricultural trade and competitiveness, natural resource management, technology development and commercialization, local governance, and higher education.