Los Baños, Philippines – In a shared pledge to ensure food security and strengthen cooperation in agricultural development across the region, ASEAN ministers and senior agriculture officials voiced their unequivocal support for the Agriculture Innovation and R&D Fund (AIRDF) last September 12 at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines.
The AIRDF is designed to provide scholarships to selected young individuals who wish to pursue a career in the agricultural sciences, as long as they are admitted to the university of their choice.
“So their studies would be about rice or the priorities of ASEAN countries in agricultural development,”said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships of IRRI. “It’s a very competitive scholarship.” he said.
Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general, explained that one of the objectives of the AIRDF trust fund is to help finance in a sustainable way the next generation of rice scientists.
He said that rice farming for the next generation will be very different from that of today. “I talked about technology that is available or becoming available, but it will be impossible for us to use that technology without a trained scientific core,” he said.
Philippine Secretary of Agriculture Proceso Alcala said that he is in support of putting AIRDF into operation and has, in fact, already allocated a certain amount, which they will be defending in front of congress next year.
“Without science, without research, without fresh minds and people in any endeavor in the government and industry, we are bound to fail,” he noted.
Undoubtedly, “capacity building remains crucial to the success of any development endeavor despite how rich a country is endowed with natural resources or science and technology,” said His Excellency U Myint Hlaing, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation of Myanmar.
He urged all member-states to closely cooperate with IRRI to help shift farming from a livelihood associated with poverty to that of prosperity.
Participants to the AIRDF discussion included high-ranking officials and heads of delegations from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The pledges to support AIRDF come at a significant moment, alongside the 37th meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF), in addition to the 15th AMAF Plus Three Meetings with China, Japan, and South Korea hosted this year by the Philippines.
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