LOS BAÑOS, Philippines—The University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) organized a day-long meeting with international agricultural research centers on June 20 to explore opportunities for collaborative research, and enhance the international scope and quality of its education, research, and public service programs.
“The University of the Philippines System (UPS) wants to produce output that will benefit the most number of people not only in our country but also across the globe,” said UPLB Chancellor Dr. Fernando Sanchez, Jr. “The UPS, being the country’s premier university system, has much to offer. Our collective expertise could be of global service if we could establish international linkages with the appropriate organizations such as international agricultural research centers under the CGIAR.”
The meeting kicked off a process where UPLB and the CGIAR centers will explore areas of partnership toward shared scientific and educational goals. The CGIAR centers represented at the meeting included the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Potato Center (CIP), WorldFish Center, and Bioversity International.
Center representatives presented overviews of their respective organizations during the meeting. Dr. Dindo Campilan, CIAT Asia regional director, noted the timeliness of the discussion on an expanding collaboration with UPLB and the rest of the Philippines. Although cassava and climate change are the primary focus of CIAT’s work in the country, he proposed several other potential areas of collaboration across UPLB’s colleges.
Dr. Rodel Lasco, coordinator of ICRAF in the country, outlined some projects related to watersheds and sloping lands in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. He also mentioned conservation agriculture, helping smallholder upland farmers, and climate adaptation work as the Philippines is highly vulnerable to typhoons and other disasters. He also introduced Dr. Ingrid Oborn, the new regional coordinator of ICRAF for Southeast Asia.
Ms. Jules Mateo, representing the acting director for East and Southeast Asia of ILRI, reported that ILRI had been doing exploratory research related to pig value chain and safety in the Philippines. At the same time, ILRI is developing postgraduate scholarships with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture. The Philippine Carabao Center also expressed its interest in ILRI’s dairy and buffalo research in Vietnam.
The importance of potatoes and sweet potatoes to nutrition and food security of smallholder farmers worldwide was underscored by Dr. Jim Gradoville, CIP deputy director in China and operational leader for the CIP Southeast Asia team. He discussed FoodSTART, a major program of CIP in the country that aims to reduce food vulnerability through a systems research approach for farmers in upland and coastal areas.
Dr. Nigel Preston, director general of the WorldFish Center, presented best bets for aquaculture and fisheries in the Philippines. He recommended establishing centers of fish disease control, especially for Genetically Improved Farmed Tilapia (GIFT), which started its program in the Philippines in 1997. He also expressed the need to continually support GIFT, in addition to making the shrimp farming industry globally competitive again. This, he said, would be achieved by paying attention to the quality of feeds and breeds. He also discussed a fish-attracting device they developed in Timor Leste that they hope to bring into the Philippines in the future.
Bananas are another important industry in the Philippines as pointed out by Dr. Agustin Molina, Jr., regional coordinator of Bioversity International. The center is involved in several linkages related to capacity building with UPLB; banana germplasm conservation with the Institute of Plant Breeding; and pest and disease control, among other initiatives, with various partners in the national agricultural research and extension system.
IRRI’s Dr. Bas Bouman presented an overview of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) with over 900 R&D partners worldwide. Meanwhile, Dr. Madonna Casimero, also from IRRI, discussed the seven projects of the institute with the Department of Agriculture (DA) under the country’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program.
Opportunities for collaboration with the UPLB College of Agriculture with IRRI, Bureau of Agricultural Research (DA-BAR), the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) were identified. These included grain quality and food safety, gene editing tools, guidelines for annual research visitation, capacity building, development work, system productivity, big data analytics on systems productivity, policy studies, needs analysis, communication, and production of information materials.
“Here we have an opportunity, particularly in the Philippines, where we can bring expertise and resources together so that the country’s agenda for research and agricultural development can be really implemented,” said Dr. Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at IRRI. “We’re glad that we have an opportunity to come together and really discuss our shared goals through. I really hope that in the follow-up, we can really come up with concrete activities, which we can do together to meet the goals of the UPLB Chancellor and the UP President.”
Aside from the UPLB Chancellor, key officials of UPLB at the meeting included Dr. Rex Demafelis, vice chancellor for research and extension; Dr. Simplicio Medina, director, Office of Institutional Linkages; and Dr. Enrico Supangco, dean, College of Agriculture, including deans of more than 10 other colleges. More than 70 participants from UPLB, DA-BAR, PhilRice, and DOST-PCAARRD also joined the meeting.