The meeting was attended by representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and international organizations, which include the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), SEARCA, SEAMEO Regional Center for Tropical Biology (BIOTROP), World Agroforestry Centre, ASEAN Working Group for Agricultural Training and Education (AWGATE), Higher Education for Sustainable Agriculture (HESA), and Food Systems in Southeast Asia Project.
During the meeting, Dr. Ir. Siti Amana, Senior Lecturer at the IPB Faculty of Human Ecology of the Department of Communication and Community Development, discussed the academic programs and extension services of IPB, including its international cooperation with various development partners. IPB is a member of the Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC) initiated by SEARCA. SEARCA serves as Secretariat to the UC.
Dr. Virginia R. Cardenas, Regional Coordinator of Asia Pacific Islands Regional Advisory Services (APIRAS), provided a briefing on the global network for rural advisory services with sub-networks in Europe, America, Australia, Asia-Pacific, South Asia, Pacific Islands, and Mekong sub-regions, among others. APIRAS is coordinated by the Global Forum on Rural Advisory Services (GRFAS). Dr. Cardenas traced back the organization of APIRAS on 11 September 2011 at SEARCA’s headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines. With the extensive network of rural advisory services, Dr. Cardenas proposes a possibility of organizing a network for Southeast Asia.
According to Dr. Cardenas, APIRAS and the global rural advisory services network felt the need for “a new extension and new extensionist” to better contribute to agricultural productivity and livelihood of smallholder farmers. The network has developed the Training Module for New Extension to develop a cadre of new extensionists who shall have expanded role and skills to effectively impart technological advances and innovations in agricultural systems.
Dr. Lope B. Santos III, SEARCA Unit Head for Project Development and Technical Services (PDTS), represented Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr., SEARCA Director, in the meeting. Dr. Santos provided a briefing on the project titled “Supporting Smallholder Farmers in Asia and Pacific Islands Region through Strengthened Agricultural Advisory Services (SAAS),” a partnership project of SEARCA, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and APIRAS. He also discussed the project goals, objectives outcomes, and activities, and emphasized the importance of a rural advisory services as well as engagement and support to ASEAN and development partners in policy development, programs, and projects in agricultural and rural development in the region.
After discussion and clarifications on the network creation and management, the participants of the meeting agreed to establish a regional network. To formalize the network, a working paper shall be drafted by the working committee which is headed by Dr. Ir. Siti Amana of IPB. Other members of the working committee include Dr. Abdul Latiff Ahmad, Director of International Relations Center of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM); Ms. Lanie Eugenia, General Secretary of Indonesian Women Farmer and Rural Women Organization; Mr. Endri Martini, Agroforestry Extension Specialist of World Agroforestry Centre; Dr. Ir. Ranny Mutiara Chairdirsyah of the Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia; Dr. Budi Guntoro, who is a SEARCA alumnus and Vice Dean for Academic and Student Affairs of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM); Dr. Jesus C. Fernandez, SEAMEO BIOTROP Deputy Director; and Dr. Lope B. Santos III of SEARCA.
Dr. Filma Calalo, a faculty member of the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Public Affairs and Development (CPAf) and an officer of APIRAS, served as Coordinator of this regional meeting.