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October-December 2013 Issue (Vol. 15 No. 4)

Victoriano B. Guiam

In the vision of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) for 2011-2015, productivity enhancements are seen as making agriculture and fishery products more competitive and contributing to the growth of the other economic sectors. Increasing productivity and incomes of agriculture and fishery-based households and enterprises is a major strategy of the PDP towards modernizing the sector and attaining the goal of improved food security. Increasing this particular sector can lead to the improvement of the quality of lives of Filipinos and capital accumulation for investments.

Among the measures that need to be undertaken to implement the PDP strategy is the strengthening of Research, Development and Extension (RDE) through: 1) formulating a reliable and responsive National RDE agenda; 2) increasing of investments in integrated RDE programs that promote productivity enhancement, develop environment-friendly and efficient technologies throughout the value chain, in partnership with higher education institutions, LGUs, private and business sector; and 3) encouraging the participation of farmers, fisherfolk and their organizations in research and promotion activities.

A major concern that cannot be ignored by the agricultural sector at the risk of losing its gains is its vulnerability to climate change. The impact of severe weather and the periodic occurrence of climate variability and its extreme conditions since the 1980s are partly to blame for erratic growth in national agricultural gross value-added (GVA). This is complicated by uncontrolled environmental degradation and loss of agricultural biodiversity. Therefore, an additional strategy under the PDP is on increasing the agriculture sector’s resilience to risks that may be brought about by climate change and extreme weather events

BAR has realigned its RDE plans and programs to follow the lead of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in responding to current challenges and emerging issues in agriculture. Guidance is now clearer with the promulgation of Secretary Proceso Alcala’s DA Agrikulturang Pinoy (or Agri-Pinoy) Framework, the foundation on which the DA’s programs and initiatives are to be built upon and implemented.

Concomitant to following the DA’s lead, BAR has been entrusted as the national focal agency of various RDE programs of DA with an initial seven programs, namely: Organic Agriculture, Climate Change, Biotechnology, Indigenous Plants for Health and Wellness, Adlai, Rubber, and Biofuels; and, later, four more programs: Rainfed Agriculture, Apiculture/Beekeeping, Soybean, and Breadfruit/Rimas, for a total of 11 RDE-supported DA programs.

A key feature is that RDE activities are being focused, not only on program objectives and the efficient use of RDE resources, but also on tangible, long-term results and impact. The linking of RDE outputs to value-chain systems is also a major consideration. Thus, BAR’s efforts are running in parallel with the thrusts and programs of the DA.

The RDE programs that BAR has developed in support of the DA’s efforts are:

Organic Agriculture. Venturing into organic agriculture encourages the use of safer and more sustainable ways of producing food. Tasked to lead the Research, Development and Extension component of the National Organic Agriculture Program (NOAP), BAR is responsible for coordination among key government agencies and private institutions to consolidate activities towards the implementation of unified and integrated RDE plans and programs on organic agriculture.

Climate Change. As events unfold, climate change is proving to be a challenge for the agriculture and fisheries sector. BAR’s Climate Change RDE Program is focused on short- and long-term adaptation and mitigation strategies in addressing the most pressing issues related to climate change.

Biotechnology. With its potential to address current limitations in food production, biotechnology is perceived as providing novel solutions for addressing food security issues and reducing poverty. It provides farmers other options towards increasing production and improving productivity. In support to the Agriculture and Fisheries Biotech R&D program, BAR, through the DA-Biotechnology Program Implementation Unit, has facilitated the funding of R&D projects under applied biotechnology research, regulatory research, capacity building, program administration and IEC/policy advocacy being implemented by different R&D institutions.

Indigenous Plants. The need to explore the untapped potentials of the country’s indigenous plants was the reason for launching the Indigenous Plants for Health and Wellness Program. Through the program, it is hoped that indigenous plants in the Philippines can be utilized, promoted and developed as food and/or sources of materials for the nutraceutical, pharmaceutical and cosmeceutical industries.

Adlai. The promising potentials of adlai as a complementary crop to rice and corn paved the way for its inclusion among the priority commodities under the DA’s High Value Crop Development Program (DA-HVCDP). With the creation of the Adlai R&D Program, various initiatives have been undertaken that push for the development, promotion, and utilization of adlai as a crop that will complement major staples such as rice and corn.

Rubber. Because of the potential and importance of rubber to the economy which provides livelihood to about 38,000 families and the fact that we will be increasingly dependent on outside sources if nothing is done, the DA set into motion a plan that promises to pole vault the country’s rubber industry to a more favorable position. BAR has been supporting and organizing different rubber-related RDE endeavors in the country as the lead agency in the Research, Development and Extension component of the said program.

Biofuels. Utilizing biofuels is a way to reduce the country’s dependence on imported fuels while considering the health of the people and the environment. As a proactive member agency of DA’s National Biofuel Feedstock Program, BAR has supported projects that will enable the development of viable and quality feedstock through research and development.

Rainfed Agriculture. Rainfed agriculture is an agricultural production system that relies on rain water for farming activities. Seeing its potential for increasing productivity sustainably, the Philippine Rainfed Agriculture Research, Development and Extension Program (PhiRARDEP) was created. The program is being developed by BAR in close technical collaboration with the India-based International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and the DA-HVCDP.

Apiculture. Beekeeping, or apiculture, has been identified by the DA as one of the sunrise industries that have great economic potential for which BAR has intensified its support. As one of the priority commodities under the DA-HVCDP, the conduct of beekeeping R&D interventions have been facilitated by BAR to develop the potentials of this prospective industry.

Soybean. Recognizing soybean’s valuable contribution to food security and human nutrition, as well as its potentials in the local and foreign markets, the Philippine Soybean Roadmap for 2010-2014 titled, “Building a Sustainable Soybean Industry in the Philippines”, was crafted by the DA to promote community-based and sustainable soybean production in the country. With BAR as the focal agency for research, the RDE program for soybean aims to establish knowledge-based and farmer-friendly research facilities for soybean production and development in strategic production areas in the country, and build strong partnerships with the private sector for the processing and marketing of soy-based products in both the local and foreign markets.

Breadfruit. With initiatives from the DA, through BAR, a carbohydrate- and energy-rich crop, breadfruit, has been identified for further research and development. Breadfruit is being promoted for its potential as a staple crop along with corn grits, saba, adlai, sweet potato, and cassava. This program is in sync with the DA’s Food Self-Sufficiency Program which aims to provide options for Filipino consumers on what to serve on their table other than rice.

BAR has assisted the DA and its units in the crafting and mapping of the development roadmaps and in the setting of the RDE agenda for prioritizing funding support of the new programs. For BAR, these programs represent the wave of the future of agriculture and for which the bureau stands ready to meet the challenges presented to research.

A lot of faith is being placed on the capability of BAR and the many researchers and scientists working under the national R&D system for agriculture and fisheries in delivering the technology and research outputs that are required by the various DA programs. With its dedication and vigor in RDE efforts towards the success of the DA programs, BAR assures the DA and its clientele that this trust is well placed. ###