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As SEARCA starts to sharpen its food security agenda, it turns to one of its most important assets—its graduate alumni. In the recently concluded SEARCA-DAAD Alumni Associations Regional Consultative Workshop on 28-29 May 2013 at SEARCA, Los Baños, Laguna, close to forty graduate alumni association officers and representatives from all over the region found their way back to what they considered their second home.

The programs kicked-off with a welcome message from SEARCA Director, Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., which was immediately followed by the opening remarks from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Chancellor Dr. Rex Victor O. Cruz, which was delivered by Dr. Cristanto Dorado, UPLB’s Vice Chancellor for Administration. In his welcome message, Dr. Saguiguit emphasized the critical role of the graduate alumni as SEARCA’s most valuable partner in the Center’s various endeavors. On the other hand, Dr. Dorado reiterated UPLB’s support to SEARCA, as an active member of the Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC) and home to most of the SEARCA scholars, especially amidst regional developments such as the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Meanwhile, Ms. Ilona Krueger, Head, South and Southeast Asia Section of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the co-sponsor for the event, anticipated that the event become an important platform for a fruitful exchange among DAAD and SEARCA alumni.

The opening program highlight was Dr. Saguiguit’s keynote speech, which set the tone for the meeting and outlined the Center’s food security initiatives for the coming years as well as the role of the alumni in this strategic direction.

Dr. Saguiguit’s presentation was then followed by two plenary papers, namely Challenges and Opportunities in ASEAN Agricultural Higher Education: Implications to Food Security by Dr. Cecilio R. Arboleda, Executive Director of UPLB Foundation, Inc., and Meta-Analysis of SEARCA's Food Security Researches: Approach and Initial Findings by Dr. Dinah Pura T. Depositario, Associate Professor from the College of Economics and Management, UPLB, who incidentally is also a SEARCA alumna and now an adjunct fellow of the Center.

Eight country representatives presented papers on a food security initiative or country situationer in two parallel sessions—one group consisting of the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand; while Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Timor Leste comprising the second group. These presentations laid the groundwork for the concept notes that the two groups developed halfway through the workshop. These concept notes, according to Dr. Saguiguit, are very relevant particularly in the light of SEARCA’s new directions. When refined these regional projects can be considered as part of SEARCA’s arsenal to help steer the Southeast Asian nations towards inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development. Moreover, SEARCA can leverage on the presence of alumni associations in its other regional initiatives.

The two-day SEARCA alumni event with the theme, “Operation One ASEAN: Towards Food Security in 2020,” was co-sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Aside from exchanging knowledge and best practices in food security among ASEAN countries, the event was likewise an avenue for SEARCA to renew its ties with its graduate alumni, which to date stands at 1,322. Many of these graduate alumni now occupy positions of influence in their respective institutions and countries.