SEARCA redefines value chain ‘inclusivity’ for regional agricultural and rural economy

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To continually promote inclusivity and sustainability in the agricultural value chain development, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) offered its Value Chain Development Course for the second time last April 22-26.

Research and development professionals and practitioners representing the academe and government in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, participated in the course.

In its second offering, the course looked through the agricultural value chain lens to analyze and design interventions to promote value addition for various players, especially the marginalized actors in the process, but this time integrating the gender element.

The course covered the fundamental frameworks, principles, components and processes of the value chain system, and their practical skills and application.

A more well-balanced facet of inclusivity was introduced through a session on gender mainstreaming in agricultural value chains and integrating gender in workshop discussions and outputs throughout the course.

SEARCA Governing Board Chair Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., currently the University of the Philippines Los Baños Chancellor, shared that the vitality of capitalizing on social inclusion has been the core of SEARCA’s campaign for inclusive and sustainable rural development (ISARD) in support of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 8: “Promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all.”

“The challenge therefore is for various institutions and stakeholders, especially smallholder farmers and small-scale rural entrepreneurs, to step up to the plate and maximize the benefits of borderless trade,” Sanchez said.

UPLB College of Public Affairs and Development (CPAf) professors served as resource persons and training facilitators of the training-workshop.

At the outset of the course, UPLB CPAf professor Wilfredo Carada stressed the imperative of developing an inclusive value chain to steer increased vibrancy and productivity for the overall improvement of the agriculture and rural sector in ASEAN countries.

He explained that inclusivity means bringing positive and desirable change in the activities in the agricultural value chain, wherein advanced competency and productivity would also create an enabling environment for marginalized smallholder farmers and fisherfolks, and increase their integration and opportunities to secure a fair share in the value chain process.

In the same vein, NEXUS Agribusiness Solutions Managing Director Nerlita M. Manalili, one of the course lecturers, pointed out that greater capacities for the farmers should always be accompanied with increased market access and opportunities for sustainable growth and food security down to the household level.

Dr. Manalili also enthused the participants to fully understand the value chain context, wherein she highlighted the need to add “value” on product transformation across the stages and processes of the value chain.

She noted, however, that challenges brought about by the changing mix and dynamism of existing market players, commodities should be addressed by ASEAN countries towards efficiency-driven market integration in the current globalization of agricultural production.

The course participants identified gaps and designed interventions on how inclusivity could be integrated, considering the current socioeconomic dynamism, production technologies, and government and market structures in both national and regional context across Southeast Asia.

Value chain analyses and interventions for cinnamon, rice, mango, high-value crops, and white potato were developed by participants organized into one group per commodity. Each intervention design included a sector situationer, value chain analysis and mapping, value chain development strategy, organizational and institutional arrangements for value chain development, and a monitoring and evaluation plan.

Moreover, each participant produced re-entry action plans that outline how they will use, in their workplace or industry, the learning gains in the course.

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