Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio has been reappointed as Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) for another three-year term, effective May 1, 2022.
Mandated to serve the agricultural and rural development needs of Southeast Asian countries, SEARCA is hosted by the Philippine government and is based in Los Baños, Laguna. SEARCA was established 55 years ago and is one of the oldest centers of excellence of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO).
An eminent rice scientist, an Academician at the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) of the Philippines, and Professor at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), Dr. Gregorio was endorsed by the SEARCA Governing Board and Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones for a second three-year term. His reappointment was approved and signed by Singapore Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, who is also the SEAMEO Council (SEAMEC) President. SEAMEC is SEAMEO’s highest policymaking body, composed of the Education Ministers of the 11 SEAMEO member countries.
At a townhall meeting attended by SEARCA staff, scholars, and SEARCA Governing Board Chair and UPLB Chancellor Jose V. Camacho Jr. held last May 2, Dr. Gregorio cited some of the gains during his first term under the banner of Accelerating Transformation Through Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN) of SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan (2020-2025).
According to Dr. Gregorio, SEARCA reached new heights—better, bigger, and smarter—in terms of both its programs and organizational development.
He said changes for the better started within the organization, and these ranged from enhanced staff compensation and career paths to an integrated monitoring evaluation and learning (iMEAL) system to better track and make use of the Center’s gains.
“SEARCA also became better in strengthening community relations and engagement through outreach activities branded as SEARCAlinga initiatives that have benefitted over a thousand staff, scholars, frontliners, mothers, children, senior citizens, as well as typhoon victims.
He said changes that corresponded to bigger things for SEARCA included more partnerships forged with various entities that include international organizations, government agencies, academic and research institutions, and private sector.
Dr. Gregorio noted the expansion of the SEARCA-established Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC) under his watch, with two Philippine state universities among those admitted as new members. He added that SEARCA has also been reaching more Philippine universities in terms of training programs with its implementation of the Leveling-Up Philippine Higher Education Institutions in Agriculture, Fisheries, and Natural Resources (LevelUPHEI AFAR) project funded by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
Moreover, Dr. Gregorio said SEARCA is also upscaling its School-plus-Homes Gardens Project (S+HGP) to Busuanga Island and Cambodia and has added the elements of biodiversity and entrepreneurship to the package.
“The new SEARCA Grants for Research towards Agricultural Innovative Solutions (GRAINS); SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation (SHARING), an interactive museum; and partnership for the Innovation Olympics 2.0, an agri hackathon for the youth to develop innovative solutions for the farming sector, were some of the smarter ways SEARCA embarked on to reach its stakeholders, including the youth to entice them to engage in agriculture,” Dr. Gregorio said.
“The pandemic pushed us to launch the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE), which not only offers webinars, but also serves as a platform for forums, roundtable discussions, and conferences,” Dr. Gregorio said.
He explained that each of the 41 SOLVE webinars conducted so far highlights specific concrete and innovative actions being implemented on the ground that are aligned with SEARCA’s 11th Five-Year Plan focused on ATTAIN with the end view of directly benefitting farmers and farming families.
“The youth possess massive power to advocate for change and to hold decision-makers accountable,” Dr. Gregorio stressed time and again. His advocacy gave rise to the Young Forces for Agricultural Innovation (#Y4AGRI) as SEARCA’s banner youth program and the SEARCA Youth Ambassadors Platform (SAYAP), composed of young SEARCA staff who organized a Virtual Youth Camp, the highly interactive virtual youth festival dubbed Pista ng Pagkain at Kabataang Pinoy (Pistang PagKaPinoy), and SEARCArunungan para sa SEARCAbataan webinars.
During his first term as SEARCA Director, Dr. Gregorio was appointed as a United Nations (UN) Food Systems Champion, President of the Society for the Advancement of Breeding Research in Asia and Oceania (SABRAO) until 2023, and Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Technical Panel for Agriculture until 2024. He was also named one of the 2021 Filipino Faces of Biotechnology in the Philippines by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Prior to his appointment at SEARCA, Dr. Gregorio served the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for almost 30 years, including a five-year stint as IRRI’s rice breeder in Africa based at the Africa Rice Centre station at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria in 2004-2009. He is also a recipient of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) and the Outstanding Young Scientist (OYS) awards, both in 2004 and Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Medal Award in 2012. (PR)