LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – A hitherto not so familiar town in Eastern Visayas may yet find its rightful place in Southeast Asia’s agricultural and rural development map.
The town is Inopacan, Leyte, which is adjacent to Baybay City situated some 120 kilometers south of Leyte’s capital city of Tacloban.
Inopacan, with a population of 20,000 people, is the first site of a project titled “Piloting and Upscaling Effective Models of Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development: Strengthening Linkages among Farmers, Government, and Industry Sectors for ISARD in Inopacan, Leyte.”
Supported by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture, the three-year research and development project aims to attain food sufficiency and reduce poverty in the pilot site.
ISARD is the flagship program of SEARCA’s five-year plan (2015-2019), which is being implemented in collaboration with local and international institutions and agencies.
The Leyte project seeks to equip the farmers with knowledge and skills on how to maximize their lands’ productivity through value-adding activities and marketing of high-value commodities. It also trains people on how to engage in agricultural enterprises, among them jackfruit (nangka) production technology, banana cooking and processing technology (fried chips), protected vegetable production, tilapia culture, and rainforestation.
SEARCA is hosted by the Philippine government, through the Department of Education in the University of the Philippines Los Baños.
It is one of the 21 regional centers of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), an inter-government treaty body founded in 1965 to promote cooperation in science, education, and culture among Southeast Asian countries.
Aside from SEARCA, also involved in the project are the Inopacan local government unit (LGU), Visayas State University (VSU), and Visayas Consortium for Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Program (VICAARP)
Located in Baybay City, VSU is one of the country’s strongest and well-equipped institutions of higher learning in agriculture.
VICAARP is a consortium of state universities and colleges, line government agencies, and local government units committed to the advancement of R&D in agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources in Eastern Visayas.
The region is composed of the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, Samar, and Biliran.
SEARCA, VSU, VICAARP, and Inopacan LGU signed an agreement implement the project, which seeks to replicate the lessons and best practices from the project to other communities not only in the Philippines but also in Southeast Asia.
“In essence, our success in this undertaking may be a jump-off point for the development of similar sites in other countries in Southeast Asia. At the very least, it would be something we could all be proud of and placing Inopacan not only on the map of the Philippines but also of Southeast Asia,” said SEARCA director Gil Seguiguit Jr.
With the Philippines as its host country, SEAMEO-SEARCA also encompasses the 10 other Southeast Asian nations as its service area: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.