Los Banos agri-museum seen to boost interest on agriculture

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna -- The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) has embarked on an ambitious project to put more importance and boost the agriculture sector in member states, especially the Philippines.

Inspired by the goal to address challenges in agriculture, SEARCA is already on the first steps of constructing the USD1.8 million inter-active museum in a 1,000-square-meter lot inside the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) campus in Laguna. It will also serve as a learning center on agricultural and rural development.

“This is not a Philippine facility but for Asia. But it’s going to be a landmark facility located in the Philippines and an attraction for the country," said Gil Saguiguit Jr., director of SEARCA.

Saguiguit said the museum is now on the curating stage. Part of the plan is to employ advances in information technology to showcase science-based knowledge and innovations.

It will also house artifacts that will depict the nature of agriculture and the diverse farming culture in Southeast Asia.

The museum will highlight Southeast Asian agriculture, unique foodscape, lifescape, challenges to wiping out hunger, hope for Southeast Asian agriculture, and the potentials and future of agriculture in Southeast Asia.

Saguiguit said the facility is funded through pooled resources. The site was donated by UPLB while the Department of Agriculture (DA) shelled out PHP5 million.

He, however, added that SEARCA is still rallying partner countries to contribute to the museum, either financial, material, archaeological, historical, intellectual, or other kinds of resources.

Saguiguit said half of the cost of the museum would come from donations. Aside from UPLB and the DA, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has also committed to help.

The SEARCA director also looks forward to member-countries of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education of Education Organization (SEAMEO) to chip in for the museum.

The SEAMEO Council is the policy-making body of SEARCA, which comprises the Ministers of Education of the 11 member countries – the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Laos PDR, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Timor-Leste.

"It is a Southeast Asian facility, a learning facility that will give us a push for agriculture development,” he said.

Saguiguit announced this during the first day of the three-day Training-Writeshop on Communicating Trends and Innovations in ASEAN Agriculture for Regional Media held at SEARCA, UP, Los Baños, Laguna. The writeshop was organized by DA 1I, in collaboration with SEARCA.

According to Saguiguit, the museum will be one venue to educate and bring to the people’s consciousness the challenges that agriculture is facing. These are population growth, climate change, land degradation, dwindling natural resource base, and the waning interest of the youth in agriculture as a field of study and source of livelihood.

“If nobody studies agriculture anymore or go into this as a career or livelihood, the inevitable question is who will replace the next generation of farmers,” he said.

Saguiguit pointed out the importance of agriculture to the region’s food security.

“So we thought out of the box, how to bring in non-agriculturists to appreciate these agriculture-related problems,” he bared.

He stressed that putting up a museum would help keep agriculture exciting with new fields and new innovations. (Lilian C. Mellejor/PNA)