By Carmencita A. Carillo
LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA — The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is preparing to build the Southeast Asian AgriMuseum and Learning Center on Agricultural and Rural Development, to be located at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).
“It’s going to be a landmark facility located in the Philippines. It is a Southeast Asian facility, a learning facility that will give us a push for agriculture development,” SEARCA Director Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. said during the Training-Writeshop on Communicating Trends and Innovations in ASEAN Agriculture for regional media held at the SEARCA in UPLB from April 18-20.
Mr. Saguiguit said while SEARCA traditionally publishes information on the latest research and news on agriculture, this mainly caters to professionals from the industry.
“But it should be everybody’s concern to focus on agriculture as a very important sector, primarily because it is the sector that produces our food. So we thought out of the box, how to bring in non-agriculturists to appreciate these agriculture-related problems,” he said.
Mr. Saguiguit said the challenge is how to make agriculture more exciting, especially as a field of study, to attract more students who could later become knowledgeable farmers.
“If nobody studies agriculture or go into this as a career or livelihood, the inevitable question is, who will replace the next generation of farmers?” he said.
The AgriMuseum, which will cost up to $8 million, is still soliciting funds.
Mr. Saguiguit said half of the total will be raised from donations, including P5 million committed by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Agricultural Research.
Other countries, he said, have initially promised to contribute exhibits for the museum’s collection.
SEARCA said it has the resources to build the AgriMuseum on its own, but would like other countries in the region to participate.
“If it’s just us (SEARCA) putting it up, then there will be no sense of ownership,” he said.
“We presented the idea to the 11 member countries and the partners are convinced that it is a good idea,” he added.
The International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) has also pledged to help fund the project.
Mr. Saguiguit said the museum will emphasize agriculture’s importance to the region’s food security and overall development as well as promote rural growth.
“The AgriMuseum is seen as an alternative education facility for getting across the message of the urgency of agricultural and rural development to concerned stakeholders and to enjoin them to rally behind the cause,” he said.
The 1,000-square meter AgriMuseum, targeted for completion by end-2019, will be handled by the same group behind the MIND Museum at the Bonifacio Global City in Metro Manila.
Mr. Saguiguit said: “We have a small space but the goal is when you go out from the museum, you will understand how important agriculture is.”