Food security research grants available to Filipinos

Published December 7, 2020, 2:03 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Filipinos may now apply for research grants on accelerating transformation through agricultural innovation in Southeast Asia with a focus on food security during the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and social impacts.

The grants of up to US$20,000 will be given under the auspices of a Mentorship Program for Advanced Grants jointly funded by the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

The grants will also be made available to nationals of Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said this is the second collaboration of Stockholm-based IFS and Philippine government-hosted SEARCA.

“The first was in 2015 to 2019 on the IFS-SEARCA Collaborative Grants Pilot in Southeast Asia, which awarded research grants to 12 teams composed of a total of 41 scientists and researchers from seven countries in Southeast Asia. The research focus then was on climate change adaptation and mitigation,” Gregorio said.

He said the IFS-SEARCA grant is intended to enhance the research capacity of early-career scientists in the specified Southeast Asian countries.

Gregorio also highlighted the role of higher education and research institutions, particularly in the global pandemic, to “promote a transformative mindset and product experts who understand the growing complex social concerns and are able to contribute positive change now and in the future.”

For his part, IFS Director Nighisty Ghezae said “no single organization, no matter how large or well-funded, can address future challenges by itself”.

“In this era of interdependence, strategic partnerships with like-minded institutions are not an option, but a necessity. Thus, this MOA [memorandum of agreement] between our two organizations symbolizes a collaboration which we believe will lead to addressing short- and long-term food security challenges, enable us to invest in more resilient food systems, and take us closer to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.

SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership Pedcris M. Orencio said to be eligible for the grants of up to US$20,000, applicants must be enrolled in a PhD program or have recently completed a master’s or PhD degree within the five years before the call, with proven limited access to start-up funds for their research.

He added that the applicants’ proposed projects must contribute to knowledge and practice in food security.

The topic of proposed projects must also fall within the common thematic priorities of IFS and SEARCA, which are biological resources in terrestrial systems, water, and aquatic resources, dietary diversity and healthy livelihoods, agri-business models for increased productivity and income, sustainable farming systems, and natural resource management, food and nutrition security, transformational leadership for agricultural and rural development (ARD), gender and youth engagement in ARD, enhanced ARD towards climate resilience, EcoHealth/One Health applications to ARD.

Moreover, Orencio said the proposed projects must be applied or developmental research—that is, drawing upon explicitly referenced basic research.

Orencio affirmed the value of the mentorship program as an approach to enhancing the conduct of research and as an intervention to nurturing young minds and honing skills through the guidance of technical experts and those with decades of research experience.