The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) highlighted the importance of regional innovation hubs in addressing the incidence of hunger and in ensuring food security in the country.
The DOST vowed to continue capacitating regional higher educational institutions’ ability to conduct quality research and boost regional economic growth through its Niche Centers in the Region for R&D (NICER), which is under the umbrella of the DOST-Science for Change Program.
“We need to capacitate our regions to be ready for the challenges of the new environment,” DOST Secretary Fortunato T. dela Peña said in his message during the online symposium held on Tuesday, Oct. 19.
“Food security and safety are two sectors that propel our nation forward. We must invest in R&D to end hunger and strengthen our food systems and sustain activities that support regional development.”
During the symposium, the latest breakthroughs made by the NICERs focusing on food security such as inland marine and aquatic resources, together with crop and livestock were presented. The NICERs aim to assist the country in achieving the United Nations’ ’zero hunger’ target in the country.
“The establishment of these NICERs are among the key strategies towards developing a more STI-driven, sustainable, resilient, and progressive countryside – stimulating the industry sector and contributing towards achieving zero hunger in the near future,” said Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang.
Among the centers that presented their accomplishments were the the Freshwater Fisheries R&D Center hosted by the Isabela State University (ISU) in Cagayan Valley; the Sea Cucumber R&D Center of the Mindanao State University-Naawan (MSU-Naawan) in Northern Mindanao; the Tamarind R&D Center of the Pampanga State Agricultural University (PSAU) in Central Luzon and the Markaduke R&D Center of the Marinduque State College (MSC) in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan)
The DOST said the Freshwater Fisheries R&D Center has successfully increased the average weight of glass eels or igat by 204 percent and their average survival rate from 70 percent to 94 percent.
It also established rearing facilities in 11 municipalities to grow ludong or Lobed-River Mullet, generated employment for the Indigenous People, and established the Cagayan Valley Aquaculture Producers Cooperative which encouraged the community to venture into eel and freshwater fish production, it added.
Meanwhile, the Sea Cucumber R&D Center focuses on species of sea cucumbers —the white teatfish, Holothuria fuscogilva, and sandfish, Holothuria scabra.
“The white teatfish is still in its experimental stages of developing its spawning and larval rearing protocols, and the sandfish is up and running for its production and promotion for farming among community beneficiaries as their source of alternative livelihood.”
The Center has so far logged 58 commercial sea cucumber species across stations in Mindanao.
The Tamarind R&D Center, on the other hand, was able to increase the areas in Central Luzon planted with tamarind from 187 hectares to 271.5 hectares in two years’ time.
The DOST noted that the Markaduke R&D Center achieved improvement in the number of piglets weaned from 13 to as high as 18 pigs weaned per sow per year (PWSY).
“More genetic improvements are soon to be achieved having found favorable genes for litter size (Estrogen Receptor 1: 17 percent to 36 percent), growth (Myogenin: 14 percent), meat quality (Leptin: 86 percent), and disease resistance (Fucosyltransferase 1: 22 percent to 50 percent,” it said.
This NICER’s artificial insemination laboratory is equipped with state-of-the-art computer assisted sperm analyzer to improve the reproductive efficiency of the male breeding pig (boar).
“The NICER program introduced R&D interventions to enhance agricultural yields in the Regions to spur economic growth and contribute to food security,” Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara said.
“DOST intends that these NICERs will produce and attract the leading experts in high-impact sectors in support of the creation of regional hubs for the technology transfer and commercialization of R&D outputs.”
The DOST has been pushing for the passage of the Science for Change Program (S4CP) Bill which seeks to address the disparity in research and development (R&D) funding in the Regions and lack of R&D in the private sector.