NTU and SEARCA to Promote Education and Research Cooperation
To promote and strengthen agricultural education and research cooperation with countries in Southeast Asia, NTU Vice President for Academic Affairs Hung-Chi Kuo (郭鴻基) and Dean Huu-Sheng Lur (盧虎生) of the NTU College of Bio-Resources and Agriculture (BIOAGRI) led an eight-member delegation to visit the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) in Manila, the Philippines on December 8th, 2017. While there, they discussed potential cooperation schemes and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NTU and SEARCA.
SEARCA, a leading international agricultural organization established by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO), consists of 11 member countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and East Timor. NTU and SEARCA began their interactions in 2006. BIOAGRI initiated a training program “Biotechnology Applications in Agriculture” in 2007, and has offered the program four times since then. In particular, SEARCA has devised a recruitment plan for the program to recruit trainees from the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Through this program, BIOAGRI has not only assisted the trainees, including agricultural officials, biotechnology researchers, and teachers from ASEAN member countries, to develop knowledge and practical skills in advanced agricultural biotechnology, but also helped strengthen Taiwan’s influence on the development of the biotechnology industry in Southeast Asia.
The primary goals of the NTU delegation’s visit were to discuss further cooperation and extend the MOU with SEARCA, whose headquarters is located on the campus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).
Director of SEARCA, Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. presided over a meeting before the signing ceremony. The participants from SEARCA included Dr. Maria Celeste H. Cadiz (Program Head of the Knowledge Management Department), Ms. Camille Joy V. Enalbes (Program Specialist of the Graduate Education and Institutional Development Department), and Dr. Maria Monina Cecilia A. Villena (Special Projects Coordinator of the Biotechnology Information Center). Dr. Saguiguit expressed his appreciation to NTU for its continuous efforts in providing Southeast Asian people with training in biotechnology, and for establishing deep friendships between both parties. At the meeting, Dr. Hung-Chi Kuo and Dr. Huu-Sheng Lur highlighted the new opportunities arising from the Taiwanese government’s launch of and emphasis on the “New Southbound Policy” and “New Agriculture Policy,” expressing BIOAGRI’s intention to extend its cooperation and interactions with SEARCA members in agricultural research and higher education. The main topics discussed at the meeting included holding a workshop together on issues related to climate change, food security, biodiversity, management of water resources, promotion of organic farming, development of leisure farming, preservation of bio-resources, and application of bioinformatics. The workshop will be designed so as to provide an opportunity for researchers from Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries to discuss these issues and work out solutions in agricultural production.
The opportunities for Southeast Asian students to pursue a degree or short-term program at NTU were also addressed. Dr. Saguiguit explained that SEARCA members have collaboratively established a graduate study program that offers scholarships for students to study in the member countries, and some of the associate members may offer scholarships as well. Dr. Hung-Chi Kuo then raised the possibility of establishing a joint scholarship between SEARCA and NTU to encourage more excellent students from Southeast Asian countries to study at NTU, and to invite NTU faculty to give lectures at universities in SEARCA member countries to promote interaction and connection between both parties. Director Je-Ruei Liu (劉嚞睿) of the NTU Institute of Biotechnology (IOB) mentioned that all the courses offered by the IOB are taught in English. Adjunct Prof. Kuo-Chen Yeh (葉國楨) of the IOB, who is currently Director of Agricultural Biotechnology Research Center (ABRC) at Academia Sinica, also participated in the meeting to discuss potential cooperation schemes.
After the meeting, all the participants moved to the main hall for the MOU signing ceremony. Not only experts from SEARCA but also Prof. Enrico P. Supangco, Dean of the College of Agriculture at UPLB, joined the ceremony. Director Shu-Jen Wang (王淑珍) of the NTU Center for International Agricultural Education and Academic Exchanges exchanged views with UPLB Prof. Edna A. Aguilar on facilitating agricultural research cooperation between both parties. In the beginning of the signing ceremony, videos introducing SEARCA and BIOAGRI were played, and previous interactions between the two institutions were reviewed. Subsequently, Dr. Lur and Dr. Saguiguit signed the MOU while Dr. Kuo served as witness to the signing. In his address at the ceremony, Dr. Kuo emphasized that both parties should actively initiate and implement collaboration projects after the signing of the MOU.
While in Los Baños, the NTU delegation also visited the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). IRRI is a research center devoted to rice research and promotion under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. IRRI and NTU signed the first MOU in 2008, and have maintained a solid partnership in recent years in coping with food security problems and challenges arising from global climate change. During the visit, Mr. Oliver Frith, Head of Resource Mobilization at IRRI, moderated a round-table discussion. In the discussion, Dr. Reiner Wassmann, an expert of climate change research and crop production, presented “IRRI’s Work on Climate Change Mitigation: Recent Developments and Prospects” and introduced the strategies that IRRI is developing to deal with climate change. Afterwards, Dr. Hei Leung, a world-famous plant pathologist and the principal scientist of IRRI, introduced IRRI and reviewed the continuing relationship between IRRI and Taiwan that started in the 1960s. Dr. Nasreen Khan, a senior researcher from Bangladesh, gave a talk titled “Introduction to GIS/RS Work from the Perspective of Climate Change (Disaster Risk Management-Crop Insurance Work).” In the round-table discussion, all the participants enthusiastically exchanged ideas on agriculture-related topics, and future collaborative research and training programs between IRRI and NTU were also covered.
Dr. Huu-Sheng Lur (first from right) and Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. (first from left) sign an MOU while Dr. Hung-Chi Kuo (middle) serves as witness.
SEARCA’s headquarters is located in the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) 63 km south of Manila, the Philippines.
Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. (first from right), Director of SEARCA, welcomes the NTU delegation led by Dr. Huu-Sheng Lur (first from left) and Dr. Hung-Chi Kuo (second from left).
The NTU delegation members exchange opinions with SEARCA experts and scholars at the meeting.
A group photo of the NTU delegation and SEARCA experts and scholars. Prof. Enrico P. Supangco is third from left on the front row, and Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit, Jr. is fourth from left on the front row.
IRRI Principal Scientist Dr. Hei Leung (first from right) welcomes the NTU delegation. Second from left is Mr. Oliver Frith.
A group photo of the NTU delegation with Dr. Hei Leung (fifth from left) and Mr. Oliver Frith (forth from right) in front of FF Hill Building, IRRI.