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Department of Agriculture chief exhorts incoming UPLB chancellor to trail blaze digital agriculture

Agriculture Secretary William Dar asked incoming University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) Chancellor, Dr. Jose Camacho, Jr., to vigorously upscale relevant technologies to enhance productivity in the agricultural sector. He also exhorted him to continuously develop the necessary human capital needed to lead in the transformation of a modernised and industrialised Philippine agriculture.

“I challenge the incoming chancellor to harness the power of satellite-aided information technology and establish a Digital Agriculture Center at UPLB and thereafter take the lead and network with other higher education and research institutions,” said Secretary Dar.

His exhortations were made during a webinar, “Harnessing UPLB alumni’s participation during these times of pandemic,” organised by the UPLB Alumni Association (UPLBAA) last week.

The Department of Agriculture chief emphasised the role of higher education institutions (HEIs) like UPLB. He felt it essential for them to optimise their expertise and lead in implementing various policy instruments to improve the country’s farm productivity in every way possible – a key one being digital agriculture.

He was keen to see UPLB as a trailblazer in harnessing the power of disruptive technologies to elevate Philippine agriculture into the future. Adopting technology would go a long way in narrowing the gap so that the sector could smoothly transition from 1.0 agriculture to 4.0 digital agriculture.

The department is based on Secretary Dar’s “New Thinking for Agriculture” which is anchored in the vision: A food-secure Philippines with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk. The vision has over-arching twin goals of increasing productivity and making farmers and fishers prosperous.

Translating the vision into reality, the department employs a strategy built on the eight paradigms:

  • Modernisation of agriculture
  • Industrialisation of agriculture
  • Promotion of exports
  • Farm consolidation
  • Infrastructure development
  • Roadmap development
  • Higher budget and investments for agriculture
  • Legislative support

The University of the Philippines is the country’s national university. This premier institution of higher learning was established in 1908 and is now a university system composed of eight constituent universities and one autonomous college spread throughout 17 campuses in the archipelago.

UP Los Baños in Laguna is the country’s recognised leader in agriculture, forestry, and environmental management. Because of its location at the foot of Mt. Makiling and its fields of expertise, it is host to two international research institutions: the International Rice Research Institute and the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture. As a pioneer in forest conservation, UP Los Baños has stewardship over the 4,244-hectare Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve.

Secretary Dar reminded the audience of strong DA-UPLB partnership that had been there in the past. He felt that the country needed the expertise and experience of UPLB in dealing with the big issues and challenges in the country. Harnessing UPLB alumni’s participation during these times of pandemic would be of great importance.

UPLB needed to show itself as not only an excellent higher education institution but also relevant to the needs of the times.

Secretary Dar is recognised for his determined support for both the sector and University of the Philippines Los Baños, of which he is an alumnus. Similarly, former DA undersecretary Dr Cristino M. Collado was resolute in his commitment to continue harnessing the participation of UPLB alumni in modernising and industrialising Philippine agriculture.

“The initiative that you have proposed on digital agriculture is central to our vision to future-proof the university and the agriculture sector. We will be very supportive of this initiative. We have already initiated the meetings and talks to outline the support systems and mechanisms to harness our partnership,” Camacho said.

Camacho will serve a three-year term, starting on November 1, 2020, as the 10th UPLB Chancellor. He is currently the dean of the Graduate School (GS) and professor of economics at the College of Economics and Management (CEM).

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