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Food security research grants to address COVID-19 impacts available to Cambodians, other Southeast Asian nations

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Around 100 poor families receive relief from the FAO in Pursat province. Photo Supplied

Grants for research 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 are available to Cambodians as well as nationals of Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.

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According to a press release of the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) AKP received Friday, the grants are under the auspices of a Mentorship Programme for Advanced Grants jointly funded by the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and SEARCA. It is the first activity under the agreement signed by IFS and SEARCA last Nov. 26.

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

“The first was in 2015-2019 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,” Mr Gregorio explained.

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

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

IFS Director Ms Nighisty Ghezae stressed that “No single organissation, 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 between our two organisations symbolises 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.”

Ms Ghezae said “we are aware of SEARCA’s reputation for excellent work in this field and its strong commitment to creating a critical mass of early career researchers who can generate applicable knowledge.”

SEARCA Programme Head for Research and Thought Leadership Mr Pedcris M. Orencio asserted that “research formally articulates the truth” and that collaborative research increases productivity and quality. He likewise affirmed the value of the mentorship programme 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.

On the other hand, Ms Ghezae shared that “over the past 50 years, IFS has earned its own place by providing support to early career researchers in low- and lower-middle-income countries, many of whom now occupy leadership roles in the region and around the world.”

According to Mr Orencio, “to be eligible for the grants of up to $20,000, applicants must be enrolled in a PhD programme 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 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, Mr. Orencio said the proposed projects must be applied or developmental research—that is, drawing upon explicitly referenced basic research. C. Nika – AKP

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