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Contributed by Marylin Perlas,
APEAEN Secretary and Executive Director (2004–2007)
The Asia Pacific Association of Educators on Agriculture and Environment (APEAEN) was born on 5 August 1997 during the APO symposium on Agricultural Education Systems in Japan as a follow-up action of the APO Secretariat. Sixteen participants representing 17 countries in the Asia-Pacific region voluntarily forged an alliance of educators in agriculture and the environment. The membership has now increased to 21 countries in the region. It is a nonstock, nongovernmental international organization of educators, researchers, extension workers, administrators, policymakers, development specialists, and institutions involved in education, agriculture, the environment, and health. The association works for the development, improvement, and professionalization of educators in agriculture and environment so that they can become effective partners in countryside development, including determining appropriate strategies to address environmental concerns due to global warming, health issues, and sustainable development.
The 3rd International Conference in Agriculture and Environment was held at the Philippine Carabao Center, Department of Agriculture, science city of Munoz, the Philippines, 4–7 November 2007, organized by the APEAEN and sponsored by the APO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Society of Korean Agricultural Education, Commission on Higher Education, Southeast Asian Council for Agriculture and Development, Development Academy of the Philippines, Bureau of Agricultural Research, Philippine Carabao Center of the Department of Agriculture, Central Luzon State University, and Institute of Community Education, College of Public Affairs of the University of the Philippines Los Banos. It was attended by 120 leading educators in agriculture and the environment, professors, researchers, and graduate students from institutions in 12 countries (Republic of Korea, Japan, Philippines, USA, Iran, Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, South Africa, Samoa, Lao PDR, Canada, and Netherlands). The exchange of ideas on education and its relation to the global environment during the conference and the concomitant 10th APEAEN anniversary activities encouraged 20 participants to become new members.
With the complexity of changing agricultural and environmental education to reflect worldwide developments, the theme of the conference was “Preparing for the Future: Rethinking Higher Agriculture Education and Environment in the Asia-Pacific.” Discussions explored whether higher agricultural education in its present form could survive without change and how the change process could be supported. Agricultural and environmental education is increasingly affected by dramatic changes in the surrounding society. Asian socioeconomic development continues to proceed at a rapid pace, led by manufacturing, information technolog, and finance. Agriculture, often interpreted as production agriculture, is now part of the broader rural development phenomenon with its many complex, multisectoral challenges.
Rural development not only involves agriculture but also job creation, infrastructure, and the provision of better services. Agriculture and rural development are also influenced by globalization with its opportunities and challenges. Urban populations continue to make new demands on what the agriculture sector produces and how it is processed, packaged, and presented to affluent customers. The close relationship between animal production and population centers has led to fears about diseases being transmitted to the human population, and genetically modified organisms still raise unanswered questions. Massive destruction of forests, decimation of fish stocks, and fears of global warming affect higher agricultural education. Public expectations of the role of graduates from the agricultural and environmental education system have changed. Expertise in crop and animal production alone no longer meets those expectations. The role of agriculture and natural resources, once a dominant segment of the economy, needs to be reviewed.
Some of the questions identified in addressing how agricultural and environmental education should change include: Which types of graduate will Asia need to meet the challenges of the future? Are the expectations of stakeholders who employ graduates of higher agricultural education being met? Can higher agricultural education in its present form survive without change, and how could the change process be supported and/or catalyzed? Will external factors continue to put pressure on educational institutions to reform?
The conference explored these questions and reflected how agricultural universities in the Asia-Pacific region are dealing with current realities. The conference identified two key areas: the reengineering and reconceptualization of agricultural education integrating agriculture and the environment, especially in terms of the urgent need of less developed countries; and the provision of consultancy services under the APEAEN to expand membership and generate more income by writing proposals and translating scientific findings so that agricultural education can serve as an instrument of poverty alleviation. The two key areas will be kept in mind as the APO continues to support APEAEN as copartner and coimplementer.
The conference invited three guests to give keynote presentations. Dr. Charles Maguire, former senior institutional development specialist, World Bank, Washington, DC, USA, spoke on “The Emerging Face of Rural and Urban Development to Be Addressed by Higher Agricultural and Environment Education in Asia.” Head Chair Dr. Martin Mulder, Group of Education and Competence Studies, Wageningen University Social Sciences Group, the Netherlands, described “Models of Higher Education in Agriculture and Environment in Facing the Effects of Climate Change.” Finally, “Issues for Action on Green Productivity and Sustainable Environment in an Era of Climate Change” was the topic of Dr. Catherine Castaneda, Director IV of Student Services, Commission on Higher Education, the Philippines.
In the concurrent conference sessions, 28 participants presented papers, of which four received Best Paper Awards: “Providing IT Technical Advisory in Biosafety Education: Experience in the Asia-Pacific,” by Dr. Ruel Maningas; “Agroecosystems Analysis for the Sustainable Development of Lake Buhi, Philippines,” by Dr. Cely Binoya; “Improving Higher Agricultural Education in the Asia-Pacific: Some Lessons for Improving the Education of Rural People,” by Dr. Malcolm Hazelman; and “Where Have All the Graduates Gone? The Case of 2000 to 2005 UPLB–BSA Graduates,” by Dr. Heide Lasco.
Ten poster presentations on the theme were exhibited in the conference venue, of which nine were from the Republic of Korea and one from Japan. The one that received the best poster award was entitled “Development of an Agricultural Career Exploration Program for College Students,” by Chyu-Young Jyung, Su-Jung Choi, Hyo-Shin Lim, and Young-Eun Kim of the Republic of Korea.
The final activity of the conference was a field visit conducted in eight centers within Munoz: the Central Luzon State University (CLSU) Public Affairs Office; CLSU academic community/research and production areas; Small Ruminant Center; Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources; Fruits and Vegetable Center; Philippine Sino Center for Agricultural Technology; Bureau of Post Harvest Research and Extension; and the Philippine Rice Research Institute.
The APEAEN elected new officers for 2007–2009 during the conference. The fourth conference will be held in Hokkaido, Japan, in 2009.