With the continuing COVID-19 pandemic affecting all aspects of life, a potential rise in food insecurity is expected to be the next major challenge. Thus, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has been very responsive with threats not just in health emergencies, but also making efforts in keeping agriculture safely running as an essential source of food (supply).
On 23 June 2020, DOST approved another two new Centers in two regions. These R&D Centers are the Garlic and Other Agri-food Condiments R&D Center in MMSU, Ilocos Norte and Queen Pineapple R&D Center in Camarines Norte State College in Camarines Norte, Bicol with a total budget of P62 Million worth of funding.
“As hunger becomes a key issue for the Philippines in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, we recognize the need to be proactive in developing the potential of our Filipino experts and creating opportunities for regional development,” says Secretary Fortunato T. De La Peña. “The new NICER Centers are a great addition to DOST’s goal in strengthening the innovation capability of the country.”
The Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER Program was established to address disparity in access to R&D funding as resources are mostly concentrated in the National Capital Region and its neighboring regions. The program provides grants for Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the regions to undertake quality research to promote regional development with their existing capabilities and resources. The proposed NICER should be unique, a collaborative project between HEIs, and must be duly endorsed by the Regional Development Council (RDC) to ensure its socio-economic impact in the region.
Since the program’s inception in 2017, the project was able to establish 20 NICER Centers in 15 out of 17 Regions across the country. The NICER Program has released an aggregate R&D funding budget of P703 million.
Tapping into the potential of the local garlic industry
Garlic is a staple commodity in every Filipino kitchen household. Despite the Philippine’s annual consumption requirement of 139,777 metric tons, the local industry in Ilocos Norte produces only 61% of this need. This shows that despite the increasing demand for garlic, the local farmers are not able to benefit from this market trend directly.
The proposed National Garlic and Other Agri-Food Condiments R&D Center, which will be based at Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), will seek to revitalize the garlic industry in the country and improve the other agri-food condiments (e.g., shallot or multiplier onion, ginger, and turmeric) industry through R&D. The program is expected to contribute in increasing the local garlic’s competitiveness in the market and develop a successful chain for garlic production, including processing and storage facilities.
The NICER on Garlic Center will actively generate and enhance the technical competency of Local Government Units and other research institutions as well as continuously create a vibrant market opportunity through product development and other initiatives. Further, the project will strengthen partnership with other universities and colleges located in garlic growing provinces in the country such as Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Nueva Ecija, Batanes, Nueva Viscaya, Quezon, IloIlo, Romblon, Abra, and Benguet.
A sweet deal with the Queen Pineapple
Not just the sweetest pineapple variety available to PH, the Queen Pineapple (QP) is a sure source of nutrients and high quantities of dietary fiber. The queen pineapple may also be considered as a stable investment as it is a ‘Typhoon-resilient crop’ which is best suited in typhoon prone areas such as Bicol Region and Eastern Visayas (Region VIII).
With Camarines Norte State College (CNSC) spearheading the program in cooperation with Visayas State University, and DA-Regional Field Office V, the Queen Pineapple (QP) NICER program will address some of the problems and gaps in terms of production and marketing, particularly inadequate technologies.
The most popular processed forms of pineapple that can be seen in local markets are purees, juices, pie and jam. The recent study of CNSC produced Queen pineapple marinade, charcoal and chicken feed out of QP wastes giving opportunity to processors, farmers and interested individuals to earn additional income aside from the fresh Queen pineapple fruit. More importantly, transfer of viable Queen pineapple technologies will be done to help enhance production of high quality QP and increase income of farmers.
“As our country faces the threats of the new normal, our best strategy is to deliberately widen the geographic and sectoral sources of government by funding innovation programs like NICER,” says DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “Even with low level of funding for R&D, the innovation ecosystem of the Philippines can flourish. R&D ensures that our country grows and remains resilient, despite the presence of a pandemic.”
Interested parties may send their inquiries to the Science for Change Program – Project Management Office, with office address at Department of Science and Technology 2/F ADMATEL Bldg., DOST Compound, Gen. Santos Ave., Bicutan, Taguig City. They may also send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the S4C – PMO at (+632) 8837-2943 / 8837-2071 local 2510 or visit the S4C Facebook page at @dost.s4cp.