Mini-conference highlights how community-based projects cope with COVID-19 pandemic

  • Written by  Harlene May Viesca
  • Published in News

Through a virtual mini-conference, various community-based project teams were able to share their experiences and best practices in implementing their activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The mini-conference, organized by the Department of Social Development Services (DSDS) of the UPLB College of Human Ecology (CHE) in partnership with the Science & Technology Community-based for Inclusive Development (STC4iD) Program, was held on 07 December 2020.

With the theme “Community-based Interventions for Inclusive Development in the Time of COVID-19", the conference aimed to open a systematic and academic discourse in the sharing of community-based projects’ experiences and challenges brought about by the pandemic, as well as their practical solutions and best practices that can also be adopted by future programs.

The mini-conference had two plenary sessions, four breakout sessions with 16 paper presentations, and one by-invite roundtable discussion that were all conducted via Zoom. The programs and papers presented focused on food security; community-based enterprise development; and project monitoring and evaluation.

Dr. Emma Ruth V. Bayogan, first plenary speaker, presented the adaptive approaches that their team, including the site facilitators and the farmers used during the pandemic as they implement their program titled, “Enhancing Livelihood Opportunities in Conflict-Vulnerable Areas in Mindanao through the Livelihood Improvement through Facilitated Extension (LIFE) Model.”

Dr. Emma Ruth V. Bayogan presented the framework of their LIFE Program.

The program is led by Dr. Bayogan, and is supported by the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD), UP Mindanao, Landcare Foundation of the Philippines, Inc., and the ACIAR Mindanao Agricultural Extension Project (AMAEP).

According to Dr. Bayogan, “What we’re happy about is that farmers have developed their voice, not only in terms of what they need, but also what additional learning they needed from the agricultural technologists that’s located nearby.” The program uses facilitated extension in improving the livelihood and quality of life of farmers.

Dr. Bayogan is a UP Scientist II and is the current director of UP Mindanao’s Center for the Advancement of Research, Development, and Engagement in Mindanao.

Dr. Emilia S. Visco, second plenary speaker, presented their paper titled, “(Re)Calibrating Strategies for the New Normal: The STC4iD Program Experience.” According to Dr. Visco, “The most challenging however is the conduct of training,” citing that they were no longer able to gather 40 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) partners for a usual 3-day training because of the COVID-19 situation.

Dr. Emilia S. Visco presented the framework of their STC4iD Program.

As a response, they partnered with the Institute of Cooperatives and Bio-Enterprise Development (ICOPED) to prepare the Enterprise Development Planning Module for their partners, before conducting the training using the blended learning approach. Focused on capacity development and monitoring and evaluation, the STC4iD program was initially implemented in 5 out of the 20 poorest provinces in the Philippines - Sorsogon, Siquijor, Bukidnon, Sultan Kudarat, and Sulu - as required by PCAARRD.

“STC4iD bridges the gap between stakeholders and technology, information, and social practices which plays a critical role in addressing poverty and in empowering communities in the Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources (AANR) sector", Dr. Visco said. She has been a public servant for almost 30 years, and is currently a UPLB professor.

Asked by conference participants about the possibility of sharing the two programs to the Department of Agriculture - Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and to the rest of the Filipino communities, Dr. Bayogan and Dr. Visco answered affirmatively.

“ATI has already started to roll this out. May balak na mai-roll-out ito because it’s been a good number of years na tina-try namin, vi-na-validate, kung ano pa ‘yung pwedeng maidagdag based on the experiences on the many sites since nagkaroon ng pilot testing (There are plans for the rollout because we have spent a good number of years in validating the components we are aiming to add to the program, based on the experiences of the sites during the pilot testing),” Dr. Bayogan said.

While they only have five community-based partners, Dr. Visco said sharing their program with ATI can be quite challenging as shown on their initial results. “Sa ATI, that will be the decision of PCAARRD, maganda rin po yun kasi there’s a synergy of resources ng gobyerno. (It is up to PCAARRD to decide on sharing the program with ATI, but that is good because there is a synergy of government resources)”, she added.

In her opening remarks, DSDS Chair Clarice Pulumbarit said, “This mini-conference highlighting the experiences and insights on ensuring continuity of our initiatives and on sustainability amid pandemics is our own contribution to help us navigate the new normal.”

For his part, DOST-PCAARRD’s Executive Director Reynaldo V. Ebora believed that the conference “will give opportunities to share and exchange ideas and insights, gain inspiration from the realities of life, and broaden knowledge about the challenges that were never encountered in the implementation of community-based projects, such as the STC4iD program.”

UPLB Chancellor Jose V. Camacho, Jr. commended DSDS and the STC4iD Program for conducting the virtual mini-conference. “As part of our vision to future-proof UPLB, we seek to learn from disruptions, implement those lessons, and ensure that future disruptions will be easier to handle,” he stated.

DSDS is a department unit under CHE in UPLB that aims to “conduct instruction, research and extension programs that are instrumental in the development and strengthening of organizations and social institutions to enable them to actively participate in organizing, mobilizing, and managing human and environmental resources towards economic productivity, social development and ecological well-being.”

On the other hand, STC4iD is the national program of the DOST-PCAARRD that uses extension and technology transfer to “establish a sustainable and resilient AANR-based communities through science and technology.” Regional Consortia, SUCs, DOST Regional Offices, and Local Government Units (LGUs) of Geographically, Economically, and Socially Disadvantaged (GESDA) communities collaborate to implement all projects under the STC4iD program.