NOT THAT the previous development theme of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) was not so effective. On the contrary, looking back, the PCC, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, more than achieved what it laid as achievement goals in its two decades of operations.
But, in light of current realities and challenges, it now needed a strategic shift to go beyond boundaries in pursuit of its determined drive towards inclusive growth and enhance its mettle to be of better help to the competitiveness of the livestock industry and agricultural development.
In keeping with the change occasioned by the government-wide rationalization program, the PCC needed to formulate a new development theme. Precisely, the theme – “making PCC an effective R&D agency contributing to the competitiveness of the livestock and agriculture sectors” – was drawn up recently to be the guidepost in the strategic shift that is programmed to be carried out and achieve its goals within 10 years.
With Executive Director Dr. Arnel N. del Barrio at the helm, the PCC’s top leaders gathered in a series of meetings last year that culminated in the crafting of a new developmental theme. It underscores the major programs of the PCC and sets the shift from what had been carried out in the past with new directions. The directions are expressed in goals, yearly output of studies, targets or outputs, structures or methodology to be followed, and the lead persons and collaborating centers.
Former executive director Dr. Libertado C. Cruz was on hand to lend his expertise in crafting the development theme of the agency.
Central to the new development theme is a veering away from the usual research and development (R&D) concept, in which research is just for the sake of producing basic or foundational knowledge without any immediate application. In many cases, outputs of traditional R&D just gather dust in library shelves. Now, it is “research for development” or R4D. Simply put, it gives more emphasis to development but without disregard to the basic science.
R4D itself requires a paradigm shift on how a researcher views or approaches a research topic. It is problem-driven, not research-initiated. It addresses a particular concern that besets the carabao industry stakeholders, particularly the small-hold farmers. It entails interdisciplinary (or better yet transdisciplinary) approaches aimed at evolving a more robust knowledge system.
Inclusive to this R4D initiative is the “intensified research-based enterprise build-up” (IREB, as coined by Dr. Cruz) in rural communities. IREB envisions carabao-based enterprises, backed up by continuing research, flourishing in rural areas in the new developmental efforts of PCC.
Although this new development theme is set to be formally launched starting in 2016, energizing initiatives toward its implementation kicked-off early this year. Therefore, harmonization of the activities of PCC toward its 10-Year Plan is seen to be starting now.
Thematic, priority areas
Ten areas of concern comprise the agenda of the R4D initiatives. These are (1) genetic improvement; (2) production management system; (3) biosafety; (4) environment and climate change; (5) enterprise development; (6) product development; (7) industry and policy; (8) technology transfer; (9) socio-economic dimensions of the Carabao Development Program (CDP) implementation; and (10) institutional development.
Two very important end-goals are emphasized as outcomes of the new development theme: production of the Philippine dairy buffalo breed and the best buffalo-derived products.
In the past years of the PCC’s undertakings, the development of the Philippine dairy buffalo breed may not been much emphasized although many believed that through years of crossing and back-crossing, the ideal breed may have already been produced in the country. Nevertheless, strict protocols – like determining the histories and pertinent data in so far as breeding of the crossed and backcrossed animals are concerned and the exact records of performances – are meticulously taken.
The developed dairy buffalo is one with an average yield of 3,000 liters of milk with 7.4% fat and 4.4% protein in a 305-day lactation period.
For buffalo-derived products, not only milk and milk products are emphasized but also meat and other by-products, like hide, horns, bones and others that are needed for development of their respective industries.
The tools for these products are the appropriate human resource, well-equipped laboratories, knowledge management that include information dissemination and technology transfer, business development and proactive fund generation.
Program emphasis is a shift from what used to have been carried to another dimension, which is considered as strategic priorities.
In extension, the shift is from direct provision of production-related services, like artificial insemination (AI), deworming and vaccination to communication, for improved technology adoption.
As for AI privatization, which uses the subsidized “rowing approach”, it will be full privatization with improved efficiency at reduced government cost. For enterprise development, it will be gradual phase-out the animal loan program to establishment of dairy hubs.
The hub, as explained by Dr. del Barrio, involves the development of a facility that is the center of a network of activities in buffalo dairying. This network includes those actors or entities involved in providing AI services, feedstuff, milk, milk products and other buffalo-derived products, marketing, promotions, credit, and others. These, he said, would see the development and operationalization of specific buffalo-based enterprises which, taken as a whole, would enliven the dairy-buffalo industry in the country (See Q&A story in this issue).
On the aspect of impact zones development, however, in addition to the previous goal of establishing viable buffalo-based enterprises, the zones will be developed to serve as media for breed development and venues for the actualization of the R4D program. As Dr. del Barrio said, the PCC would take the problems of the dairy farmers as subjects of researches with the end-goal of providing solutions to the farmers’ problem through the results of the researches.
Goals to Pursue
Between five and ten years, the PCC sees achievement of certain goals in consonance with the overarching goals of its new development theme.
Goal One is development of a Philippine Dairy Buffalo. It involves the evaluation and selection of purebred riverine buffaloes and crossbred buffaloes that will serve as parents for the eventual development of the Philippine Dairy Buffalo Breed which can equal, if not surpass, the developed breeds of dairy buffalos in some other parts of the world.
The studies, which are expected to come out with yearly outputs, include the set objectives and parameters, development of animal recording and data collection system, performance and progeny testing for the cows and sires, respectively; performance evaluation and breeding value estimation, and studies on new traits. Specific numbers of bulls and female crossbreds will eventually be identified and enlisted in a Philippine Dairy Buffalo registry.
Goal Two is the improvement of the meat production and meat quality traits of the Philippine Swamp Buffalo breed. It involves the breeding of the desired buffalo bulls that will be nominated for field validation with village-based cows.
Goal Three is to increase the rate of genetic gain through the application of molecular genetics and reproductive biotechniques. It involves the use of the following: microsatellite markers for pedigree verification, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in traits selection, medium density SNP panel in breeding program, biotechniques that will harness the application of OVU/IVEF/ET in the production of purebred animals, and fertility assay of semen from bull donors for AI.
Goal Four is the conservation and utilization of water buffalo genetic resource. At least 25 animals in various islands that are perceived to be distinct populations will be identified.
The shift in the PCC’s implementation strategies is expected to impact on the realization of these goals. In the years ahead, the PCC is poised to strengthen its position as a highly relevant and competent scientific institution that partners closely with all key actors in the water buffalo supply or value chain. Such a broad-based participation of actors is seen to eventually promote inclusive growth and development of the water buffalo industry, and ultimately contribute to the enhancement of the well-being of the rural populace.