HANOI, Vietnam – As a strategic partner of the Food Security Center (FSC) of the University of Hohenheim, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) organized several meetings here on 30 May 2018, as part of the ongoing External Evaluation of the German government's program on Higher Education Excellence in Development Cooperation – EXCEED.
The meetings were held at the Vietnam National University of Agriculture (VNUA), Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD), and Thai Nguyen University for Agriculture and Forestry (TUAF).
Participants from FSC-supported events organized by SEARCA, as well as SEARCA representatives, were interviewed by Dr. Bert Jan Buiskool and Dr. Michael Krawinkel of Ockham IPS, a research and consulting organization based in the Netherlands contracted by the German government to conduct the evaluation.
In general, the interviewees expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity afforded them to participate in the events. They said the events were well-organized, the resource persons were very knowledgeable in the topics presented, that they learned much from the experiences of other countries and institutions and that these topics were very much relevant to their work situations.
One interviewee said the participants in the workshop he attended all worked hard, with some of the workshop sessions extending until late in the evenings. Another related that with the knowledge he gained from another event (a policy roundtable on agricultural insurance), he did a study applicable to his country and wrote a policy paper that he submitted to his institution for consideration. There was a lament, though, from another interviewee that the duration of the event he attended was quite short to come up with a detailed project proposal and it would be good if a follow-up activity was held for a more collaborative project.
For SEARCA's part, the support from FSC has enabled it to reach a wider audience—bringing experts in Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar to deliver short courses in topics that are based on the need of the local institutions. Funding from FSC also helped develop a new curriculum in Myanmar, and kick-off another project to develop a new MS program in Food Security and Climate Change. The FSC Summer School also served as the inspiration that motivated the annual Summer Schools that are now being conducted by the SEARCA-established University Consortium.
All in all, the external evaluators were pleased with what they heard about the FSC-supported activities that SEARCA implemented and were looking at some of these as possible new directions for a third phase of the EXCEED project.