Int’l conference underscores futures thinking in agri-vironment transformation

By Daniel P. Tapaoan, Jr. 


The vital role of futures thinking and strategic foresight in achieving sustainable development in agriculture and environment is being tackled in an international conference co-organized by Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) and the Philippine Association of Agri-vironment Educators and Entrepreneurs (PASSAGE), Inc. 


Opened today, March 16, at the MMSU Center for Flexible Learning, the 2023 International Conference on Sustainable Agri-vironment Education, Entrepreneurship, and Community Development (ICSAVED) serves as an avenue in discussing the current state and potentials of agri-vironment education and entrepreneurship in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era. 


Prof. Shermon Cruz, executive director and chief futurist of the Center for Engaged Foresight based in Manila, underscored the potentials of futures and foresight in reinventing and rethinking sustainable borderless development in agriculture and environment. 


Prof. Cruz, also the chair of the Association of Professional Futurists, said that futures thinking is about studying and using the future as an asset to provoke, engage, and inspire personal, organizational and societal transformation. He added that strategic foresight – the individual and organizational competency to use the future – requires the skills of questioning assumptions, revealing the patterns of change, discovering the unknowable, reframing the future, weaving insights to transform, and creating multiple strategies. 


To link futures thinking to agri-vironment education and entrepreneurship, he encouraged the agri-vironment educators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and development workers to embark on studying materials revolution, devaluation of data, techno and bio-vulnerabilities, peer to peer electricity, regenerative microeconomies, borderless world, digital twins, autonomous robots, repurposing human purpose, and advanced health and nutrition. 


In her message to the participants, MMSU President Shirley C. Agrupis said the conference is a call to apply data-driven approaches, be equipped with digital technologies, and espouse futures thinking and strategic foresight to empower the development sectors. 


“We are fortunate that MMSU is already in this area, but we are willing to accept new ideas and best practices from other individuals and institutions with similar cause and direction in sustainable development,” President Agrupis remarked. 


The university president was represented by Dr. Oscar Agpaoa, university vice president for administration, finance and business, during the ICSAVED opening program. 


PASSAGE President Maria Ana Quimbo said the 2023 ICSAVED was conceptualized to offer valuable information and tackle a wide gamut of interesting and challenging topics through research results in agriculture, education, environment, entrepreneurship and community development. 


“This conference also recognizes the important role of higher education institutions in shaping and preparing the workforce to adapt to the changing work environment,” Quimbo mused.


Dr. Marlowe Aquino, MMSU planning director and PASSAGE vice president at large, said 40 research papers were accepted for the plenary sessions, and another six for an organized panel session. 


The event also involves plenary sessions with the four resource speakers: Dr. Siti Aekbal Salleh, head of Sustainable Technology Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development of the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Malaysia; Dr. Rostam Yaman, registered surveyor and associate professor of the UiTM College of Built Environment; Dr. Glenn Gregorio, director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture; and Dr. Nuttavikhom Phanthuwongpakdee, coordinator of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network Asia.


Conducted in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, and Leads Agricultural Products Corporation, the event culminates tomorrow, Mar. 17. (HLY, StratCom)