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By Karen Salandanan-Bautista
April 12, 2012

Delegates of the WOCAT-ASOCON Workshop
Recognizing the need to review its structure and functions amidst changing natural and socio-political environment, the national coordinators of the Asia Soil Conservation Network for the Humid Tropics (ASOCON) held its 14th Network Consultative Board (NCB) meeting back to back with the Second Land Use Systems-LADA workshop in Antipolo City from March 26-28, 2012. This three-day event marked the collaborative efforts of the World Overview of Conservation Approaches and Technologies (WOCAT), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) and U.P. Los Baños (UPLB) to harmonize regional initiatives on sustainable soil and water resources conservation and management.

The current ASOCON’s network structure consists of a Coordinating Unit (CU) which is based in Jakarta, Indonesia and national coordinating committees of member countries (China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam). Each country has a National Coordinator who serves as the ASOCON Focal Point in his/her country and responsible for the implementation of ASOCON activities at the national level. National coordinators form the NCB which is considered as the steering committee and policy-making body of ASOCON.

Organized in 1989 with the primary objective to enhance information exchange, experts consultations, regional workshops and learning activities of those who are involved in the development and dissemination of soil and water resources conservation technologies to small-scale farmers, the ASOCON is now facing a new task of revitalize itself to respond better to the emerging challenge of climate change as it impacts land degradation, desertification and food insecurity as well as changes in leadership and funding constraints.

In the recently concluded ASOCON’s 14th NCB meeting, member-countries signed a resolution to renew its commitment by reviewing and revising the Joint Memorandum of Understanding including the network’s membership, structure and functions. They also agreed to expand their membership to include countries not within the humid tropics zone of Asia such as but not limited to Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, India and Nepal. Further, to harmonize ASOCON and WOCAT initiatives within the region, ASOCON members will utilize the standardized tools developed by WOCAT for the documentation, monitoring and evaluation of best sustainable land management practices.

Inasmuch as the strength of a network lies on its Secretariat, ASOCON members also decided that the time came to transfer the CU from Jakarta, Indonesia to Manila, Philippines with the BSWM as the host agency. ASOCON National Coordinator Dr. Silvino Q. Tejada accepted this critical role with high hopes that the Philippines could be equally effective as Indonesia in coordinating the programs and activities of the network. The transition stage sets in with the transfer of the management of ASOCON website from Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry to BSWM-ISRIS.

In addition to the important decisions agreed upon during the 14th NCB meeting, the ASOCON members attended a joint session on Philippine LADA project updates focusing on the preparation of land use system map to increase their awareness on land degradation assessment in monsoon country like the Philippines. They also presented their respective country report on the status of land degradation, interventions made and success stories on soil and water conservation where other countries can take some lessons learned based on field experiences. Participants were also given the opportunity to learn SLM best practices when they visited the San Roque Guided Soil Conservation project in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.

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