A renowned agriculture expert, Secretary Dar returns to a post he had assumed two decades ago. Dar had been agriculture chief from 1998 to 1999, during the administration of President Joseph Estrada.
He was also Estrada's presidential adviser on food security in 1999. But he is best known in the agricultural research and science community as a longtime director-general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in Patancheru in Telangana, India.
He led the global agricultural research institute for three 5-year terms – from 2000 to 2014 focusing on the core value of promoting science with a human face.
“Before, our scientists researched for the sake of researching. They used science for the sake of science. But we changed all that. We started refocusing our efforts [on] research that would actually benefit farmers,” he said.
For this feat and other contributions, Sec. Dar received The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award in 2016 from President Duterte.
He became the founding director of the DA's Bureau of Agricultural Research in 1988. He also served as the executive director of the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) of the Department of Science and Technology from 1994-1998.
Upon returning to the Philippines after retiring from ICRISAT, he organized the Inang Lupa Movement with the aim to enhance the food and nutrition security as well as increase the productivity and income of small Filipino farmers through soil rejuvenation, sustainable and integrated natural resource management, the use of improved cultivars and hybrids, and pushing for reforms in the agriculture sector.
Sec. Dar hails from Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur and obtained a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education in 1973 from then Mountain State Agricultural College (now Benguet State University). He received in 1976 his master’s degree in agronomy and in 1980 obtained his doctorate degree in horticulture at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna.
He introduced four “pillars” of agriculture that he developed through his 15 years of experience in ICRISAT and vowed to apply them in the Philippines. The first pillar, he said, is inclusiveness, where farmers are made part of the process to create solutions for agricultural development.
The other pillars are science-based agriculture, resilient agriculture in response to climate change, and market orientation where agriculture must be viewed as a business and the focus should be on how to make farming profitable and attractive to the youth.