Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A ‘gentleman farmer’ visits Canatuan in Zamboanga del Norte

Rey and Merlou Quisumbing (3rd and 2nd from left, respectively) gifted Subanon tribal chief, Timuay Jose Anoy with coffee tree seedlings after their meeting. Also present were TVIRD Community Relations and Development Office personnel.

ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines - Rey Quisumbing is an agri-entrepreneur from Zamboanga del Sur. He refers to himself as a “gentleman farmer” and signs agricultural development proposals with this as his title.

He has made a name in the Zamboanga Peninsula region in Southern Philippines for the success of his farm projects, particularly the Sayao Farms in Kumalarang town where, together with his wife Merlou, they developed a model sustainable farm.

The couple likewise operates the “Kainan sa Balsa”, literally a floating restaurant that also serves as a showcase of their farm produce. They grow vegetables, fruits and fish in their farm situated along the Zamboanga del Sur-Zamboanga Sibugay national highway. This is why they rarely find a need to go to the market and buy ingredients for the dishes they serve in their restaurant.

Aside from being entrepreneurs, the couple also shares a mission of encouraging other people, especially those referred to as “marginalized”, to improve their lives through agribusiness. And this is what they intend to share with the Subanon indigenous people of Canatuan, hosts of TVI Resource Development Phils. Inc. (TVIRD)’s copper-zinc mine in the mountains of Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

The Quisumbings recently visited the Canatuan mine to meet with tribal leaders and to discuss the feasibility of developing coffee plantations in the Subanon ancestral domain. During the visit, they met with Timuay Jose “Boy” Anoy, the tribal chieftain and administrator of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) of Siocon.

“I am so happy that my dream of developing a coffee plantation in our ancestral land will finally be realized. I have long wanted to start this project but our tribe lacks the technical capabilities,” an elated Timuay Anoy said after meeting with the couple. “This coffee project will be a good addition to the existing agricultural development projects that our tribe has started with the help of the company’s (TVIRD) Sustainable Development Management Program (SDMP),” he added, referring to the rubber and abaca plantations the Subanons have already started in the area.

Rey shared to the Subanon chief and to the TVIRD agriculturists who joined the meeting the income opportunities in coffee farming. He said that the Philippines’ annual demand for coffee has reached 62,000 metric tons while production in the county is pegged at only 24,000 metric tons. “The demand gap for coffee, amounting to 38,000 metric tons, is right now being imported from other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam,” Rey explained. “These countries learned coffee farming from the Philippine. There is a big opportunity for the Subanons of Canatuan to share a big chunk of this supply gap by intercropping coffee with other suitable plants in the area.”

Carlos Tuerco, a TVIRD senior agriculturist, said that the company will assist the farmers in the CADT and in neighboring impact communities by enabling them to acquire the new coffee farming technology. “We would like to start training our farmers belonging to the four farming clusters inside the ancestral domain and eventually include those from the company’s impact communities,” Tuerco added. “Our objective is to provide these people with the technology and knowledge that will enable them to sustain the development of the area even after we close the mine in the near future.”

After the visit, a series of training programs will be scheduled this year to benefit the various farmer groups in the area. Timuay Anoy has expressed interest in immediately starting the development of coffee plantations in areas he personally identified. “I would like our tribe to plant coffee near the forested areas and near the river,” he averred. I” believe that if we do these, we will not only be realizing sustainable income from coffee farming but will likewise protect our forests and river which are both very important elements of our life as Subanons.”

The introduction of coffee farming technology has been identified as one of the key capacity building activities under the company’s SDMP for 2011. The program, administered by the company through its Community Relations and Development Office will, on a quarterly basis, train a farmer cluster to plant coffee and develop nurseries of coffee seedlings as a source of steady supply for at least 16 hectares of land aside from those identified by the Subanon tribe. (Ernie Rojo)

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