Here’s the latest update on the plantation:
With the end of planting season last year, we undertook maintenance activities for the plantation, getting ring weeding done for the coffee trees and clearing some of the re-growth. We also pruned the coffee trees to help them grow better by getting rid of sick or dried branches & leaves so that the trees can focus nutrients on the healthy, useful branches & leaves.
This first few months of 2015, we have been working closely with our new technical consultant to prepare for this year’s activities. We have also been focused on capability building with the Bugkalot cooperative. We conducted several training sessions with the cooperative leadership and have several more sessions lined up. We’ve provided technical training and will be conducting ongoing skills training as well.
As we went through the 2015 plan, we made sure to involve the cooperative since they know the land, climate and people better. We want to ensure we utilize their knowledge better, since this helps the project and also provides a good training ground for them to practice the skills they are learning.
On March 18, BCCPC (the cooperative formed by our tribal partners) had their first annual general assembly for the year and conducted their first official election. Five new board members were elected (the rest were re-elected) and the different committees were set up. They also had year-end reports for their first year of operation and invited several VIPs from the municipality. It was encouraging to see how far they’ve come in just one year. They (and we) still have a long way to go, but we’re excited with the progress we’ve made and are happy with what we’ve gotten done!
It’s already November and we now have approximately 80,000-85,000 coffee seedlings planted on an area of approximately 85 hectares! There are another 100,000 seedlings in the nursery waiting to be planted next rainy season. We have stopped planting this year, as rainy season comes to an end. We will now begin the management & maintenance phase for the plantation, and will expect the first harvest (from the seedlings planted this year) in 2016. We will resume planting next rainy season, when the rains come again.
Throughout the months of July to October, BCC created jobs for more than 200 Bugkalot farmers and we will continue to provide jobs for about 50-75 farmers as we move to the management & maintenance phase of the plantation. This will be done through the cooperative we helped the Bugkalot organize. The cooperative’s management team will continue to receive on-the-job training on managing a large scale business and learning basic management principles, while their members receive technical training on the various aspects of coffee growing.
Bugkalot Coffee Company believes in empowering the Bugkalot, not just by equipping and enabling them. This will provide longer term benefit in terms of stronger leaders with the experience to run their business without external micro-management. We have already seen significant benefit for the community by providing jobs and creating economy for the Bugkalot, and we look forward to even greater impact for the community as we develop & expand the plantation.
The Bugkalot have protected their lands and their forests from the plague of illegal logging that has denuded and destroyed much of the Philippines’ forest cover and the Bugkalot Ancestral Domain which is a national treasure. However, there are significant areas of thin and denuded cover resulting from natural events and traditional ‘slash and burn’ agriculture practices. The reforestation of such areas with industrial tree crops like coffee provides for livelihood opportunities for the Bugkalot forest-dwellers, the environmental rehabilitation of sparse and denuded forest lands and the protection of critical watersheds.