Starweek Magazine

Malindang wakes up to smell the coffee

- Pacita U. Juan -

MANILA, Philippines - Together with our Subanen brothers and sisters, we have always recognized the importance of protecting Mt. Malindang, a remote mountain range in Northern Mindanao, where an intrepid local executive has started the spade work for a revolutionary approach to empowerment of its indigenous peoples through organic farming.

Mayor Rudy Luna of Don Victoriano, concurrently president of the Misamis Occidental Mayor’s League, has vowed his full commitment to proactively engage the guidance of industry leaders and technical experts in planting coffee, cacao, and all other suitable high-value cash crops with promising export potentials, in what would be almost 20,000 hectares dedicated to globally-certified organic coffee production.

Pursuant to the recently enacted Organic Farming Law of 2010, Don Victoriano immediately followed suit by issuing an ordinance this year, declaring itself as a dedicated organic farming municipality that shall emulate, embody and embrace all green initiatives to date. Don Victoriano’s approximately 30,000 hectares covers all of Malindang’s north and south peaks as well as its main peak, bordered by the Zamboanga (Del Norte and Del Sur) peninsula westward, and Misamis Occidental’s 12 municipalities and three cities radiating eastward on its downslopes. Hence, “Its social dimensions and geo-economic impact is of utmost significance,” the mayor points out.

Mayor Luna declares, “It is only through the sustainable planting of trees such as coffee, cacao, jathropa, and highland cavendish bananas, as well as fast growing tree species like musizi and golden shower, that we shall be able to truly restore, reforest and safeguard the Malindang mountain range while at the same time provide alternate sources of livelihood to the indigenous people inhabitants by employing them as caretaker farmers of these cooperative plantations.”  

This paradigm shift ambitiously aims to put an end to unscrupulous illegal loggers operating all over the Mt. Malindang Range. Luna’s indefatigable enthusiasm in the initiative comes at a most opportune time, as pursuant to Global Climate Change Initiatives, the preservation and protection of Mt. Malindang as a natural park is now all the more imperative. “With this mission, indiscriminate logging will now be eradicated as there will be no need to engage in kaingin and illegal logging activities for their economic subsistence. The ultimate benefit shall be for the Philippines as we can now claim carbon credits for the reforested carbon footprint of the Malindang Mountain Range,” Luna adds.

“We can now confidently plant and reforest the Malindang Mountain Range of Don Victoriano with coffee and the like without threats from illegal loggers entering our forests and watershed,” says Luna.

To ensure the success of the project, Luna has already met with Champions of Industry from the Philippine Coffee Board to have seedlings ready for the coming planting season, as an offshoot of his attendance to the 1st Coffee Summit held late last year.

“Thanks to the Coffee Summit organized by the Philippine Coffee Board and their dedicated advocacies, our awareness has been transformed and we have been inspired even more to pursue this noble vision.”

From the knowledge he acquired from the Coffee Summit, Luna is positive that the Mt. Malindang project will truly flourish. “As we learned from the coffee summit, coffee grows best at elevations of 300 meters to as high as 2,400 meters, depending on variety,” he explains. “We are confident to successfully grow all four varieties of coffee – Robusta, Excelsa, Arabica and Liberica (Barako).”  

“In order to operationalize all these initiatives, we need the help of the Department of Agriculture regional offices to jumpstart our program by providing us initially with farm technicians, agriculture experts and staff for the seedling and nursery maintenance,” says Luna on the plans to put the project on its way. “The Philippine Coffee Board will continue to provide us with invaluable guidance on the processing, marketing and exports of our future organic coffee production.”

With the support of various sectors, Luna is enthusiastic about the project and its possible outcome. “With the President’s valued interventions thru the Agriculture secretary, who is himself an organic farmer, it is not a far-fetched dream anymore for the Philippines to be back on the world coffee map,” Luna predicts. “We plan to position ‘Malindang’ as a globally-certified organic farming premium brand of excellence, produced in Mindanao by its indigenous peoples, to be launched during the world’s biggest food fair and exhibition at ANUGA in Germany,” the mayor adds.

With its success, the project will not only help to enliven the country’s coffee industry, but it will also ensure the preservation and protection of Mt. Malindang. Mayor Luna adds, “We firmly believe that organic farming is the way to go, as it does not only give us a global competitive edge in the commodities market, but is also our contribution and commitment to build a healthier country for all generations to come.”

The author is president of the Philippine Coffee Board







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