In 2015 we were introduced to the potential of Cacao Crop farming.
The attributes which got us excited about Cacao are:
- There is an increasing demand worldwide for organic chocolate and a decrease in production from the established resources.
- Philippines, more than 150 years ago was a leading cacao producer.
- Cacao trees are growing wild here where we operate.
- Through this whole Albay district we have coconut farms in the hills and rice in the valleys. You plant Cacao with the coconut trees – 700 Cacao trees to 100 Coconut trees.
- The coconut trees protect the cacao trees during typhoons ( that’s a Big deal here).
- In 3 years after planting, the cacao will produce fruit and in 4 yrs the farmers can expect 4x income compared to now.
Needless to say, we got excited, and currently we have planted 54,000 seedlings and there are 34,000 getting ready to plant in June/July 2017. That is the capacity for our 2 nurseries at the moment but the mayor of our District has very kindly levelled our industrial block and we plan to expand our nursery production subject to monetary support. Exciting recent news is that the Dept Agriculture is aware of our efforts and have donated a cacao processing building. They have approved our site and we expect them to start construction this year. We have registered our ‘Brand’ and will begin with some small production soon after completion. Profit share will be established with the farmers.
There is a long way to go and a lot of investment yet but eventually this project will be self funding.
Our biggest challenge right now is to propagate One Million seedlings and get them planted. Estimated cost approx. A$127,000.
Last year we were feeling pretty pleased with the progress we have made by increasing production for 100’s of rice and vegetable growers. We then reflected on our motto “ We take people out of poverty permanently”. Hey! What about the families with no land? Still dirt poor living well below the poverty line, not enough food on the table, and here we are surrounded by them, and yes – we are still feeding 112 kids every day at the Tumpa Elementary school. The answer was staring us in the face. All around there is arable vegetable growing land not being farmed due to absent, old or sick owners. We formed a business unit called M.F.A. FARMS and approached the owners with the proposition that we farm it and in return we will plant the land with coconut. All agreed and we now employ several of the previously unemployed to work the land. The unemployed without farming skills will be included as apprentices as we grow. This is early days, and we’re still in the red, but we will make this work. Currently we have 11 hectares planted with potential for 35 hectares and that’s just in barangay Sua. The Mayor has organized tables for us in the farmer market in town for retail and wholesale sales of our produce. We are now well recognized and respected by the Government agencies.
Tumpa Elementary SchoolTumpa school was an impoverished school, a plight which is common to the region and indeed all of the provinces of the Philippines. Tumpa had overcrowded classrooms and a desperate lack of resources for the teachers and students.
School BankingWhen Muravah Foundation arrived in Barangay Sua, nobody had a bank account. We decided to introduce bank accounts at the Tumpa Elementary school for students in grades 5 and 6.
Clean Up Barangay Sua DayIn October 2010, Muravah Foundation organized a ‘Clean Up Barangay Sua Day’. We promoted pride in the community and it was a huge success. Literally half the population turned up, including every one of the 500 kids who all received an educational book and an ice cream at the end of the day, as a reward for their efforts. The books were more popular than the ice cream – they don’t have any books at home and nor did the local elementary school. This is now an annual event!
Public Health CentreWhen you have poverty of the kind when people can’t even feed themselves, you inevitably have major health issues. They may be able to afford the Doctor's consultation but not the hospitalisation or the medicines. In poor areas and barangay’s in the Philippines, people suffer chronic pain and injury and die prematurely.
HealingAs the sick can't afford medicines, we have decided to approach health in a different way and our first project is the introduction of homeopathy volunteers.
Mayon Farmers Association (MFA):
Farmers MeetingOn the 11th February 2012, the Barangay Sua Captain and Muravah Foundation called a meeting in the town square. We expected about 40 farmers to show but in fact there were 89 plus some spouses and a score of kids. We informed everybody of our philosophies and intention to improve their farming techniques, incomes and standard of living.
Small Business Loans:
IrrigationAs at January 2012, there were 73 families of vegetable growers in Barangay Sua, who planted on the slopes of Mt Mayon. There were approximately 760 men, women and children that depended on the income from these vegetables.
Rice Growing LoansThe area under rice cultivation in Sua is 80 hectares and there is 120 hectares in neighbouring Tumpa, plus more in other Barangays. By April 2014, our target is to get the whole valley changed over to SRI and to double production in these areas. With 280 of our MFA members being rice growers, we are well on the way to achieving this target.
Food Processing Plant:
Rice and Coconut Processing PlantMuravah Foundation has plans to build a rice and coconut processing plant on the land that we currently own. The purpose of this plant is to provide employment for local people and to allow the farmers to process their own produce, thus retaining profits within the local community.
Continually Upgrade School FacilitiesThe successful renovation of the the Tumpa Elementary School has meant that more pupils are being enrolled in the school which equates to a need for additional classrooms. In addition, we are trying to reduce the size of each class to 30 students, which puts additional pressure on the number of existing classrooms. We are proposing to build a minimum of 2 new classrooms in 2018 - major sponsors are required!
We also have an ongoing program to continually upgrade the school facilities as requirements change.
# We are currently having very positive discussions with the DA & Mayor regarding receiving a Rice mill to be established on our industrial block. This is not exactly a money making venture as there is no money in rice if processing on a small scale however it will be a great service to the growers as we will process their rice at cost and the spin off for us is that the rice hull is ideal to be mixed with soil for the propagation of the Cacao seedlings.
# Three years from now we will need to expand our chocolate production facilities. This facility will be our 1st success at bringing factory production to the barangays and creating real, long term employment opportunities. All our projects are based on the principle of a Co-Op structure. The profit sharing will not just be for the farmers but for the factory workers as well.
# Coconut products are in growing demand and because of the health benefits of the fruit this will continue. A Coconut production facility is a must. Also we wish to include coconut in our chocolate production.
We already have a layout for all the above factories on our 4 hectares of industrial land.
As I mentioned before we still have those without land who eke out a subsistence existence by finding intermittent labor work, working sand and gravel in the local river, sari sari stores, many live up on Mount Mayon without any readily available water.
Its heart breaking to see the little kids dragging 5 litre plastic bottles full of water up the mountain of an afternoon.
We propose to wholly or partly install corrugated iron on the rooves of their dirt floor huts, add a gutter and some 44gallon drums down below to catch the water. We will do a costing and we believe this will be a terrific way for donors to get to know families if they so wish.
We are going to introduce small vegetable gardens to their homes as well. They cannot afford the seeds let alone anything else. Nutrition improvement is a big deal as so many are malnourished. I don’t have to tell anybody as we all know education is way up there in taking folk out of poverty. We are introducing adult education and any volunteers who can teach are very welcome to join us.
The Foundation was founded on sponsoring kids in slums into top schools and a guarantee that if they worked hard they would go to University.
This is still in play with at any given time at least 35 children being sponsored.
We already have 12 University graduates who are all in good jobs.
This is a really worthwhile project as education is one of the pillars in the foundation of the house to take folk out of poverty.
The cost right now is half of our overhead but in saying that, thanks to a whole lot of generous people out there, 1/3 of this is covered by their sponsorship.
Every single kid is doing us proud. Beautiful. Of course, “wouldn’t we love to add 100 more!”
Water Catchment and Storage: