There’s been plenty happening.
But 1st a story;
One Thursday in August I called a meeting for Saturday to discuss how we were going to produce 20,000 cacao seedlings in 2 weeks.
On Friday night Milay, who is the ‘Hero’ of the cacao initiative, received a phone call from a Government agency she had lodged a request to, advising that 25,000 Cacao seedlings would be arriving next day - Saturday. The truck was on its way. Only Milay knew about this as she doubted her request would come to anything. Talk about synchronicity.
Our meeting was postponed till Monday and now another 20k are being prepared. We want 100k planted within 12 months so we can go into chocolate production in 3 years.
These seedlings are co-planted with coconut trees so no extra land required, just extra income for the coconut growers. They’re lining up right through the whole region where 200,000 coconut farming folk reside.
Mayon Farmers Association is now well known throughout Bicol Region ( Pop: 6M) Our membership is 1,250 farmers, having a direct effect on more than 10,000 people. It could be 50,000 MFA members and one day soon it will be.
Intense Board meeting: Sarah, secretary/treasurer on left with back to us, Arnel (Construction ), Rod ( Volunteer and political connection), Gilbert ( marketing/sales/MFA chairman), Milay ( special projects/government departments/farmers organisations/ Chairwoman Camalig region farmer organisations).
We have farmers and farming organisations wanting – pleading - for our support. The support they are talking about is our ‘Inputs’ Loan programme and technical support. We have proved that we can increase crop yield by more than 3 times, and they know it. The Government and its agencies cannot do what we do as there is no trust between the farmers and the government, the poor and the rich. Frustration on both sides crippling any potential in the economy, and it can be argued that all parties deserve some blame.
‘Mayon Gold’ our new inbred rice variety about to nearly double our yields and in the words of the Ag scientist inventor “ will revolutionize the rice industry worldwide”. We are one of the 1storganisations to go commercial with it.
It’s a bit of a worry as the Philippines Government signed a Free Trade Agreement 12 years ago, and there is the threat of rice from Vietnam retailing next year at half the current price. Our members who follow our planting protocols will be ok as their increased production will let them survive. Problem is that in Bicol alone there are 2.4m of the population dependant on rice farming.
Milay, the guest speaker at a Dept of Ag meeting for leading Farming Organisations of Bicol
We called a meeting on a Monday, which was well attended by Farmer organisations from up to 300Klm’s away, to try to pull them together to tackle this head on. We had the ideas but bottom line was that the corruption and total dislocation between Government, the rich and the farming poor was too big a hurdle to climb over.
So we are going out on our own trying to raise capital from involved parties like Rice Mill owners and Local businesses who benefit from the spending of these farmers.
We can only do what we can do. Wish us luck.
We have a meeting this coming Monday with some ‘heads’ of the Dept. of Agriculture to discuss alternative crops for the rice growers. Other options if worst comes to worst.
We will probably buy the Rice Mill we are currently renting as it gives us the opportunity to share some of the profit with the farmers and further alleviate their poverty. If rice becomes non profitable it is centrally situated and will make an ideal chocolate factory.
MFA is now locked into a Govt program that will mean, that within 12 months, they will give us a Rice Mill.
The Rice Mill
Tumpa School goes from strength to strength, with Hector our very progressive headmaster leading from the front. The sporting teams are doing well regionally, the ‘band’ marches around and plays in perfect time, and we now have the biggest vege garden in any school in the area which will supplement the feeding programme, will provide some vege for the kids to take home, and 1/3 to be sold for the benefit of the school.
Because of the feeding program Tumpa is the only school in the area where undernourishment of the kids has been eliminated.
Its beautiful to see that a growing number of our MFA members are now becoming self-sufficient and paying their own way.
Taking people out of poverty permanently is starting to work. Takes time.
A plough operator on the slopes of Mayon
We had a problem with the Dotti tank not filling with water. Madam Mayon moved and redirected our water supply. Arnel came up with a solution of diverting a deep gully (about 1km further up the mountain) that was now carrying our water. Worked a treat. Well done Arnel. And the vegetable growers are now back in business.
Early morning view of Mayon from the top of ‘Dotti’ tank, full up with 240 tonne of water ready for the dry season.
I’m very excited about the Cacao Initiative. This opportunity was introduced by Milay when she joined our staff 18 months ago. She and our always ready volunteer Rod Moyo have been travelling the Albay district and beyond, training and educating the Coconut growers on the ‘how to’ of Cacao farming. At the same time we guarantee to buy everything they grow as Milay has sales secured internationally. A big bonus of this crop is that they are planted amongst coconut trees and so are protected from Typhoons, and they bear fruit continuously, which brings in regular income for the farmers. Well done Milay.
Our Cacoa Crop...
We now know about rice milling, have a very good team in place, ably led by Chris, and we are about to head into harvest time with the expectation we will mill at least 6,000 sacks of Palay. Our rice will be retailed under the MFA name and we have an option of having our own retail store in the local town of Camalig.
The intent is that half the profit from the Mill will be paid in dividends to the contributing farmers, the other half to Muravah Foundation. The Retail shop profits will be handled the same.
Our baby delivering health centre is not as busy with baby’s as just a few years ago. Despite the ‘church’s’ best efforts, the Mum’s and Dad’s are seeing the light and making use of the readily available contraception. Thank God for that. Observing the thousands of half-starved kids around here is not something you easily harden to.
An update on Roy. He is now 36kgs, has complication’s brought on by his health problem, but is being well cared for by his aunt.
Just 2 days ago we saved a little 2yr old girl, laying there dying due to no money for medicine. We could make this a daily event just in the local hospital. Imagine what’s going on throughout this country.
I could rattle on more but I promised to get a newsletter out and here it is.
Future Tourist Accom high on Mount Mayon- if they're game!
This is the last. In future we will have our website updated and will post on-going developments live on the website, so you can follow developments there.
And we’re making a difference.
Thank you to all those giving on-going support.
You are very much appreciated.
The View from my room...
My Bamboo Hut
Brand new bridge across the creek to my hut. Wider and with railings this time :) much safer for late nights.
More photo's are available on our Facebook page.