Mindoro Communities Launch Stevia and Bee Farm
Photo during the signing of deed of turn-over and acceptance. Organic Stevia Farm in Palhi, Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.
During the signing of deed of turn-over and acceptance: Bee Production, Management and Product Processing in Victoria, Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.
Two people’s organizations in Oriental Mindoro received livelihood projects from ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation’s Bantay Kalikasan.
Palhi Upland Farmers Association (PUFA) in Brgy. Palhi received an organic stevia farm while Pulot Tadyawan Association (PTA) in Brgy. Loyal received bee production, management and product processing project.
For a kilo of dried stevia, PUFA earns PHP900.00. These stevia leaves are bought by Minerva Cortez who owns CalStevia, a manufacturer of stevia-infused products. Stevia, a plant that originated in Paraguay, is known as a sweetener and an organic substitute for sugar without calories.
From the donations given by Malou Santos, ABS-CBN Corp.’s Executive Adviser for Cinema and Cinescreen’s Managing Director, PUFA bought 1,800 seedlings of Stevia to start the project. Additional aid was given through New Zealand Embassy’s grant. As per Tim Stewardson, New Zealand Embassy’s Deputy Head of Mission, they saw the project as a “really good community initiative”. “Because of the community that will benefit, it’s something we can see really good results to the people involve,” he shared.
Malou Santos likewise thanked the farmers for doing their best to develop the farm. “I did not think twice when I learned that the project will be in Mindoro. This is where we grew up. Personally, I love Mindoro so much. I have so many memories here. I am thankful that I was able to share what I can.”
It wasn’t easy at first. According to Alberto Cardiño, since Stevia is a foreign plant, they had a hard time making it grow. “During our first try, 50% of the seedlings died,” he said.
The group started to study the ways on how they can make sure it will grow and while they were planting them, they also started to propagate so they no longer had to buy another set of seedlings.
“I told my members not to worry. It’s normal for the plants to die, but we shouldn’t let our hopes die as well,” Cardiño enthused.
Cardiño is the president of PUFA and his land became the project site. Aside from stevia, the project also involves the development of the other components of an organic farm like vermicomposting activity,
Doctors from UPLB take out the pollens
In addition, Malou Santos also helped in funding the bee production, management and product processing project, together with Department of Social Welfare and Development Region IV-B, in Brgy. Victoria.
DSWD MIMAROPA provided the starter kits while Santos’ donations funded the trainings organized by University of the Philippines Los Baños to PTA.
Ninety percent (90%) of the members of PTA are from Mangyan indigenous group.
Roda Mabunga, a Tadyawan Mangyan and the president of PTA, expressed her gratitude for the project.
“Our members are beneficiaries of DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps),” Roda shared. “At the beginning, it was just me who started doing the project proposal and now, there are lots of people who are helping us.”
According to Dr. Cleofas Cervancia, Professor Emeritus of UPLB and President of Apimondia Regional Commission of Asia, bees play an important role in the environment as pollinators because they help enrich the biodiversity of the place.
Aside from helping the environment, different products can be derived from them, too. “We can get honey, pollen, and propolis from these bees. The community can also create value added products such as lip balm, hair wax, soaps, lotion, shampoo, and insect repellants. They don’t only help the environment but they also give livelihood since these value added products are more expensive,” Dr. Cervancia shared.
Honey is known as a sweetener while pollen is a complete superfood that has vitamins and minerals. Propolis can be used as an organic antiseptic.
“And since the people’s organizations are immersed in the community, partnering with them is a great cause because they know what they need,” she explained.
With people’s organizations managing the projects, Bantay Kalikasan believes in empowering and training them.
Recently, 60 members from five different people’s organizations including PUFA and PTA in Mindoro participated in an Earth Warrior Training.
An Earth Warrior Training is a team building session for the members of the P.O. An Earth Warrior is how Bantay Kalikasan calls its members; the defenders of the environment. Each Earth Warrior is also valued as a partner.
“Earth Warrior training has helped us set the tone for the work that is involved in new projects. For many, it is the first time that they experience a team building session. Through activities, our partners are able to exercise knowledge, skills, and attitude that help them go through tasks. Their reflections after such activities provide them the opportunity to understand and underscore qualities and values needed and applicable to the project and to their life,” Jen Deomano Santos, BK’s Program Director explained.
Bantay Kalikasan greatly believes in collaboration and working together with its partners. “As in nature, we are all connected. We can’t survive if we only think of ourselves. Being part of a community means you take the responsibility not just for yourself but for others as well,” Santos shared.