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May 15, 2015

Greening the Visayas

It is always a joy to come to the Visayas and to feel the hospitality of the Ilonggos and Visayans, in general. And when you come to Negros, the language changes to organic, shade-grown and sustainable.

I was invited by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to speak to farmers, coffee processors, enablers, and market leaders in the coffee industry. It was not just coffee talk, but about greening the coffee value chain.

Greening is not just about carbon footprint and climate change. I learned so much from the sharing of Ms. Miriam Bacalso of Promotion for Green Economic Development or ProGED (a joint project of the Government of the Philippines through the Department of Trade and Industry and the Federal Republic of Germany through the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, implemented by the German Agency for International Cooperation GIZ). Greening, she says, is about Resource Efficiency and Innovation.

So how do we apply that to the coffee industry? The sessions started on how our very farmers will play a major role in “greening,” after all, organic is the start of greening anything. Organic is using soil, mind you. It is not using liquid solutions to feed plants. Rather, it uses the medium which nature gave us and that is soil.

Chit Juan, Greening the Visayas, innovating at the farm, May14

Miriam and I shared with the farmers some simple innovations to improve their incomes whilst protecting the environment:

  1. Sorting coffee. Just sorting coffee by variety will get different prices in the market.
  2. Raising drying beds. Yes, raised beds keep insects and foreign matter out of coffee beans.
  3. Picking only red fruits gives the farmer better value.
  4. Planting intercrops or companion plants makes the farmer have organic banana, pineapple, peanuts and other crops that are friendly and symbiotic with coffee.

Miriam shared many ideas on using water, electricity, solar power more efficiently such as:

  1. Using electric vehicles, or the old reliable bicycles, or walking instead of riding a polluting car or truck.
    Chit Juan, Greening the Visayas, wish we had these, May14
  2. Using the advantages of feed-in tariff or net metering for electricity one produces using renewable sources like solar and wind.
  3. Keeping your room temperature at 25 degrees celsius instead of keeping it at a cold 18 degrees but wearing jackets or coats in an office, for example.
  4. Collecting rain water is also encouraged.

Chit Juan, Greening the Visayas, wind power, May14

And did you know there are already many laws that help us in greening our environment? We should all be helping out because the Philippines is the 3rd most vulnerable country according to the 2012 World Risk Index. And we are at risk for floods, landslides, earthquakes, and more.

Coffee Cherries

Coffee Cherries

How will coffee farming help? Planting coffee can serve as watershed and can help prevent soil erosions and landslides. Companion crops give the farmers sustainable incomes throughout the year as coffee is only harvested once a year, while other short-term crops can give regular income to farming households.

It was interesting to hear farmers from Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, and Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental take pride in what they do. And, it’s even more interesting that government agencies are listening to the private sector in doing their strategic plans.

Tomorrow, we will chart the action plans for a greener coffee value chain. It is not going to be a long wait. Already we have rainforest coffee from NISARD, Fresh Start coffee from the highlands, and we have coffee shops like Coffee Break of Iloilo (founded by Johnny Que) who is growing as a regional coffee chain using only local coffee. He is the first market of these coffee farmers. Johnny even has organic fresh milk to sell, and organic ice cream, too.

These Visayans are an enterprising group. I met Chinchin of Fresh Start Organics listening intently on how else he can help the coffee farmers of Mount Kitanglad. Johnny Que, a very busy entrepreneur, stayed to listen to all the speakers. Pam Henares, an organic farmer for the last 20 years, also joined the session. In fact, I told her that my African night crawlers (worms) in Cavite probably descended from her worms as I got them from her relative, Agnes Escalante of Antonios.

All the attendees were either organic farmers or organic markets. DTI and GIZ have a good thing going for ProGED with sessions such as this. It’s very pointed and very particular about the green markets, green technologies, and how they affect a simple farmer’s life. This is truly the start of green economic development.

From farmer to consumer, from farm to cup, greening the value chain has never been so clear until today.

Organic coffee seedlings

Organic coffee seedlings

Read more about ProGED in


Photos by Chit Juan and Reena Francisco

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One Comment on “Greening the Visayas”

  • Honey Mae Osimco says June 16, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Hello Ms. Chit…I was there during the Value Chain session and I represented the DTI Regional Office as the focal person for Industry Cluster – Coffee. Very nice article and pretty much sums up what has been discussed on the first day. I would like to ask for permission if I can borrow some of your lines and data on this article for my coffee situationer and for the presentation I am preparing for the Negosyo Atbp radio program in which OIC RD Malones is invited to speak this June.

    Thanks in advance and I wish you luck for all your endeavors, especially on Coffee as the President of the Phil. Coffee Board.

    Best Regards.



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