The face of Leo Zambrano, a smallholder farmer from Bukidnon, smiles proudly from NESCAFÉ packs in store shelves today – representing all the Filipino coffee growers who toil to give Filipinos their daily cup of coffee.
For over 37 years, Zambrano has earned a living as a farmer, but never has it been as profitable as when he became a beneficiary of Nestlé's coffee sustainability program - the NESCAFÉ Plan. In 2018, Nestlé Philippines under the NESCAFÉ Plan started Project Coffee+, a farmer productivity and income acceleration initiative involving 1,500 farmers in Bukidnon and Sultan Kudarat, hand in hand with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).
Zambrano is a participant of Project Coffee+, which seeks to increase the yields of the farmers involved to one metric ton per hectare over three years. This is in hopes of increasing their incomes and improving the economic viability of their farming systems. True to its goal, Project Coffee+ has helped Zambrano double the productivity of his farm and triple his income.
''Masaya ako na napili akong makibahagi sa proyektong ito,'' said Zambrano, ''Ang pamilya ko ang tanging dahilan kung bakit ako bumabangon araw-araw para kumita sa pagsasaka. Ngayon, panatag ako dahil alam ko na ang kita ko ay magiging sapat para sa mga pangangailangan ng aking pamilya.''
(I am so happy that I was chosen to participate in Project Coffee+. My family is the reason why I get up every day to earn a living through farming. Now, I am confident that my earnings will adequately meet my family's needs.)
Zambrano has attended the project's flagship agripreneurship training component called Farmer Business School (FBS), which taught him the most effective intercropping techniques to augment and sustain his income throughout the year. His integrated farm now grows coffee, sayote, sweet pepper, and tomato. It expanded further in 2019 to include lakatan banana and some livestock.
Various forms of farmer intervention from the NESCAFÉ Plan have been extended to Zambrano, including Robusta plantlets for replanting and gap filling, as well as grafting materials. Soil conditioners and fertilizers are also among the inputs he has obtained from Project Coffee+ to enhance coffee productivity. For coffee-vegetable intercropping, he received seeds from project partner East West Seed Company, engaged by GIZ.
With a wealth of technical training and his trove of farming experiences, Zambrano's leadership sense has prompted him to help other farmers transform their operations into fully-fledged agri-businesses. He is helping to train farmers in Barangay Kaatuan, Lantapan, Bukidnon and is the chairperson of the Palambuon Farmers Association. He has earned the distinction of being appointed a Project Coffee+ Coffee Ambassador, teaching fellow farmers to reach optimal income levels.
Today, the Zambrano Integrated Farm is a certified Learning Site of the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) in Region 10. Zambrano inspires others to pursue their passion for farming, and his farm is a showcase and demonstration site in his community as well as other municipalities in Bukidnon covered by Project Coffee+.
A representative sample of the participating farmers shows that net farm income, on average, has increased from P30,000 in 2018 to P90,000 in 2019. Coffee productivity (yield/ha) has grown from 235 kg/ha to 477 kg/ha in the same period, as independently verified by the Rainforest Alliance. They are slowly but surely transitioning from subsistence farmers into agripreneurs.
Project Coffee+ farmers are now adopting profitable and best-integrated farming systems. Farmer groups and organizations of smallholder coffee farmers have noted improvements in accessing services including financing and post-harvest support for processing coffee cherries.
Toward filling the gaps in the coffee production process, through the NESCAFÉ Plan, Nestlé collaborates with government agencies and other stakeholders. Most recently, the company signed an agreement with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to help implement the Rural Agro-enterprise Partnership for Inclusive Development and Growth (RAPID Growth) Project, specifically in the coffee sector.
Under the project, DTI, funding partner International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Nestlé have committed to support coffee farmers in expanding production areas and improving productivity. Nestlé will provide a ready market for Robusta beans from local farmers. Through this involvement, the NESCAFÉ Plan can potentially reach more farmers and change their lives for the better.
For his part, Zambrano says that if he can help other farmers grow quality produce and become better providers for their families, he is only too happy to share what he has learned from the NESCAFÉ Plan.
'Ipinagmamalaki ko na ako ay magsasakang Pilipino na nangangalaga ng kapeng Pilipino para sa kapwa kong Pilipino,'' said Zambrano.
(I am proud to be a Filipino farmer growing Filipino coffee for other Filipinos.)
Visit NESCAFÉ's website or Facebook page to know more.
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