Welcome to the Center for Bayanihan Economics, a 5.3-hectare land developed by the LifeBank Foundation, Inc. as platform for showcasing sustainable agricultural practices in the Philippines. At the foremost part of the area rises a structure approximating the shape of the ‘mollusk’. Down the mollusk is pond that acts as catchment of rainwater, ultimately serving as a home to a hoard of freshwater fishes. A vegetable garden adorns each hem of a terraces that functions as a backdrop. Twenty steps from the mollusk lay an amphitheater and a hall where ideas are brewed. Covering the rest of the land are exhibits of urban agriculture models, rows of vegetable plots, and paddies of rice fields. Butterflies and other beneficial insects hover over swaying crops. At dusk, the sunset lit the vibrant greenery with faint dashes of orange.
That is CBE today, a far cry from what it is four years ago–a stamping ground for snakes, a vast plain full of cogon grass, idle, acidic.
Until the partnership between the LifeBank Foundation and GK Enchanted Farm transpired, with the latter bringing hope to the place, the former, providing care. A once dry and dull piece of land was nurtured into a welcoming place for those who wants not only to do well in agricultural livelihood but also to encourage others in joining the endeavor. Because, at its core lies the principle, Bayanihan Economics—bayanihan loosely translated in English as cooperation, or having a spirit of communal unity. But the Filipino word runs deeper than what it means. It is not only about cooperating or collaboration but also a genuine care for others. The bayanihan in the economic sense means maximizing gains through collaboration and care. It is upon this principle where the CBE core functions have been built—a laboratory, a showcase, and a training ground.
The CBE as a laboratory
Turning CBE into what it is today did not come easy. Of the few pioneers in the CBE are fresh graduates with degrees majoring in agriculture and development management, from different state universities and colleges in the country. They held a hoe to dig, soiled their hands to plant, and stayed under the heat to tend the crops for hours. Now a few of them remained to assume senior posts in CBE.
Establishing the CBE as a laboratory meant blood and tears for the 50 rural workers and at least seven young professionals who have been engaged early on. CBE’s first endeavor is the experiment on organic rice farming with SRI technology. It did not help however that the staff of the center received criticisms from the neighboring farmers, who are mostly chemical users. The so-called lack of experience nevertheless did not become a hindrance since the CBE emerged as victors, having proven that organic rice farming with SRI technology has higher yield than the conventional rice farming. Thereafter, the Center has conducted several experiments on organic rice production, vermicompost and other organic fertilizers, soil test analysis, among others.
The CBE as a living proof
Results of the CBE experiments come alive as the whole CBE complex becomes the living proof of sustainable agriculture. The CBE has been a favorite landmark within the GK Enchanted Farm as visitors of different backgrounds and ages can immerse themselves in everyday activities of CBE.
At present, the CBE is composed of the following Divisions: (1) research, (2) farm production (3) business development and marketing, (4) capacity building, and (5) administrative and finances. Research manages all the field experiments and other socio-economic researches like value chain studies on priority crops. Farm production is the overall in charge of the farm operations i.e. determining what to plant for a particular season, how much to save as raw material propagation, among others. Marketing takes care of all the sales from the farm’s harvests. Capacity development coordinates the Training and mentoring program of the Center.
A training ground: reaping the benefits for everyone
To date, the CBE has trained and mentored 113 agripreneurs from Bulacan, Leyte, and Laguna. Eight produce-based farm-clusters are being developed to provide raw materials to Bayani Brew, First Harvest, Grassroots Kitchen, Enchanted Farm Café, Jojiberry, Hot Papa, and the Artisan Gallery.
The Center’s first attempt in conducting a training involved professors and researchers from the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), a farmer-clustering expert from the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and a few more young professionals in the field of organic-based agricultural practices, marketing, and financial literacy. The training program also tapped packages of technologies for organic production from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), Department of Agriculture (DA), and Philippine Rice Research Institute.
The training program was designed not only to impart knowledge on hard technologies but also to instil appreciation for a value-oriented mindset and the importance of collaboration. Lectures on financial literacy and value chains were also included in the modules. The agripreneurs were also given the chance to mingle with potential partners and clients and were guided in developing a vision for their own agricultural endeavors.
A Stronghold for Sustainable Technologies
Four years hence, 50 rural workers have been employed, at least 15 young professionals have been engaged, 115 agripreneurs have been trained and mentored, a plethora of on-going sustainable practices experiments have been conducted, and an organic certification has been achieved. It is a promising track record, one must say, considering the Center is still young. And it shall continue to emerge as a Bayanihan Economics and sustainable technologies advocate so long as there is still a need to care for others and for the future.