Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
People who come to the Lao Integrated Farm Incorporated (LIFI) in barangay Eman of Bansalan, Davao del Sur, are looking forward to seeing organic farming in action. After all, it has been certified by the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP).
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has also recognized it as an organic farm. The Europe-based ECOCERT, one of the largest organic certification organizations in the world, likewise declared it as such.
The farm uses natural fertilizer – in the form of vermicompost – in growing its vegetables and fruit crops. The outcomes are high-quality products which are free from pesticides as the robust crops that withstand the attacks of pests and diseases.
“We are often viewed as a typical farm that teaches and practices organic farming, but we have been doing more,” said its website. “We are a company that cares for mother nature and the people that live with us.”
The LIFI is mostly known for its coconut products, particularly coco syrup, coco aminos seasoning, and coco sugar that is mixed with turmeric, malunggay, and ginger, among others. In fact, some of these are now exported to the United States, Canada, Germany, and Australia.
Now, people who will visit the farm can find a new addition to its list of attractions: trees which are endemic and endangered. Thanks to the Binhi program of the Lopez-led geothermal leader Energy Development Corporation (EDC).
Aside from producing clean and renewable energy – through geothermal power – conserving and protecting biodiversity has always been among the top priorities of EDC. Through the Binhi program, it wants to propagate premium Philippine native tree species.
So far, EDC’s Binhi program has already partnered with 147 institutions, associations, and organizations, where an arboretum – a collection of living tree species – is established. The arboretum is strategically located in an accessible area with site conditions that allow a high survival rate.
“(The arboretum) serves as a living laboratory for students, environmental enthusiasts, and scientists,” EDC explained.
The LIFI is the 48th institution the EDC is partnering with in Mindanao, said Myrissa L. Tabao, head of the Corporate Relations of EDC-Mount Apo, during the signing of the memorandum of agreement between the LIFI and EDC.
About 24 dipterocarp species are to be planted in the arboretum, she said.
This is indeed valuable for our future generation – a dream come true for our president,” said Donna Lao-Padre, LIFI vice president for operations, referring to his father, Benjamin Lao. “If you try going around the farm, there are still some areas which are left untouched because he intends to preserve trees.”
She recalled that in the past, Lao engaged in various tree planting activities in tandem with various institutions in some areas in the municipality. “That was how inclined he was with the protection and conservation of trees – apart from the fact that planting trees minimizes soil erosion,” Donna pointed out.
The Lao Integrated Farms Binhi Arboretum is the answer to her father’s prayer: “to be able to plant more trees so the next generation can benefit primarily.”
She described the project, which is the first organic farm to be partnered with EDC, as beautiful “because this partnership comes as a surprise gift.”
According to Donna, the arboretum will serve as a show-window not only to environment-enthusiasts but also to the academe for their students to greatly benefit in learning from.
“Since the company is in a plateau stage in the organic farm tourism industry, this will be another venue to see and experience in the future,” she said.
More importantly, she is looking forward to seeing “different threatened species grow along with the endemic trees here in our little farm.”
After the program, everyone who attended walked to the arboretum where the participants conducted tree planting. After that, the marker of tree planting was unveiled.