Real tale: Turning idle land to eco-friendly tourism site

It is a stark reality that we need to produce more food with fewer resources. Various farming methods can be applied however it is essential to take into consideration the elements that may affect farming such as soil condition, topography, landscape, among others. This can be accomplished by designing meaningful patterns and principles that are centered on using nature.

In the farflung town of Kapalong, Davao del Norte, what used to be an idle farmland transformed into an eco-friendly farm resort now known as the KWR Permaculture. Behind this transformation is Mr. Ronnie C. Manching, who strives to meet human needs while also caring for the planet.

RECOLLECTIONS

Manching, married with 3 kids, is an industrious farmer known for his “do-it-yourself” ability. He learned most of his farming techniques from the knowledge and experience of other farmers in agribusiness. With his enduring passion for agriculture, he now owns and operates one of the farm tourist destinations in the region, which is also an accredited learning site of ATI XI.

After graduating high school in 1977, he tried his luck in Mindanao with the view of establishing opportunities. Fortunately, he secured a job in a banana plantation located at Lasang, Davao City and later on ventured into making farm tools to keep up with the finances of his growing family. He wanted to be an entrepreneur, but opportunities in the corporate world would keep him from becoming one, so he took the plunge and quit his job 17 years after.

He describes his family as “closely tied” because of one passion— to travel. They love to travel together, as they love to tour around farm sites and learn about the innovations and best practices of other farmers.

FARM THE BEGINNING

When he acquired the farmland from his mother-in-law in 1992, he barely had interest in farming which left the empty land idle for almost a decade. After all his children finished school in 2010 and concurrently diagnosed with hypertension, he was advised to do regular brisk walking and so he incorporated it into his daily routine for a healthier life. Over time he realized that there is more that needs to be done rather than walking workouts. He knew that it is time to put the idle land into use. Thereafter, his interest in farming blossomed.

He started planting trees to create a word tree farm, which he later on intercropped with banana and other perennial plants. He also produced poultry, hogs and fish the natural way. The concept of integrating livestock with crops thrived when he designed a process that is centered on the development of natural ecosystem.

“I designed a principle which I call DIMIC or Diversification, Integration, Mechanization, Industrialization, Commercialization. This principle enabled me to maximize farming production and allowing systems to demonstrate their own evolutions.”, he remarked.

Two years after relentless trials and study he has successfully developed excellent microbial inoculants, the KWR Super Foliar Feed with amino+ and KWR Super Plant Feed with AMF. These inoculants are mixture of kitchen wastes and various elements used as feed and effective insect and disease repellant.

He developed his own concoctions to reduce odors and bring back soil fertility. Similarly, he grew azolla (water fern) as protein-rich animal feed and biofertilizer which he mixes along with kitchen wastes and effective microorganisms to be used extensively as feed for farm animals. He make efforts to preserve the eco-friendliness of the farm.

At present, around 500 bottles of KWR inoculants are already being marketed in the province. The most aggressive customers are those in the banana industry because of its capability to delay or suppress fusarium and sigatoka incubation, and boost fruit development.

AN ECO-FARM RESORT

Little by little, he improved his farm. He created it as environmental and kitchen-friendly that provides a ready food basket for everyone. Vegetables and eggs are harvested fresh and will go straight to the kitchen. Not only it saves him time going to the market, it also promotes healthy food.

Aside from crops, herbs, fish, poultry and livestock, hundreds of wood trees and different kinds of vegetation can be seen within. New amenities are being put into place to make it comfortable and relaxing for their family including a gazebo, a tree house, children’s playpark, swimming pools for adults and children, session halls, and many more. It has also a zip line, monkey trail, and a view deck after the long uphill walk overlooking the vast terrain- truly a place for leisure and modernity!

He initially thought of just developing the property as a vacation destination for his family, but because of public appreciation he was urged by the local officials to open the place to the public. In 2015, his farm was recognized as an agri-tourism site in the province of Davao del Norte.

Through word of mouth, his farm has been attracting a growing number of visiting groups to conduct trainings or simply learn about the technology. “We do not collect any fees during trainings. We share our technology for everybody”, said the humble farmer.

When the technical staff from ATI XI visited the place and saw its potential on becoming a demonstration farm, they recommended interventions that could be of help for his farm’s improvement. In 2017, ATI XI certified his farm as learning site for Integrated Farming, granting him financial and practical support which he used for rehabilitating the rice area, and intensifying on organic farming.

“I am so grateful to ATI through the leadership of CD Dante G. Esguerra, for the financial and technical assistance which enabled me to provide opportunities for my community and establish significant linkages with various government support groups that had not only equipped me with the knowledge and skills but also broadened my perspective on sustainability.”, he expressed.

PIECE OF ADVICE TO AGRI-ENTHUSIASTS

“I encourage every small farmer to practice integrated farming so that you will have continuous harvest and supply from your crops and livestock. There is financial stability in diversified organic farming system. It is also important to do away with synthetic use and apply natural techniques instead such as microbial inoculants, compost, among others.”

Currently, ATI XI is continuously assisting his farm on becoming a School for Practical Agriculture (SPA), the next phase of the ATI ladderized approach to extension services. He looks forward on building the capacities of farmers and expanding his market to reach more potential clients.

KWR Permaculture is truly a model for other idle farmlands. It showcased the idea that environmental consciousness, social responsibility and business viability can co-exist.