The Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corporation (RTNMC) has stepped up its venture into coffee farming as a livelihood source for local communities and a major component of its Social Development and Management Program (SDMP).
Reynaldo dela Rosa, RTNMC community relations manager, said the project, now on its fourth year since it was adopted by the company from the provincial government, has become a viable income opportunity for the local community.
Dela Rosa said the company has partnered with Rocky Mountain Arabica Coffee Company (RMACC) in putting up the first coffee plantation in a 200-hectare piece of land, where coffee plants that produce Liberica beans locally known as “kapeng barako,” can be planted.
“Ang requirement is 200 hectares agad. Ang kinaya lang ng community is 152 hectares sa walong barangay through the social development management program ng RTNMC, so para matuloy ang project sinagot na ni RTNMC ang kulang na 48 hectares at nagtanim din kami. Noong nabuo na nagsimula na rin kami ng social preparation,” Dela Rosa added.
To strengthen the program, he said they have partnered with the Palawan Cooperative Union (PCU) and the Cooperative Development Aide Authority (CDAA) to provide a series of training to the growers to become established cooperatives.
Dela Rosa said at least two to four years are required before a coffee plant yields fruits that can be harvested to produce beans.
“Nasa third phase ng program it will be available locally, para maging sustainable talaga. Yung coffee kasi two to four years bago mag-integrate kaya sinamahan din namin ng other livelihoods like gulayan sa kapehan, ito yung short and mid-term crops like ginger,” he said.
He said both the RTNMC and Coral Bay Nickel Corporation (CBNC) have allocated P36 million to start mobilizing the coffee plantation project, which is now in its fourth year.
Dela Rosa said that the coffee farming project was adopted by the RTNMC Social Development and Management Program (SDMP) from the provincial government of Palawan as part of its mandate to provide additional livelihood opportunities to the surrounding communities that are impacted by their mining operations.
“Project ito ng provincial government ni Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez, kaya lang di natuloy kasi na prioritize nila yung cacao, so sinalo namin ‘yong kapeng barako kasi nakita namin yung potential na maganda,” Dela Rosa said.
He said that RTNMC commissioned experts to re-study the feasibility of farming coffee plants and determined its potential not only of Rio Tuba but for the entire Bataraza town.
Out of 22 barangays in the municipality that were invited to undertake the project, Dela Rosa said only eight responded and formed cooperatives to be trained for coffee farming by specialists from the Cavite State University, the center of coffee research in the country.
Jose Roberto Serrato, the chairperson of the Sandoval Farmers Producers Cooperative (SFPC), said he believes the project will be beneficial to his family once he retires as a mechanic of the RTNMC.
“Malaking tulong po to sa amin, kahit wala na yung mina mayroon pa kaming mapagkakakitaan, kaya blessing talaga to para sa amin.” Serrato said.
Serrato has encouraged other farmers to venture into coffee planting in Rio Tuba, noting that many technologies have now been incorporated into the project to make it successful to interested families in their area.
The coffee planting in Rio Tuba uses the microbial technology, a process where the soil is conditioned before actual planting with the use of some organisms and enzymes to make coffee plants healthy.
The Liberica coffee, according to Serrato, is easy to manage not only in Batangas but even in Rio Tuba because of its favorable climate.
He also pointed out that the project will train them in pesticide and insecticide application although they will implement natural farming methods similar to organic farming once all the plants are already stable.
To date, the coffee plantation has already produced 200 kilos of Liberica beans that were sold to buyers.
Dela Rosa said while their produce cannot yet be enjoyed by the locals, part of their plan is to put up cafes and shops that will offer the best-tasting home-grown coffee from Rio Tuba.
“Yung tulong na binigay dito ng company nagsimula talaga sa seedlings, sa abono, farm labor kasi ang laki nito plantation kaya di na rin namin inasa sa mga counterparts. Although hiwa-hiwalay sya ng area, ang approach ay plantation,” Dela Rosa said.