Members' Voices: Ruel Inojaldo Perez, the Baslay Farmers Association (BFA) Philippines


I have been working with the Baslay Farmers Association (BFA) - producers of shade-grown, single-origin coffee - since I was 13 years old. The association is what inspired me to pursue my dreams of being a Forester and practitioner of organic agriculture. I volunteered my time as a technical consultant, working tirelessly to address issues that were preventing the BFA’s success. I reorganized the organization, saving it from the point of collapse. Today, I am the Chairman of the Board of the BFA.

In addition, I serve in multiple capacities in the province. I am a regional co-chairman for the Coffee Industry Development Council, a forestry instructor at Negros Oriental State University (NORSU) and an advisor to the Office of the Municipal Mayor. In 2013, I was elected to the Barangay Council of Barangay Baslay. This position gave me the opportunity to work in numerous facets of the village’s affairs; it has given me the potential to envision a socially and economically transformed Barangay Baslay.

The BFA began in 1985 as a community based farmers’ organization in the forests of Baslay village in the Municipality of Dauin, Negros Oriental province, the Philippines. The village is situated in the foothills of Mount Talinis, a dormant volcano and one of the highest mountains in Negros Oriental. The organization was formed to address the problem of slash and burn farming practices, stemming from the local community’s poverty and illiteracy. Since then, nearly one hundred farmers, have become green guardians of the Baslay forests.

I assessed the local community’s available natural and renewable resources which could be sustainably used to generate income. Among them is a 120 hectare coffee forest, long neglected by the local government. I was able to convince the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) that Baslay coffee could become a global commodity. From there, the BFA conducted a series of trainings on coffee harvesting and processing.

Projects are at the core of the BFA’s work. In 2018, we established the Baslay Highland Brew Coffee house in the middle of the coffee forest. Another ongoing project is the “Baslay Highland Viewing Tower”, which we undertook with the help of architecture students from Foundation University (FU).  Previous initiatives include advances in tilapia farming, honey production and a banana project, among others. This year, our main initiative is the “Ecotourism Operation”, offering visitors experiences in agroforestry education, adventures like trekking, organic agriculture, bird watching and local products, including premium Baslay coffee. Within the next 5 to 10 years, we aspire to be among the top agro-ecotourism destinations in the Negros Oriental province.

As a result of our efforts, the BFA was recognized as the grand winner of the 2018 Lopez Achievement Award. Last June, we became the first accredited agrotourism site in the province.

The BFA has transformed the formerly denuded forest into a sanctuary of endangered bird and wildlife species. We have managed to reforest more than 200 hectares and, as of last year, have 120 hectares of naturally grown coffee – one of the fruits of the 30-year reforestation effort. Slash and burn farming has been eradicated by social and economic empowerment; particularly in teaching children that sustainable forest management is a common responsibility.

The BFA believes in the power of community to scale up operations, and relies on the Mountain Partnership to assist in making these connections. The only way to continually learn and access applicable technology available in other parts of the continent for sustainable mountain endeavours is to build networks of partners, not only in national, but also international, organizations.

News and photo from Ruel Inojaldo Perez - BFA

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