For many, coffee is life. For coffee-lovers, mornings don’t usually start unless they’ve had a cup of coffee—either hot or iced, with milk or sugar, or both. But for our coffee farmers in Bukidnon, that statement can’t be any truer—coffee, literally, is their life. This holds especially true for Leo Zambrano and Leonila Secadron, two of Bukidnon’s pillars in coffee farming.
Kuya Leo, as he is fondly called in his hometown of Lantapan, has been a coffee farmer for more than 37 years. In 2018, he became a beneficiary of the NESCAFÉ Plan, the coffee sustainability program of Nestlé Philippines. After earning the distinction of being appointed as a Coffee Ambassador, Kuya Leo is now helping train fellow farmers to expand their knowledge about coffee farming and transform smallholder farms into an agribusiness.
Meet Kuya Leo Zambrano, one of the pillars of Bukidnon’s coffee industry.
Meanwhile, less than 100 kilometers away, in Pangantucan town, Leonila or Ate Neneng manages their Bayanihan Millenium Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BMMPC). She has been farming for 35 years, with sugarcane, corn, abaca, vegetables and, of course, coffee, as her main crop. With credit linkaging assistance from Nestlé Philippines, BMMPC was able to secure a total of Php 4 million bank loans for production and capital that enable farmers in Bukidnon to increase coffee yields annually.
Leonila “Ate Neneng” Secadron has been a staunch advocate
of coffee farming in Bukidnon for 35 years.
With Kuya Leo and Ate Neneng leading the way, the future looks bright for the local coffee industry. Now, as they mentor the next generation who will continue their legacy in Bukidnon, they share the top three things they learned growing delicious, world-class coffee.
1. Learning and training never end.
Kuya Leo passing on his 37-years-worth of knowledge in coffee farming
to the next generation of farmers in Bukidnon.
Life is a learning process, and so is coffee farming. Kuya Leo recalled, “Ang pinamalaking problema talaga noon ay matagal magpalago ng kape. Hindi ka sigurado kung mataas or mababa ang ani.”
But in 2018, after participating in Project Coffee+ by NESCAFÉ Plan, Kuya Leo said they were able to double their harvest, which helped triple the profit for his farm. Project Coffee+ is a farmer productivity and income acceleration initiative involving 1,500 farmers in Bukidnon and Sultan Kudarat, spearheaded by NESCAFÉ.
In addition, he attended the project’s flagship agripreneurship training component called Farmer Business School (FBS). The program helped teach him the most effective intercropping techniques to augment and sustain his income throughout the year. Now, the Zambrano Integrated Farm is a certified Learning Site of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture in Region 10, opening doors for
Kuya Leo to mentor young farmers by sharing both his technical knowledge and passion for growing coffee.
2. Sustainability is the name of the game.
As a Coffee Ambassador under Project Coffee+ by NESCAFÉ Plan,
Kuya Leo is helping transform small holder farms into an agribusiness.
Agribusiness, according to the Bukidnon Investment Code of 2020, is the top investment area for the province. Despite coming from a family of farmers, Ate Neneng said coffee farming was not a priority for them before. They had zero equipment and had no idea where to sell the green or raw, unroasted coffee beans. Then came Nestlé Philippines, which opened up many opportunities for them.
“Sustainable ang kape. Kahit isang beses lang tayo magtanim, hanggang 60 years ay puwede nating mapakinabangan ang kape,” Ate Neneng explained.
Through the NESCAFÉ Plan, Nestlé Philippines committed to buy green coffee beans from Bukidnon’s farmers and established its own buying station in Maramag, less than an hour’s drive from Pangantucan where BMMPC is located. From 38,898 kilograms in 2016, BMMPC increased the coffee beans they collected and sold to Nestlé Philippines to 105,587 kilograms in 2021. And there’s still room to grow and increase their coffee production with advanced farming practices.
3. Be proud of being a coffee farmer.
Ate Neneng with members of the Bayanihan Millenium Multi-Purpose
Cooperative that she manages in Pangantucan, Bukidnon.
In the early 1980s, Bukidnon was recognized as the country’s “coffee province” due to its production of world class coffee. Unfortunately, that recognition was not sustained in the years that passed, according to data from the Department to Trade and Industry (DTI). Luckily, things are slowly changing and looking brighter for coffee farmers today.
“May pera sa kape,” Ate Neneng said, adding how coffee farming helped support her family and put her five children through school. “Lahat ng mga kapitbahay ko, mga kaibigan ko, ini-encourage din nila ang kanilang mga anak na magtanim ng kape at mga punong-kahoy para makatulong sa environment at sa community.”
With credit linkaging assistance from Nestlé Philippines, Ate Neneng and the BMMPC
were able to secure a total of Php4 million bank loans for production that
enable farmers to increase coffee yields annually.
Arlene Tan-Bantoto, Senior Vice President and Head of Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, said Nestlé Philippines strives to create shared value in ways that are good for business, for people and the planet for the past 110 years. “As the Kasambuhay ng Magkakapeng Pilipino, we are working hard to help empower our farmers to improve the quality and quantity of coffee production in the Philippines, making it a more sustainable livelihood that will benefit their families and communities.”
With the right support and training programs in place under the NESCAFÉ Plan, and with support from other stakeholders and partners, Bukidnon can look forward to its glory days as the country’s top coffee supplier once more.
Learn more about Kuya Leo and the art of growing coffee through the video below:
Do you know other inspiring coffee growers too? Tell us about them in the comments!