(Conclusion) From Wasteland to Wonderland: Transforming a degraded, barren land into a sustainable organic farm resort

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By BONG D. FABE, Contributing Editor
August 26, 2019

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SUKAILANG, Surigao City—A strong desire to live a healthy lifestyle led the Escobal couple, Engr.  Woodrow Escobal Jr. and Dr. Bessie Escobal, to turn a barren and degraded land into a world-class sustainable integrated organic farm. 
    
By their examples, they have helped countless others to turn their lives around for the better. And in so doing, the Escobals have inspired and are inspiring more and more people to lead a healthy and sustainable future, through their integrated organic farm.
    
Engr. Jun is happy to share his knowledge and experience to those who wish to learn about integrated and sustainable organic farming and farm tourism. 
    
He jokingly said that before he was just a simple chemical engineer. But when he was able to transform a wasteland into a wonderland by becoming a fulltime “farmer”, he also became a speaker, a teacher and now a tour operator and a tour guide.
    
Thanks to the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for making JB Nature Farm and Resort as an accredited private extension service provider in 2016. Then in 2018, the Department of Education (DepEd) made the Escobal’s farm as an accredited School for Practical Agriculture. In the same year, the farm also became an accredited Farm Tourism partner of the Department of Tourism (DOT). Very recently, the farm had secured an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
    
Engr. Jun said that he wants his farm to also help the environment and help minimize the negative impacts of climate change on their health and community. This is the key principle by which he worked with, which explains he and his wife’s adamant insistence on going the natural and organic way.
    
While not their main objective when they established the farm, climate change mitigation is an added and welcomed side effect of the farm resort. Going the organic and natural way brought back the biodiversity and the fertility of the soil on their area.
    
According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), also known as Organics International, “organic farming offers a system that can reduce environmental impacts compared to conventional farming. Climate change mitigation is not (and should not be) the primary objective of organic farming, but increased conversion to organic agriculture can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while also bringing important benefits, such as improved system resilience to the effects of climate change, maintaining or improving biodiversity on farmland, conserving soil fertility, reducing eutrophication and water pollution, and improving food security and farmers’ sovereignty.”
    
Aside from applying the principles of permaculture to regenerate his degraded and barren land, Engr. Jun also applied the principles of regenerative agriculture on his land. 
    
“Regenerative agriculture,” according to http://www.regenerativeagriculturedefinition.com/ “is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. It aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass to combat climate change while at the same time increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for communities.”
    
If the Escobal couple was able to literally turned a wasteland into a wonderland even with their very limited knowledge and without any experience about sustainable integrated organic farming, Engr. Jun is very positive that anyone can do it.
    
“Just be patient. And learn,” he said as he explained that for anyone to be able to make any degraded land fertile again, he/she must first make him/herself fertile to learn from others. 
    
(Ed’s Note: Bong Fabe is with the WWF Philippines as integrated communications manager for its SMILE Project in Siargao and Dinagat Islands, an EU-funded project being undertaken in partnership with the UP-AIT and AIEC ILAW.)

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