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Friday, September 22, 2023

(Part 3) From Wasteland to Wonderland: Transforming a degraded, barren land into a sustainable organic farm resort

(Third of a Series)


SUKAILANG, Surigao City—Armed with nothing but his resourcefulness, persistence, patience, and nature’s elements, chemical engineer Woodrow Escobal Jr. has successfully transformed a barren and degraded logged over and mined land into a sustainable integrated organic farm and resort that draws in tourists from all over the country and the world.
While trawling the internet in search of organic agricultural techniques to apply to his land, he came across the agricultural and social design principle/technique called permaculture. 
Permaculture, coined by Australian agriculturists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s from “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture”, is the harmonious integration of landscape and people through the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems for the provision of food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs of people in a sustainable way.
“Our aim then was to make this land productive again. From the very start, we want to do it the natural and sustainable way, without any outside commercial input. We really wanted to make a Food Forest system here,” Engr. Jun said.
He later learned from his research on the internet that the viable principle/technique applicable to his land is permaculture. “This is because we want to work with nature. And permaculture teaches us to be in harmony with our natural environment.” 
“Through permaculture, we learned to work with nature and the natural environment that we have here. We learned to integrate and harness the power of the elements in designing our farm so that we minimize waste and energy,” he added.
JB Nature Farm and Resort is designed by the Escobal couple themselves as they apply what they learned about their land, the natural topography, local weather and the elements.
Engr. Jun said that he and his wife consciously choose to go the organic and natural way when they decided in 2010 to develop their land in Sukailang into a full-fledged farm, especially since owners of adjacent lots started selling their abandoned lands to them. 
The Escobal land, now famously known as JB Nature Farm and Resort, has now expanded into 7 hectares of rolling terrain, with various fruit trees, hardwood, vegetable patches, and areas for free range chickens and wild boar/pigs.
He explained that this is because he personally wanted to do his part in helping leave a world conducive for living to the next generations as he acknowledged that his professionhas contributed to the many problems the human race is now facing.
“I realized that my profession is guilty for what is happening now to the environment. It is time to pay back. Thus, I chose to be on the good side, environment-friendly side,” he emphasized.
Ethics. The biggest casualty of the current wasteful consumption and production economy that has gripped that world since the discovery of the steam engine.
But thanks to such agricultural principles/techniques as permaculture, ethics in food production is beginning to return to agriculture.
“Permaculture starts with ethics. It is an ethical design science and it starts with earth-care and people-care. It is a wholistic design science.It is not just about famine and gardening. It makes connections between water harvesting, soil creation, the supply of useful living resources, energy system, waste system, local economics and people systems to create a permanent culture,” stressed Geoff Lawton, a student of Bill Molisson and a revered permaculturist, during his TedTalk in Abu Dhabi, a video of which was posted in Youtube.
Lawton said that permaculture was founded as a solution to the myriads of problems in the world. 
“Rather than protesting the problems, permaculture defines the solutions and directs positive actions. It is an ethical design system. It is a system that takes the knowledge of nature the knowledge of natural systems and uses the connectivity of the elements to create a system that provides the needs of humanity in a way that endlessly enriches the life on earth and the living systems,” he said.
In the nine years since going full-time as a “farmer”, Engr. Jun has learned to cultivate the most important crop farmers all over the world are cultivating since the time of Abel: patience.
“Please develop your idle lands. There is no such thing as barren or infertile soil. You only need patience. Don’t be discouraged. There is way to make the land productive,” he said. (To be continued)
(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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