Nestled in the green mountains of Mindanao’s Calinan district in northern Davao City in the Philippines, Jowen Joromat tends to a cacao seedling, the plant that produces the beans that will eventually become cocoa. He carefully slits the tip of the seedling, inserting then taping a scion — a piece of stem from another cacao plant — in a technique known as grafting, which will rapidly multiply his cacao seedlings. Not far away his wife, Lorenda, finishes watering the crop for the second time that day and returns to recording the preorder their nursery just received for three hundred seedlings.
The Joromats manage hundreds of cacao seedlings and the success of their nursery has prompted them to expand their operation to additional plots down the road. They are now also confident that they will be able to pay for all three of their children to attend college.
A little over a year ago this level of prosperity was only a dream for the family. The Joromats, like many other farmers in Mindanao, did not have quality fertilizer or the proper tools to maximize their lands’ productivity. They often experienced food insecurity and were not able to amass any household savings.
Since the early 1990s, the Philippine government has worked to transform Mindanao into the country’s agricultural production center. However, changing climate conditions, natural disasters and conflict in the region have left many smallholder farmers in Mindanao struggling to feed their families, let alone produce enough to turn a profit in markets. Together with our local partner, the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao (CIDAMi), LWR has been working to bridge this livelihood gap for smallholder farmers through cocoa farming and technology.
Farmers, like the Joromats, receive start-up inputs like seeds and shears and training on cacao seedling growth, nursery management and business management. Lorenda attributes much of her family’s success to the project’s Household Development Approach, which is integrated into all trainings. In the traditional Philippine rural household, men farm and make most family decisions while women raise the children, work inside the home, and have little voice in household or farming matters. This approach encourages the inclusion of all family members in household, budgeting and farming activities. In addition, farmers are encouraged to share what they learn with their spouses and children so that families can work together.