Native Foods Are A Hot Commodity In The Philippines

The Philippines' native malunggay tree is a treasure-- almost every part of it can be used for food. Its young pods can be prepared like green beans, its seeds can be roasted like nuts, and its dark-green leaves, rich in Vitamin C, protein, and iron, can be utilized fresh like spinach or dried as a spices.

When researchers introduced a brand-new malunggay range in the Philippines' Lantapan watershed, it was an instantaneous hit. Farmers were surprised that it grew so well in the area's acid soil. They clamored for seedlings and growing standards. The slender trees are so much in demand that they are disappearing from test plots, says Agustin Mercado, a scientist for the World Agroforestry Center and partner with a sustainable farming program managed by Virginia Tech. "I do not understand whether this is bad or not," Mercado says, "but individuals are desperate to get our malunggay."

The malunggay, Moringa oleifera, is among indigenous trees and veggies that scientists are using to determine varieties that prosper in agro-forestry systems, the combination of vegetable crops with trees or trees with vegetable crops, under or beside them. Researchers are sharing their findings-- in addition to seeds and seedlings-- with local homeowners. At a town field day, more than 60 individuals sampled veggies cooked and raw, talking about their taste and look, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of growing them. Included were several native gourds and unique ranges of bell pepper, carrot, and tomato. Field-day participants took home not only plants and seeds but likewise recipes and leaflets on how to grow and use native ranges.

By reintroducing native foods in a region afflicted by poverty and degraded natural resources, scientists wish to teach farmers how to use and save plants, improve household nutrition by diversifying the diet plan, increase incomes, and improve biodiversity. They also are documenting residents' knowledge of native plants' medicinal worths.

A design for the project is the Binahon Agro-forestry Farm, where partner and other half Perla and Henry Binahon turned 3 hectares of land with thin, dry soil into a successful, lucrative business. The couple, who owned a failing plant nursery, bought the land from a buddy in 1992 and planted their remaining seedlings, vegetables together with trees. They discovered that both thrived, the trees offering shade in the scorching Philippine summer for the veggies, which in turn assisted hold wetness in the soil, benefiting the trees. Getting understanding with experience and research study, the couple succeeded and broadened their property to 8 hectares.

Koi ponds, calla lilies, and honeybees highlight the Binahons' approach to farming. They constructed ponds to gather rainwater for irrigation and stocked them with koi, a goldfish relative, to combat mosquitoes. The fish succeeded and now are collected for sale at a local market. The couple also planted rows of calla lilies to filter wastewater from livestock locations so it could be used for irrigation. The lilies flourished, and the snazzy white flowers now are a major earnings source, employing lots of regional ladies in growing, cutting, and marketing them. The lilies also draw in bees, which the farm began keeping commercially in 2005.

Little is lost on the Binahon farm. When trees are thinned, the timber is sold or utilized for building and construction on the residential or commercial property. Tree trimmings, cooking area waste, and farm by-products are composted, fish bones and eggshells are crushed, all for use as fertilizer. Goats initially brought in to control weeds likewise improve the soil and can be cost meat "when you lack money," Henry Binahon says. If the herd continues to succeed, milk production might be included.

Though the farm is not 100% natural-- some industrial hog feed and fertilizer are purchased-- the goal is eventually to be self-reliant and all natural. To combat insects, the Binahons use traps, a spray made with native chilies, and natural repellants such as onions planted in between rows of beans. Crops are turned to avoid depleting the soil, thus lessening the requirement for chemical fertilizer.

Development and success spurred ask for the couple to share their understanding. The farm now has a training center, built with local timber, where Henry teaches agriculture innovation. The center has become a local attraction, drawing not only farmers however likewise students, bird watchers, hikers, and other nature lovers. With his neighborhood connections, Henry has actually built an online network for trading, collecting and transporting, and for keeping up with prevailing market value. Perla has organized a group of regional females who make money by tending the nurseries, harvesting and packing crops. The Binahons' industry and resourcefulness have led to a model farm demonstrating the effective application of sustainable agriculture and natural resource management concepts.

With the growing Binahon farm as an example of what is possible, researchers are holding a series of workshops like the veggie field day, all part of long-term research in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and handled by Virginia Tech's Office of International Research, Education, and Development. Besides developing agro-forestry systems, scientists are experimenting with inexpensive drip watering, natural insect management, and no-till farming, which assists preserve topsoil, moisture, and useful microbes and worms.

Field-day individuals seemed most interested in the native plants that were least familiar to them. Generally, they chose cooked veggie meals rather than salads. Of the 25 vegetables and trees presented, which would they consider planting? The agreement among farmers was that any new crop would need to satisfy five requirements: high nutritional worth, long service life, simple marketability as fresh produce, good taste, and accessibility of seeds.

The Southeast Asia group comprises more than 30 scientists, engineers, and other advancement specialists who work closely with the World Agroforestry Center and the World Vegetable Center. It is among five long-lasting research programs managed by the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program, or SANREM CRSP, sponsored by USAID and managed by Virginia Tech. The Asian program's principal investigator is Manuel Reyes, a biological and agricultural engineer at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. Reyes puts a positive spin on the malunggay thefts. "We must be having an effect," he says, "if people are so excited to get the trees.