Aug 172014

EVERY year, some 6,000 people come to the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center (MBRLC) in Kinuskusan, Bansalan, Davao del Sur to observe, see and adopt the technologies the center has developed through its years of existence.

Almost one-third of those who come to the center opt to immerse themselves on the training programs that the center offers.

“Most of those who undergo training are farmers,” said Ian Ogatis, the center’s training coordinator. “But we also train technicians, teachers, students, and even participants send to us by government agencies.”

Among the government agencies that utilize MBRLC as their partner in countryside development are the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and Department of Education (DepEd).

The MBRLC is a non-government organization located 86 kilometers away from Davao City (the travel time from the Ecoland bus terminal is about two hours). It nestles at the rolling foothills of Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak. It was first opened to the public in 1971.

At its 19-hectare farm are various farming technologies that most people can adapt and follow in their respective farms. As one British who came to the center wrote in his report: “This relatively small operation is the most self-sufficient of all of the projects seen on this trip, and has had an influence throughout the Philippines and elsewhere far out of proportion to its size.”

Actually, the center was a product of the master’s thesis of its founder, the Rev. Harold Ray Watson, an agriculturist from Brooklyn, Mississippi.

“When I was doing my research, I found out that most training programs on farming from all over the world have facilities but not actual demonstration farms,” he said in an interview some years back. “So, I decided to put up this training center where farmers can actually see and learn what they are hearing from the lectures.”

This what makes the MBRLC truly unique in its training programs.

“Unlike other training centers which don’t have their own signature technologies, MBRLC has founded, tested and popularized the systems it has been doing,” said Ogatis.

He cites the case of Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (Salt) and its modifications. “In terms of authenticity,” she explained. “The center has all the rights and authority to training people because all the models can be found and all the data are available for all to see.”

The MBRLC has a “farmer-oriented philosophy.” As Watson puts it, “Our philosophy is, if you have something that works, go ahead with it. It doesn’t need to be perfect, since people won’t copy systems perfectly anyway.”

Which is why its technologies are catered to the needs of the poorest of the poor. “Our aim is to promote projects and systems that would enable rural people to improve their standard of living,” said Roy C. Alimoane, the current director of the center.

Aside from SALT, the MBRLC is also known for Simple Agro-Livestock Technology (SALT 2), Sustainable Agroforest land Technology (SALT 3), Small Agrofruit Livelihood Technology (SALT 4), and Food Always In The Home (Faith) gardening.

It also offers trainings on plant propagation (grafting, budding and seed production) and nursery management, livestock raising (goats, pigs, chicken, and rabbits), and aquaculture (particularly tilapia raising).

Its most recent technologies include vermicomposting (composting with earthworms), natural pig raising (using the Korean method), and natural fertilizer and pesticides formulation.

For community development, MBRLC offers training on extension techniques and strategies. It also conducts training on water development. There is also a resident program for young people called Baptist Outside of Training (Boost), where the trainees are taught how to become family assets instead of liabilities.

“Our training programs are designed to help and equip the trainees,” Ogatis said. “We conduct our training in a way that only 25 percent are allotted to lecture while the remaining 75 percent are spent in doing something.”

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 18, 2014.

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