Generating value beyond our business
Beans of Hope for the Kaingeros
How genuine corporate social responsibility helped transform slash-and-burn farmers into coffee farmers and stewards of the environment
Kaingin, also known as “slash-and-burn farming,” is considered a destructive upland agriculture practice. It usually entails the cutting and burning down of trees and other plant growth in an area to prepare and cultivate the plot for farming. The practice is deemed not sustainable as it depletes nutrients from the soil, thereby decreasing the plot’s productivity. It may also take the plot around five to 20 years to recover from the effects of kaingin.
Even with these potential negative impacts on the environment, kaingin is still a widely practiced farming method in the Philippines, especially among upland communities. As such, when EDC encountered a group of kaingeros in Brgy. Baslay, Dauin, Negros Oriental back in 1985, the usual mode of apprehension or driving them out of the area was replaced with social empowerment.
From Kaingeros to Coffee Farmers
Based on the knowledge that poverty and lack of education were often the main reasons behind kaingin, EDC set out to partner with the kaingeros of Brgy. Baslay to empower them so that they can help themselves, their families, and the environment and the community where they belong through a more sustainable source of livelihood.
For more than 30 years, EDC undertook the long and arduous process of community organizing, social education, financial management training, and transfer of agroforestry training to properly educate and empower the kaingeros of Brgy. Baslay. Indeed, our unceasing community investment and engagement efforts helped transform more than a hundred kaingeros from Brgy. Baslay into not just thriving coffee farmers, but also committed stewards of the environment.
EDC, perhaps, was the first organization to work with the community of Brgy. Baslay with the right combination of environmental protection, social transformation, and economic incentivization. The reformed kaingeros are now bonafide members of the Baslay Farmers’ Association (BFA), one of the leading coffee associations and producers in Negros Oriental and Region VII. As of 2017, the BFA has 120 hectares of coffee plantations under its management.
A Coffee Shop 30 Years in the Making
Seed funding and training from the right sources has empowered the reformed kaingeros of Brgy. Baslay to deliver change within their community.
To help improve the quantity of harvest and the quality of the coffee beans, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), through its Shared Service Facility (SSF) program, provided BFA with PhP1.2 million worth of grant equipment for coffee harvesting and processing.
Through EDC’s watershed management programs, BFA became more aware of its biodiversity and environment-friendly agricultural practices such as agroforestry, where they can intercrop high-value crops such as coffee trees with various forest tree species instead of the usual monocropping. This practice helped enable the BFA to become the first farmers association in Negros Oriental to produce premium and organic wildforest coffee beans.
Internationally trained baristas from all over the country started taking notice of the BFA’s wildforest quality coffee beans. This, in turn, prompted the Negros Oriental Provincial Tourism Office to encourage the BFA to develop their own coffee shop near the Baslay Hot Springs, a popular tourist destination in Negros Oriental. Thus, the BFA’s very own coffee shop, named Highland Brew Coffee, was born in 2018.
But there’s more to celebrate beyond the success of the BFA’s coffee business. For one, there have been no reported cases of kaingin in Brgy. Baslay for the past 10 years. And Brgy. Baslay, once a lifeless tract of land that is devoid of trees and biodiversity, is now home to 113 species of endemic birds and is now a prime source for quality coffee beans.
Our Approach to Social Responsibility
We remain cognizant of the direct and indirect impacts of our business operations to our host and neighboring communities within all our project sites.
Guided by our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policy, we strive to enhance the positive impacts we bring to our host communities and address development issues such as poverty and lack of access to basic services. We firmly believe that our presence helps catalyze our host communities towards positive and productive action. Ultimately, our strategic CSR programs aim to empower our different stakeholders and partner communities towards becoming proactive agents of their own development to break the cycle of poverty and dependence.
We monitor and measure our impacts based on project objectives, quantitative targets, and simple cost-benefit analysis. We also monitor and evaluate each project through our bi-annual Social Acceptability Monitoring, Sustainability Assessment Tool, and Social Impact Assessment, all of which have been developed based on widely accepted local and international literature and methods. Our social development initiatives are guided by both local CSR regulations and international standards and best practices in community engagement.
Guided by a strategic framework, our approach to social responsibility supports not only the growth and profitability of our business, but also the continued protection and sustainability of the environment and its natural resources and the long-term improvement of the quality of life of all our host communities.
Our commitment to social responsibility is evident in how it is managed—it is an issue that is tackled at the highest level of our organization. Our Board of Directors has a CSR Committee, composed of at least three members of the Board. As such, they provide leadership and oversight over the management of our strategic CSR programs, which, in turn, enable the company to deliver effective CSR initiatives that contribute greatly to our triple bottom line.
Our Corporate Social Responsibility Division (CSRD), on the other hand, oversees the systems and structures related to our strategic CSR portfolio and provides direction on policy implementation. As such, it provides technical assistance to our Community Partnerships Section (CPS) and Watershed Management Section (WMS), both of which form teams on the ground and at the national level which activate partnerships to help us achieve our strategic CSR goals.
Accordingly, EDC establishes a Community Partnerships Department (CPD) in each of its project sites across the country. At the community level, the CPD teams develop and operationalize our CSR agenda and serve as the company’s front-liners to implement its strategic CSR programs and activities.
Our 2018 Sustainability Report
Our Performance Report tells the story of our efforts to achieve our business objectives, hand-in-hand with our sustainability aspirations.