Film tells the story of a model farm

A short film released this year by the SANREM CRSP documents how a family applied sustainable agriculture practices to establish a highly successful business in Lantapan, Bukidnon, Philippines. Titled, Taming the land, the wind and the sun: The story of the Binahon Agroforestry Farm, the 21-minute documentary was produced by TMPEGS Scaling-Up Coordinator Maria Victoria O. Espaldon, dean of the School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. (To download a copy of the video, RIGHT-click this link and choose the ‘Save’ option: Binahon Agroforestry Farm video (large download alert: this file is 85 MB).)

The film opens with a couple’s meeting in 1986, when Perla Quiblat, a forester, was directing a watershed management program and Henry Binahon, a social scientist, was developing a tree nursery nearby. They married, started a family, and opened their own nursery, but the business did not thrive. When a friend offered to sell them 2.75 hectares of land, they accepted, but they found that the soil was thin and dry. With seedlings from their nursery, “they planted trees to grow crops,” the film’s narrator explains. Vegetables in the shade of those trees prospered, eventually growing into a highly successful agroforestry enterprise.

Koi ponds, calla lilies, and honeybees illustrate the Binahons’ approach to farming. They built ponds to collect rainwater for irrigation and stocked them with koi, a goldfish relative, to combat mosquitoes. The fish prospered and now are harvested for sale at a local market. The couple also planted rows of calla lilies to filter wastewater from livestock areas so it could be used for irrigation. The lilies thrived, and the showy white flowers now are a major income source, employing dozens of local women in growing, cutting, and marketing them. The lilies also attract bees, which the farm began keeping commercially in 2005.

Little is wasted on the Binahon farm. When trees are thinned, the timber is sold or used for construction on the property. Tree trimmings, kitchen waste, and farm byproducts are composted, fish bones and eggshells are pulverized, all for use as fertilizer. Goats initially brought in to control weeds also enrich the soil and can be sold for meat “when you run out of cash,” Henry Binahon says. If the herd continues to do well, milk production may be added.

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

Innovation and success spurred requests for the couple to share their knowledge. The farm now has a training center, built with local timber, where Henry teaches agriculture technology. The center has become a local attraction, drawing not only farmers but also students, bird watchers, hikers, and other nature enthusiasts. With his community connections, Henry has built an online network for buying and selling, harvesting and transporting, and for keeping up with prevailing market prices. Perla has organized a group of local women who earn money by tending the nurseries, harvesting and packing crops.

The Binahons’ industry and ingenuity have resulted in a model farm in the Philippines, demonstrating the successful application of sustainable agriculture and natural resource management principles. The film closes with the Binahons’ philosophy: unity and diversity, balance and sustainability.