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NEDF advances RP coffee research and development

March 18, 2010


January 8, 2010, 2:12pm

The Nestlè Experimental and Demonstration Farm (NEDF) in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, has been at the forefront of advancing coffee research and development in the Philippines.

Since its inception in 1994, the NEDF has become the premiere facility in coffee farm development and production and also trains coffee farmers on the latest coffee farming methods and technologies that are geared toward sustainability and self-sufficiency.

The training and technology being developed at the NEDF also forms a large and very important part of leading coffee brand Nescafe’s quest for the best raw materials for use in the production of Nescafe coffee. That is why Nestlè provided the site with the equipment and facilities needed for classroom instruction and practical application of the knowledge given to trainees.

“The NEDF is at the forefront of coffee farm research and development that not only seeks to help coffee farms but play a major role in the development of the coffee industry in general,” says Arthur Baria, Nestlè Agricultural Services head.

Aside from being the most advanced coffee development facility in the country, the NEDF has had a lot of firsts in different levels. For instance, it takes pride in hosting the only Robusta coffee germplasm in the country and the biggest Robusta mother plant garden in the Nestlè, if not the whole world. The mother plant garden can potentially produce 3 million coffee seedlings a year – enough to plant 3,000 hectares a year.

It is also the only private sector coffee-based research and development facility in the Philippines that has functions for research, instruction, and extension. These three basic functions are also similar to the ones in the universities and the academe.

Traning methods

One of the main roles of the NEDF is to provide training to the coffee farmers on the latest coffee farming technologies and methods that the center has developed.

The NEDF’s facilities include spacious lecture centers, numerous plant nurseries, prototype coffee production facilities, and demonstration farms, among others where farmers learn about the latest and most effective coffee planting methods. It also has lodging quarters that serve as the trainees’ “homes” while they are undergoing training.

At the lecture centers, well-trained agronomists inform attendees about everything they need to know about coffee crop management—from planting to harvesting, good soil management and cultivation and even to the buying and selling of their raw materials. Lectures range from a few days to several weeks, depending on the farmers’ allocated time.

At present, the training angles of the NEDF are focused on developing coffee agri-enterprises and promoting farmer entrepreneurship.

“We feel that this is the best way to go and it is the only way to sustain coffee development in the countryside,” says Baria.

There are two main training methods being implemented in the NEDF at present. One is the End-to-End Training Concept which highlights coffee development methods from seed to bean, from bean to brew, and from production to processing and marketing, and entrepreneurship. The other is Training the Trainor which trains technicians from local government units and para-technicians from NGOs and other partners who will then train local farmers in far-flung municipalities and barangays which cannot be reached by Nestlè agronomists.

Breakthroughs and Advancements

According to Baria, the NEDF is currently preparing for submission for registration 7 new high quality coffee selections from its local collections to the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC), formerly the Philippine Seedboard.

These coffee selections are high yielding, resistant to pests and diseases, have good and acceptable cup quality, and well-adapted to local coffee-growing regions. Although these 7 selections have already been scrutinized by scientists, it still awaits the approval of the Department of Agriculture before it can finally be registered with NSIC.

These new selections will provide coffee farmers a wider choice of having the best coffee crops they can have with very good genetic potential.

The NEDF is also about to start introducing cell-cultured coffee. This method aims to produce high-quality Robusta coffee seedlings for farmers and growers through mass propagation using the somatic embryogenesis technique.

“We will make available initial cell-cultured ready-to-plant Robusta seedlings by the 1st quarter of 2011, or at best, 4th quarter of 2010.,” say Baria.

Stakeholder Engagement

Apart from training coffee farmers and developing breakthrough technologies in coffee development, the NEDF also plays a crucial role and serves as the nerve center in partnering with various stakeholders in the coffee industry.

The most recent partnership was the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Department of Agriculture and Nestlè Philippines, Inc. The MOU represents the shared commitment of both the DA and NPI to address the decline in green coffee production in the Philippines and sets terms for programs that will support Filipino farmers in efforts to rehabilitate and plant new coffee trees with the NEDF as the main vehicle to achieve these goals. Farmers will be provided with planting materials and competent agronomical expertise geared towards sustainable development.

To operationalize the MOU, one major partnership was established between the NEDF and the Northern Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Research Center (NOMIARC) of the DA-Regional Field Unit No. X in Dalwangan, Bukidnon. Through the partnership, the NOMIARC will become a mini-NEDF that covers Northern and Central Mindanao coffee farmer and grower needs.

The mini-NEDF will feature a mother plant garden which can produce not less than 500,000 ready-to-plant Robusta seedlings for coffee farmers, a techno-demonstration farm of coffee based technologies under the sustainable agricultural initiatives platform, and a coffee monocrop demonstration farm. It will also have a fully-functional coffee seedling nursery in the area. It will also house bulk of the cell-cultured coffee plants during its early stage of development after which these will be distributed to seedling outlets of Nestlè and DA.

“In the long-term, the NEDF’s goal is to share its knowledge base with proactive coffee stakeholders like the DA to develop a sustainable Robusta coffee industry that supports both the domestic and export needs of the country,” says Baria, “The NEDF also seeks to reaffirm itself as the country’s foremost coffee research and development facility by upholding the country’s vision for coffee self sufficiency through production of, and making available quality, high yielding Robusta seedlings for farmers and growers, dissemination of matured coffee package of technologies (POTs), training of farmers and growers, and strengthening linkages through a sustained, responsive, and robust research and development agenda.”

http://mb.com.ph/articles/237483/nedf-advances-rp-coffee-research-and-development

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