An award-winning Filipino farming advocate has described his hands-on experience with Lionheart Farms in southern Palawan as an “amazing” encounter because of the company’s “new level” achievement in natural farming.
Andry K. Lim, who has received awards for his several outstanding organic agriculture efforts and initiatives, said Lionheart is taking farming into a new level by harmonizing regenerative biodynamic principles with nature.
“What Lionheart has achieved in a handful of years is amazing. They have taken natural farming to new levels; what was originally developed for backyard farming has been scaled to levels I could not imagine a few years ago. The regenerative biodynamic principles of natural farming are all about achieving harmony with nature. Lionheart’s love for the soil, the plants, and the community are unmatched,” Lim said.
Recently, the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) completed the Philippines’ first UN Sustainable Assessment of Food and Agriculture (SAFA) assessment with Lionheart Farms where it achieved best sustainability accuracy rating.
SAFA is a highly recognized assessment tool on the effect of food and agriculture operations on the environment and people. Lionheart believes it helps people understand what it is all about and what is doing in the area where it operates in southern Palawan.
Davao-based Lim and his wife Jojo have visited Palawan many times, teaching and campaigning for community development activities that can help improve the lives of smallholders and everyone through backyard farming with the assistance of Lionheart in Rizal town.
“To achieve this unprecedented scale makes Lionheart a first in our part of the world. They are constantly evolving their techniques to adapt to what is provided for by the host community and recycling everything, but always staying true to the natural farming principles and maximizing the livelihood development of the community,” Lim said.
Natural farming is focused on the use of beneficial micro-organisms in regenerating the soil and the environment without the need for chemical fertilizers but instead using natural ingredients.
Lionheart makes use of the Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO), the Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ), Calcium Phosphate made from eggshell and animal manure, and Fruit Juice (FFJ) as the source of NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium).
When the company started to secure the organic fertilizer requirement of the coconut palms, it sought after the available raw materials in the local community. With an aim to make its own organic fertilizers through the process of fermentation, Lionheart sourced-in materials in the municipality of Rizal for the coconut palms of the company.
Many of the ingredients which the company needs are grown from the backyard of the local tribes and farmers, said senior farm manager Ivorie J. dela Torre.
Torre reminisced how it all started, “The first ingredient we bought was bananas, to make Fermented Fruit Juice and Fermented Plant Juice served as growth hormone and source of Potassium”.
When the locals learned that Lionheart is buying banana and other raw materials, they started to deliver the items to our fertilizer production area. Locals were able to earn income as they collect animal manure anywhere in the farm fields. People here never thought that waste like a poop of cow can be a source of income. As tons of manure and other raw materials are needed, many locals with no permanent jobs, farmers, and fishermen were blessed to earn a living from the raw materials supplied,” Torre said.
Through this community-based supply chain and livelihood program, Lionheart is able to source locally and deliver all the essential macronutrients like Nitrogen ??, Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) to its coconut palms through the soil and by direct foliar application. The methods of Lionheart provide a stark contrast to the reliance of in-organic fertilizer and pesticide in conventional agriculture, which creates well know environmental and human health issues.
The natural farming approach also promotes the availability of essential micronutrients which ultimately makes organic products tastier and healthier for all of us as consumers. Nothing goes to waste and everything has a purpose.
“We took a very long term view when we started and have been working hard ever since. Our approach is best explained by a very different mindset than conventional agriculture. We manage the environment and in particular the soil, so in return, it can provide for our coconuts and the people,” said Christian Eyde Moeller, president of Lionheart Farms when asked by Palawan News about their agricultural methods and continues.
“We are still seeing more ways to engage the community to really maximize the economic impact at all levels and improve the biodiversity at the same time. Lionheart Farms was able to achieve the best rating for all environmental sub-themes,” Moeller added.
Their strength lies in best mitigation, conservation, and improvement practices for their emissions and consumption activities,” an official statement from the PCSD Staff (PCSDS) management SAFA report said.
True enough, the Regenerative agriculture performs better than conventional agriculture on a per hectare scale, both with respect to direct energy consumption and indirect consumption by the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Aris Arzaga, recently retired provincial agriculture officer, who visited Lionheart to witness the transformation to large scale organic farming of coconuts and to understand more about, said sustainability results achieved were impressive.
“I have visited Rizal many times and since the earliest days, I have followed the work of Lionheart. I am impressed by how well Lionheart’s coconut palms are harmoniously integrated into nature, it is nothing like big plantations as you might expect. The active management of both soil and plants is impressive, I have never seen anything like it and I hope other farmers in Palawan can learn from Lionheart so that we can improve livelihood in our farming communities,” Arzaga said.
Moeller said the province “has long been at the forefront of sustainability for nature preservation, and it is only natural that PCSD sees the opportunity to guide agricultural development that is important to the economy and to ensure that it happens in a responsible manner.
“It is particularly important we focus more and more of Palawan’s agricultural development on high-value crops and finished products so that the livelihood aspects are maximized,” he said.