Greening Bukidnon through cups of coffee

JAIRUS Ferrer, 25, believes in stewardship. “Our natural resources are there to provide certain needs, yet we also have to give back to nature what we take from it,” he says. “Environmental conservation to me is stewardship.” Ferrer works as a model and sits as a current board member of the Professional Models Association of the Philippines (PMAP).

But when he is not posing in front of the camera, he puts on a farmer’s hat and reverts to his roots, hoping that he can encourage more people to be active in efforts to reforest the country.

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“The way we live our lives today has really taken a toll on the environment and indirectly depleting our natural resources,” he adds. The Cagayan de Oro City-born and raised lad humbly describes his odd upbringing as a reason to why he is doing what he does.

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THIS model puts on a farmer’s hat and reverts to his roots, hoping that he can encourage more people to be active in efforts to reforest the country. (FERRER’S  offbeat education already speaks so much about the love that he has found for taking care of nature and the potential business behind it.)

After moving to Bukidnon, he said that he took on the road less traveled by spending his years after high school in a farm business school called Semilya sa Kinabuhi (literally translates to “seedlings of life”).

“I was the first high-school graduate to undergo the developing curriculum with a focused program on character development, faith-based business ethics, and applied learning through agriculture,” he said. “Spending four years in a solid agricultural environment made me fall in love with the industry and it developed in me the need to lead my generation in this age-old craft.”

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HOW do you get an urban market to be involved in a rural activity like tree planting? Ferrer’s answer was came in the form of the wise use of technology when purchasing coffee bags.

His offbeat education already speaks so much about the love that he has found for taking care of nature and the potential business behind it.

As early as the age of 17, he wound up in one of the meetings of the Hineleban Foundation where he now works actively as part of a team that promotes the organization’s Arabica coffee that is produced with the indigenous people in the mountain ranges of Kitanglad and Pantaron.

“While the founding chairman of Hineleban was casting the vision [of reforestation], I told myself that I would like to practice and be an advocate of reforestation by getting myself involved in any way I can,” he said.

His strong interest in the cause and in agriculture came into fruition when he turned 23. “I was given the privilege to build and market the brand called Hineleban Coffee, alongside the core team of the foundation.

The brand eventually reached nationwide distribution in less than six months. He also brought fresh ideas to the table and nailed it.

“We had to find a way to get the urban market involved in such a rural activity—that is reforestation—by supporting our product. So we developed the Tree Code system,” he describes.

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The trick is simple: for every bag of Hineleban Coffee purchased, the foundation plants one tree. “Customers can name their tree and track it via GPS in our website. Cool, huh?”

Hineleban’s reforestation efforts began in 2008 and as of September 2015, the foundation has planted 61,161 forest trees.

“Our immediate target for 2016 is to cover 40 hectares situated in different areas within Bukidnon,” Ferrer said. “The total target area to be planted is 44,000 hectares to be able to protect the 137,000 hectares of remaining forest in around Mt. Kitanglad. That is the big goal!”

His continuing interest in the environment fuels him to develop his engagement so that it involves Bukidnon’s immediate community.

“I grew up in an environment where families depend on agricultural or aquaculture activities,” he says. “So being part of the Hineleban team, we formed “transformational business partnerships” with the seven tribes of Bukidnon,” he says.

Doing so taught him a lot. His learnings from experiences and from different mentors opened his eyes.

“I was able to spend time learning different Mindanao cultures and seeing the beauty and harsh realities of life,” he said. “Providing sources of livelihood and being able to develop markets for products from these are my own little ways of helping uplift poverty in this country. There is much, much work to be done!”

The main drive of the Hineleban Foundation, he said, is to “revive eco-systems, enhance values and transform communities.”

“Everything we do involves conserving the environment and creating opportunities by working with the communities around the remaining forest areas of Bukidnon. This goes beyond planting trees but rather reviving rainforests and bringing back nature’s true form, which eventually will trickle down to food security,” he says. “I believe conserving the environment can’t be done by one person. But instead, it is a collective effort of families, communities and corporations.”

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