TWO years after Acdi/Voca, an agri-focused non-profit organization, granted Tesda-WNAS a P1.2 million budget to set up a CoCoPal Agri-business Model (CBAM) in their school, its teachers and students are making their way to a new project: a fermentary.
With Tesda's promising site in Calinan, Davao City, the Wangan National Agricultural School (WNAS) believes that this move will be very helpful in their educational programs for cocoa processing.
The fermentary is an essential post-harvest facility where seeds are stored and fermented for better cocoa flavor and aroma.
Without the fermentary, the Tesda-WNAS faculty and students were drying the seeds before processing them into tablea, or local unsweetened discs of cocoa.
But after inspecting the dried beans collected by the school, Acdi/Voca training coordinator Janoz Laguihon told the faculty members: "You will find a huge difference in the aroma of fermented beans from these beans."
The Tesda-WNAS faculty members agreed and have been working on the dream while their school's CBAM is doing well in terms of student attendance, instructional reception, and income generation.
From 100 students in 2011, more than 500 students are now participating and benefitting from the CBAM programme. Majority of these students come from farming families and IP communities.
"They really benefit from the instructional, hands-on approach of the program. The students tell us that they learn a lot from being able to experience cocoa farming and processing first-hand because they don't always have the opportunity to do so in their homes. They'll be able to bring this first-hand experience of farming technologies and techniques they learned here to their farms," said Erlinda Ferrer, an instructor at Tesda-WNAS, who represented the school when she attended an Acdi/Voca seminar two years ago.
The students and teachers work on a one-hectare CBAM facility equipped with a cacao nursery, a palayamanan, a concoction area, a bud wood garden, a vermiculture area, a coconut plantation, and livestock pens for native chickens.
According to the Tesda-WNAS faculty members, the more than 200 square meters cocoa nursery is their biggest achievement.
The nursery has a capacity to hold 50,000 cocoa seedlings. Now, they're grafting seedlings of six cocoa varieties in the facility.
The CBAM program has also gained for the school a steady income to fund new school facilities and educational materials for their students. Their income comes from selling the cocoa seedlings to local farmers and from selling their tablea products to local stores.
The Tesda-WNAS faculty does not only bank on their income for the sustainability of the program. They also invest on the technical trainings and insights provided to them by Acdi/Voca.
"Acdi/Voca maintains an active relationship with us by visiting our area to evaluate the implementation of the program and provide additional trainings," Ferrer said. "With these factors in line, we will realize our fermentary in due time." (PR)