By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Wood is an essential component in construction and creates sturdy as well as quality furniture. As a result, the material is highly demanded in both local and foreign markets.
Adrian Carino, an overseas Filipino worker employed as an architect in Dubai, encounters the natural material on almost a daily basis. He began to wonder why the Philippines didn’t to export their wood to companies such as the Carino works for.
“I’m wondering why don’t we have [our] wood exported since most of the trees where it’s made from are available in the Philippines. We also have better kinds to offer,” Carino said.
His musing is what led him to come up with a tree farm concept, which he decided to research more on. He found out that starting a tree farm can produce high yields, produce quality wood for export, and is more stable as compared to growing crops.
With the help of some family members, Carino bought his first farm in Camiling, Tarlac. To officially start, Carino and his family attended a seminar at Marsse Timber Farm to learn about sustainable tree farming.
Another reason Carino decided to start an agroforestry farm is because he wanted to invest his money in a venture where he could gain something in return.
“As an OFW, I thought it best to invest in tangible assets like real estate. So I bought a [parcel] of land from a subdivision but then I realized that aside from the high markup rate, my money is merely sleeping,” he said.
Promoting native trees while providing livelihood for locals
Carino named the farm “Punong-Punong” after the Filipino word “puno” meaning tree or full. The “-ng” at the end of the name is nod toward its Southeast Asian, specifically Philippine, origins since terms ending in “-ng” are common in the region.
“We also decided to make the name repetitive because it’s catchy and denotes a child-like approach such as common Filipino nicknames like ‘Kat-kat’ or ‘John-john,’” the architect said.
Planted in the farm are both native and exotic trees with an effort to propagate endangered species such as narra, magkono, lapnisan, and kamagong.
To date, Punong-Punong has already expanded to three farms with the original being the one in Camiling while the other two are located in nearby towns.
“Our farms measure 1.3 hectares, 6,000 square meters, and 8,000 square meters respectively. This accommodates one tree per six square meters thus amounting to around 4,500 timber trees,” he said.
For now, the trees are still at a growing stage but Carino already aims to supply local and foreign demand.
Aside from expanding their farms, Carino said that they are also promoting and partnering with nearby landowners to plant trees and idle lands to optimize the area, battle climate change, create a source of income for both the landowners as well as the farmers, and to regain the glory of the wood industry in the Philippines.
“To sustain our manpower, we hired a few farmers to plant seedlings and ornamentals in between our trees since the latter provide shade and protection to our nursery,” the architect said.
A sustainable and integrated tree farm
Despite being a tree farm, Punong-Punong grows more than just trees. Carino also integrated crops, ornamentals, and even livestock to create a diverse yet sustainable approach to agroforestry.
“In our farm, we integrated chickens and ducks to fertilize the soil, manage the weeds and keep our plants free from pests. All these while minimizing our expenses in maintaining the farm,” the architect said.
Prior to including poultry to the mix, forage plants such as mulberry, ipil-ipil, madre agua, and more were planted in between the trees.
Another thing that the architect did so his farm can accommodate livestock is to allot space for them to roam. This decision not only gives the chicken and ducks freedom to enjoy their surroundings but also lowers the rate of mortality because they aren’t cramped up in a small space unlike in commercial farms.
“The main idea is to create a self-sustaining natural tree farm whose practices can be replicated by our fellow farmers and landowners,” Carino said.
Soon, native pigs will also be added into the farm’s sustainable cycle as it is an ongoing project that Carino and the farm workers are working on.
In creating a natural tree farm such as Punong-Punong, Carino advises that the best tip is to understand and study the land, the plants that are growing in it, the relationship between the species, as well as the needs of the livestock present.
Once all these are set up, the farm will take on a natural course and thrive on its own with the help of the elements present in it.
For example, the trees provide shade and protection while the shrubbery provides nitrogen for the trees and serves as forage for the livestock. In the meantime, livestock provides fertilizer and keeps pests away from both crops and trees.
“All these should be in sync for maximum productivity and best results,” he said.
Benefits of agroforestry
Venturing into agroforestry, or the cultivation and conservation of trees among agricultural components, is a beneficial move for Carino.
Not only is he able to grow local trees as he first envisioned, but also forage crops and livestock that could be sold in the market as well.
“One advantage of practicing agroforestry is that you get to maximize the use of land since all of your crops can grow in one space and are working together so they could thrive,” he said.
Carino added that their ideal design for Punong-Punong farms is to fill the space with trees, aerial plants such as orchids and bird’s nest ferns, shrubs and crawlers for forage, and native livestock.
Through his efforts and investments, Carino hopes to showcase the quality wood that the Philippines can produce at the same time conserving the indigenous species in a natural manner.
For more information visit Punong-Punong Farms.
This article appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s July to August 2020 issue.