The effects of climate change are now becoming undeniable. For Davao City native Emmanuel "Nhel" Belviz who manages a durian and pomelo farm established by his late father Severino, too much rain resulted to poor production of pomelo.
Citing problems with the quality of the fruit, as well as requiring too much pesticide to control the pests, Nhel started planting cacao trees in between the pomelo trees that remained. Some 20 hectares that had durian plantation were also affected during El Nino, and again, they tried planting cacao in between the remaining durian trees.
According to him, he started cacao on two hectares, and increased the planting when the results were good. Now, over 18 hectares of the 30-hectare farm is now planted with cacao.
During their durian days, Nhel and his wife Mary Grace have been exploring products like jams, jellies, and candies using durian. When cacao came, the husband and wife tandem also ventured into chocolate-making.
Mary Grace later on also became a recipient of a grant from the University of Ghent in Belgium for chocolate training--all expenses paid. She also earlier received a grant for business training from Goldman Sachs, conducted at the University of Asia and the Pacific. The Belvizes are also beneficiaries of the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Through SETUP's interest-free loans, the couple was able to purchase production equipment necessary for their durian and cacao products. They also recently availed of the benefit when they acquired a walk-in cold storage facility.
Now with three types of chocolate products and tablea, there is no doubt that the SETUP scheme of the DOST has helped boost the couple's production. The couple has even been sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to a "Bean to Bar" workshop held in Tuguegarao City.
The Department of Tourism is said to be planning to establish a cacao tourism program aimed to attract participation from both foreigners and local visitors. The Belviz farm may be a good stop for the participants to learn from Nhel and Mary Ann first hand.