The Sondawa Coffee Farmers Association (SoCoFA) held a two-day leadership training on value-based strategic planning last 26-27 May 2023, at the Mt. Apo Facilities of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC). The training was facilitated by PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee for Peace (CFP), who are partners with the Manobo Apao Descendants Ancestral Domain of Mount Apo (MADADMA) and EDC. This value-based strategic planning was a culmination of more than 5 years of journeying together and partnership between the MADADMA, EDC, and PBCI-CFP. Through those five years, a Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community and a social enterprise have been established, and a set of well-qualified, equipped, and enthusiastic leaders were elected to sustain and regenerate this inclusive development program, which is partly a result of an on-going MCCanada peacebuilding ministry in the Philippines.
The training focused on the eight core values of SoCoFA: accountable stewardship, harmonious fellowship, efficient facility, ethical membership, world class quality, organizational sustainability & development, responsive partnership, and total wellness. These core values were used to develop a vision and mission statement for SoCoFA. Through a series of workshops, a vision and a mission statement were articulated. The SoCoFA vision is: “Drink coffee, embrace Obo Menovu hospitality. Allu kow! (Welcome!) Kopi ki! (Let’s drink coffee!)” This vision statement reflects SoCoFA’s commitment to producing world class coffee while also promoting the culture and hospitality of the Obo Menovu people. The mission statement is: “To produce world class coffee from an excellent, healthy, and sustainable community for everyone.” This mission statement outlines SoCoFA’s goals of producing high-quality coffee, creating a healthy and sustainable community, and emphasizing inclusive development.
“This training was the most unique one I have ever attended,” Datu Melchor Umpan Bayawan, SoCoFA board member, said. “It’s really from the ground up. We can’t help but own the results. Because they really originated from our hearts and minds.”
“This vision and mission statement,” according to Bai Gemma Andot, SoCoFA President, “will help us focus on who we are, what our purpose is, and what we want to produce as an Indigenous coffee association.”
How this partnership began
It started in 2015 during a staff prayer meeting. We prayed for an open door for us to reach out to the Obo Menovu Indigenous People at the foot of Mount Apo. Then we listened to a few Obo Menovu leaders, some of them have been converted to the Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines (CAMACOP). We trusted and actively waited for the Creator to harmonize people, events, and resources.
On 09 October 2017, FirstGen Corporation, the parent company of EDC, through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Department, invited PBCI-CFP Inclusive Development Team (IncluDev Team) to their offices in Makati City, Manila’s business center, to explore possible partnerships in inclusive community development in Mindanao. During the meeting, it was mentioned that the partnership may be possible in Kidapawan City to serve the Indigenous Peoples around Mount Apo.
On 29 May 2018, another meeting was held in the office of the Board of Investments in Makati City. Our discussion led us to the following proposed objectives:
- To develop one Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community in the MADADMA ancestral domain composed of Ilomavis, Balabag and Magpet communities;
- To train 30 coffee farmers in MADADMA and five workers of EDC in quality coffee production and processing;
- To select at least ten coffee farmers who are ready for further mentoring in sustainable, inclusive agricultural enterprise by engaging them in the fair trade coffee value chain;
- To identify the indigenous leadership system and values that will be the basis of the PAR Community and other programs the community would like to implement; and,
- To help market the coffee of the farmers in MADADMA.
A deeper relationship solidified partnership
On September 2019, The Obo Menovu Tribal Council, along with the representatives of the CSR Department of EDC, invited the PBCI-CFP IncluDev Team to conduct a series of training seminars in Inclusive Development, Financial Management, Sustainable Agricultural Enterprise, Quality Coffee Processing, and Coffee Marketing. The participants in this 6-month program were key farmers, forestry specialists, and traditional tribal leaders.
Between October 2019 and January 2020, a series of earthquakes disrupted these field operations. Along with other communities in Central Mindanao, our activities had to stop indefinitely. All our resources and energies were refocused on emergency relief operations. Then, in January 2020, our partner families met with us. They reorganized themselves and carried on with our common vision of entrepreneurship and inclusive development.
From March 2020 to the present, this initiative has been slowed down due to lockdowns. With prompting from the tribal council of elders, PBCI-CFP leadership re-engineered our operations in response to the new normal of the pandemic reality.
Canadian Mennonites reaffirmed partnership
Last 18 January 2023, Norm Dyck led a group of Canadian Mennonites — Andrea, Anita, Brent, Dorothea, Dorothy, Edna, Lois, and Rose — and affirmed our partnership with the Obo Menovu IP community. This visit further deepened and solidified our relationship with this First Nation, assuring them of our commitment to amplify their voices as they assert their right to self-determination and as they stand to protect their ancestral domain.