The coastal road along the eastern part of Samar Island from Guiuan to Borongan passes through endless coconut plantations and picturesque coast with coral rock formations and black volcanic sand beaches. But as soon as you turn inland, the landscape completely changes within a few minutes of the drive into the tropical forest with hidden canyons, caves, and waterfalls.
The municipality of Maydolong is precisely like that, but things have not always been peaceful around here. The municipality was a stronghold of communist guerilla fighters from 70’s to 90’s. Until now, small groups of disillusioned rebels regularly appear out of nowhere to surrender to government authorities from time to time.
Jaime Busa comes from a family of coconut and vegetable growers. His family settled in the area 60 years ago. Jaime has always been very popular in his community for his humbleness and willingness to help others when needed. At the beginning of 2013, Jaime was elected as the president of Gundalitan Farmer Association. He and his wife Rita have been raising their nine children in a loving, peaceful environment.
But in November 2013, everything changed. The most powerful typhoon ever witnessed, called Yolanda, swept through the whole Samar island, including Maydolong municipality. Within five hours Jaime and his family lost everything, the house, the coconut farm, and all the animals. Fortunately, nobody was hurt during the typhoon.
The first three months after the typhoon, Jaime and his family depended entirely on relief aid provided by international NGOs and the government. In the meantime, Jaime started rebuilding his house and rehabilitating his farm with other association members' help. When People in Need NGO, a former local partner of SPS Biota, was looking for enthusiastic individuals who can be private service providers in the upland areas of Maydolong, the local community chose him. After intensive training, Jaime started his career as a private service provider in early 2016, offering a wide range of services to farmers of six remote communities in crop and livestock production. Simultaneously, his association received another grant for the establishment of a cacao nursery, and Jaime was invited for a study tour in Mindanao to learn more about the benefits of cacao cultivation. With cacao, it was love at first sight. He planted almost 2000 cacao seedlings on his coconut farm for the next two years. Most of these seedlings came from the Cacao Livelihood Improvement Programme funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Today, Jaime’s farm is an excellent example of an integrated production system. Besides cacao and coconuts, Jaime also grows pineapple and banana and breeds pigs and tilapia in the pond he dug himself. Jaime can provide for his whole family thanks to the farm, including keeping seven kids in the school and still setting aside money for further farm improvements.