Hineleban Farms Adlai

Scientifically called Jobi Coix Lacryma, Adlai is an indigenous upland grass that looks like corn and produces bead-like tassels which delicately clasp golden kernels within. It is a gluten-free grain with low glycemic index rates and is a healthier substitute for rice and other grains.

The Beginning

Hineleban Foundation first encountered Adlai during a visit to a Tagolowanen community in Malaybalay, Bukidnon in 2015. At the time, Bukidnon and much of the Philippines was severely suffering from a prolonged dry season. This community, like many others in the province, relied on their crop for sustenance and income. Hineleban Foundation was carrying out food dispersals to the tribal communities, including this one, that were highly affected by the drought.

In addition to food dispersals, the foundation intended to purchase hand-woven banigs (traditional mats) from the Tagolowanen weavers. The mats are made from a wild grass called sud-sud, which is slashed, gathered, dried, dyed and dried once more to produce the weavers’ material. The weavers—traditionally called dream weavers—work in the night in candle-lit rooms after their children have fallen asleep, as the grass is so dry in the heat of the day that the blades can cut the weavers’ fingers. In the cool of the night, the blades are flexible and moist. As they weave, the women chant and sing, creating a timeless space in which their old traditions flourish. The proceeds from the purchase of these mats carried the community over the drought, which lasted seven months.

Upon inquiry, members of the community apprised the foundation members of the crops they traditionally grew and whether they were resistant to the drought; Adlai was among the crops mentioned. In the Binukid dialect, they explained that Adlai is “just like rice, but better.” The foundation was gifted two kilos of the unmilled grain. Members of the foundation decided to test it: after hand milling the grain, they cooked it just as brown rice is cooked. The flavor was found to be similar to that of rice, though the texture was fluffy and more similar to corn.

 

The Indigenous People of Bukidnon and Hineleban Foundation TBP Adlai Chapter

Realizing that there was potential in this little-known grain, the foundation reached out to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to find that the crop had already been through trials with the Bureau of Agriculture and Research (BAR) for over eight years. The foundation worked with BAR and the Northern Mindanao Agricultural Research Center (NOMIARC) on a two-hectare test site within Tuminugan Farm, the research and development site for Hineleban Foundation.

At the end of the 2016 drought in March, the BAR visited Tuminugan Farm for a surprise inspection. The Adlai within the farm had survived the drought, where it had not in other areas, due to the farm’s elevation, forestation and microclimate. The foundation was instructed by the BAR to disperse the seeds to farmers, which the foundation gladly agreed to do.

Adlai was included in Hineleban’s Sustainable Disposable Income Crop (SDIC) program for Indigenous partner farmers. In 2017, with free prior and informed consent and a participatory customary impact assessment done with the tribal leaders, 77 hectares of Adlai were planted in areas with ideal growing conditions within their ancestral domains.

This is not a buyer-seller relationship, nor is it a charity. It is a genuine business relationship mediated by Hineleban Foundation between the Adlai partner farmer and a corporation to bring the added value product to the market. This business model is coined as Transformational Business Partnership (TBP) where the best production and harvest technology is given to the farmer with an assurance of process management, quality control and access to market.

Hineleban Adlai was initially introduced to the market as the indigenous grain entry into the Madrid Fusion Convention in 2017—lauding praise from local and international chefs as a healthier alternative to rice that celebrates the Philippines’ culinary history.

In 2018, up to 185 hectares of tribal lands were planted with Adlai. The foundation and its partner farmers apply only the best agricultural practices and continue with varietal testing. The goal of increasing the yield and maximizing production in the Indigenous and Bangsamoro lands.