HIGHLIGHTS

  • Reverend HAROLD WATSON studied agricultural education at Mississippi State University and as a Baptist Minister, appointed to serve as an agricultural Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board in the Philippines in 1964 where he was asked to develop and direct a church camp in Kinuskusan, Davao del Sur.
  • Watson tried many ways to stop the erosion and rebuild soil fertility but none worked until 1973 when he obtained seeds from Hawaii of the Giant Ipil Ipil. Based on use of this tree, he and his co-workers, developed SALT, or Sloping Agricultural Land Technology.
  • Another development is the FAITH (Food Always in the Home) Garden where bamboo baskets are sunk a third of a meter in the ground and packed with house and garden waste and ipil ipil leaves then tomatoes, squash, eggplant and other vegetables are planted around the baskets and draw their fertilizer from them. He also introduced new breeds and methods of raising ducks, rabbits, goats, pigs and pond fish; better vegetable seed; and ideas for utilizing Leucaena for feed.
  • Every year more than 6,000 people come from Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other Asian countries to visit Watson’s remote center.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his encouraging international utilization of the Sloping Agricultural Land Technology created by him and his co-workers to help the poorest of small tropical farmers.”

 CITATION

Destruction of tropical rain forests, chiefly by slash-and-burn subsistence farmers, is rapidly destroying one of earth’s greatest resources. Yet this is the most available option for the ever growing multitude of landless, poor farmers who “plow with fire.” Throughout tropical Asia and elsewhere this practice has left behind tens of millions of hectares of denuded grasslands that no longer afford a livelihood for the poor cultivators. As monsoon rains leach out nutrients and erode hillsides, the climate changes and once verdant areas become wasteland. The resulting declines in productivity make malnutrition the most serious health problem of the less developed world.

Reverend HAROLD WATSON, whose parents were farmers near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was born in 1934. After graduating from high school he served with the U.S. Air Force in Texas and Okinawa. On his return he studied agricultural education at Mississippi State University, was ordained a Baptist minister in 1958, and went on to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Forth Worth, Texas. After teaching vocational agriculture in Eatonville, Mississippi for three years, he was appointed to serve as an agricultural Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board.

Arriving in the Philippines in 1964 WATSON and his wife, Joyce spent the first year in Manila studying the Ilongo language. Soon after reporting to Southern Baptist College in M’lang, Cotabato, WATSON was asked to develop and direct a church camp in Kinuskusan, Davao del Sur. Later a benefactor in Nashville, Tennessee, made it possible for him to purchase an adjoining hillside-which had been farmed for 20 years and then abandoned because of impoverished soil—to use for experimenting on techniques for erosion control.

“In the beginning we tried so many ways to stop the erosion and rebuild soil fertility. None of them really worked,” WATSON has said. The terraces they built washed out and the information the universities provided was not applicable to local conditions.

In 1973 WATSON had obtained seeds from Hawaii of the Giant Ipil Ipil, a nitrogen-fixing tree known scientifically as Leucaena leucocephala. Based on use of this tree, he and his co-workers, including a dozen professional agriculturists, developed SALT, or Sloping Agricultural Land Technology. They planted double hedges of Leucaena on contours four to six meters apart, cutting the trees back ten times yearly to keep them low and dense; the leafy tops were used to fertilize the crops planted (without plowing) between the hedges. Corn, beans, pineapple, coffee, bananas, peanuts, sweet potatoes and fruit trees all prospered.

Another development is the FAITH (Food Always in the Home) Garden. Bamboo baskets are sunk a third of a meter in the ground and packed with house and garden waste and ipil ipil leaves. Tomatoes, squash, eggplant and other vegetables are planted around the baskets and draw their fertilizer from them. After each crop the compost in the basket is spread on the soil to enrich it and the basket is refilled. He also introduced new breeds and methods of raising ducks, rabbits, goats, pigs and pond fish; better vegetable seed; and ideas for utilizing Leucaena for feed. The center sells animals and information booklets cheaply to the poor farmers, and encourages translation, reprinting and condensing of all materials in order to distribute widely the information therein.

Every year more than 6,000 people come from Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other Asian countries to visit WATSON’s remote center; and one thousand farmers and technicians attend its short seminars. Youths aged 18 to 28 are given a four-month training there and at three other BOOST (Baptist Outside Of School Training) centers—Zamboanga del Sur, South Cotabato, and Agusan del Sur. They study health, cooperative action and the Bible while learning better agricultural methods.

Fundamental to WATSON’s approach to restoring productivity to abandoned mountainsides and other wasteland is that every new technology must be one that the poorest farmer can adopt and profit from. As a result his program is giving hope both to his needy rural neighbors and to those concerned with the burgeoning need for more productive farming in tropical regions around the globe.

In electing Reverend HAROLD RAY WATSON to receive the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding, the Board of Trustees recognizes his encouraging international utilization of the Sloping Agricultural Land Technology created by him and his co-workers to help the poorest of small tropical farmers.

 RESPONSE

It is with deep humility and sincere appreciation that I accept the 1985 Ramon Magsaysay Award for International Understanding for my efforts in encouraging international utilization of Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT). SALT is a program which was originally developed by the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center to help small hillside farmers in the Philippines.

Without the cooperation and teamwork of the entire Rural Life Center, programs like SALT, FAITH gardening and others would not exist. Two key members of the Rural Life Center team who have shared equally in developing and promoting SALT are Warlito A. Laquihon, our Assistant Director and Supervisor of Training and Extension, and Rodrigo S. Calixtro, our Farm Manager. To them I express my deepest appreciation for their unselfish and dedicated efforts as we have worked together in developing this and other programs to help small farmers in Mindanao.

The development of SALT and the program of the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center would not have been possible without the support and encouragement of my wife, Joyce, who at all times has been an involved member of the Rural Life Center team.

I also want to acknowledge the roles of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Philippine Baptist Mission in the program of the Rural Life Center. Their support, cooperation and encouragement have undergirded the project since its inception.

This Award, I believe, calls attention to the problems that nations in the tropical belt of the world are facing—inadequate food production, flooding, shortage of forest products and ecological imbalances. Land degradation is a problem that is affecting the standard of living of many nations, but especially of the millions who live on and farm the hillsides.

Topsoil is one of the earth’s most valuable resources. Each year the world’s farmers must attempt to feed 81 million more people. Next year Filipino farmers alone will have to feed approximately 1,500,000 more people than this year.

Soil loss is an Asia-wide problem. It is estimated that the Yellow River of China deposits about 1.6 billion tons of silt per year in the ocean; the Ganges of India deposits about 1.5 billion tons in the Bay of Bengal annually; the Irrawaddy of Burma deposits about 300 million tons of sediment per year in the Andaman Sea. It has been estimated that the hilly agricultural lands under cultivation in the Philippines have lost about two-thirds of their valuable topsoil.

Not only is our topsoil being depleted, but our forests are vanishing at an alarming rate. In 1946 it was estimated that in the Philippines 16.8 million of the nation’s 30 million hectares were forested. Today it is estimated that only 3 million hectares are still in virgin forest, and each year about 10 percent of that forest is being depleted.

Hillside farmers move into newly logged-over areas because crop production is high in the virgin soil of the forests. For lack of options and knowledge they resort to the slash-and-burn method of soil preparation, following this by plowing the hill sides vertically; both of these techniques lead to soil erosion. After five or ten years newly opened lands are depleted of topsoil and the farmers move on to repeat the cycle in another location.

Many of us who live and work among the hilly land farmers and upland tribal groups in Asia are sounding the alarm to the problems of deforestation and soil erosion. I call on people everywhere to help stem the tide of destruction while there is still time. When a nation loses the capability to feed, clothe and shelter itself, it loses the capability to chart its own destiny.

I believe there is hope for the poor, uneducated and malnourished hilly land farmers of Asia. There seems to be an awakening among tropical nations concerning land degradation. Sloping Agricultural Land Technology is one system they can use to restore productivity to eroded lands and prevent erosion in newly opened areas.

In conclusion, I accept this Award not only for myself, but on behalf of all my fellow missionaries and my co-workers at the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center. It is an honor that we accept together. And with the honor and recognition we also accept the responsibility of dedicating our continuing efforts to the task of developing and implementing programs which will improve the life of the small farmer in the Philippines and in other tropical countries throughout Asia. To aid in accomplishing this purpose, I am donating the US$20,000 award monies to the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center to provide additional financial resources for its programs for hilly land farmers.

I thank you tonight for this Award, but above all, I give praise to God. Any accomplishment or achievement is through His power. My prayer is that we will all work together to be good stewards of the earth that God has entrusted to us as individuals and as nations.

 BIOGRAPHY

“What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I know.” What HAROLD RAY WATSON, founder and director of the Mindanao Baptist Rural Life Center in central Mindanao wants people to know is how to conserve, rebuild and make a living from depleted mountainous soils. He considers land degradation the worst enemy of any nation for it is a creeping, often unrecognized foe. He knows the world is losing arable land at a shocking rate as forests are cut down and rain and drought take their toll. It has been particularly noticeable in the southern Philippines where he serves as an agricultural missionary. Logging has destroyed large tracts of virgin forest. Subsistence farmers have moved in and with their slash-and-burn technique depleted the nutrients in the thin soils that were exposed. Much of the soil was then washed away by the torrential rains of the monsoons. WATSON’s goal is to save the thin top soil, replenish the nutrients and helpthe poor farmer raise enough to feed his family and earn a modest profit to buy necessities.

HAROLD WATSON was born April 17, 1934 on a farm 14 miles from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, then a city of about 25,000. He was the second child and only son of Joseph C. Watson and Dorothy Mae Cagle. His father farmed cotton, corn and watermelon on 150 acres of sloping hillside land which were reduced to 80 acres as the depression of the 1930s continued. His parents separated and his father worked at a government arsenal in Texas and later remarried, but his mother and the two children remained in Mississippi on the family farm. WATSON kept in touch with his father, and both parents had a strong influence on him; both had deep religious beliefs and both were concerned that he receive the college education neither of them had enjoyed. His maternal grandparents, who lived nearby, also played a role in shaping his character.

From 1940 to 1949 WATSON studied at McLaurin Elementary School and then entered Forest County Agricultural High. The latter was unusual in that it accepted boarders from South America as well as from other parts of the United States, but young WATSON lived at home and made the round trip daily in a counq school bus.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)