The MBRLC was conceptualized in the mid-1960s
but then implemented and officially opened on September 8, 1971. The
originator and founder, Mr. Harold Ray Watson, along with his wife
(Elizabeth Joyce) and three sons, lived at the center in Kinuskusan,
Bansalan, Davao del Sur. Initial money for establishment was given
by the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (USA) a
donation by Maxie Jarman, a US-based shoemaker and manufacturer.
A plot of 10 hectares (which has since
grown to 19 hectares) was purchased. The land included
underdeveloped lowlands as well as impoverished and denuded hillsides.
Watson named the site the MBRLC and began in earnest an animal production
program for small farmers.
In 1977, Dr. Warlito A. Laquihon and his
wife, Ellen, joined the staff as Associate Director to Mr. Watson.
Dr. Laquihon helped form and implement the PEDAL (Plan for Extension,
Development and Leadership) program and proposed the acronym REDEEM
(Research, Extension, Development, Education, Evangelism and Mission) as
the center's focus for future strategy and development.
In 1978, an agricultural extension program
was implemented. In 1979, the first of many Baptist Outside Of
School Training (BOOST) programs was initiated in Kinuskusan. It was
a program launched to help the young people of the Philippines become
responsible and model citizens in the rural areas. 1979 also saw the
launching of the first issue of The Baptist Farmer, a quarterly
publication dealing with farming problems in the southern Philippines.
In response to and working with local
farmers, Mr. Watson, Dr. Laquihon and Mr. Rodrigo Calixtro helped develop
a technology for farming the uplands known as the Sloping Agricultural
Land Technology (SALT) in 1978. Due to the huge national and
regional interest in SALT, a formal training program was launched in1 980
to help in the spread of the technology in the uplands.
Subsequently, other SALT versions were developed (SALT 1, SALT2, SALT 3,
and SALT 4) and by the mid-1980s, over 1,000 people per year, local and
international, were coming to the MBRLC for training.
Today, the MBRLC has developed into a 19-ha
demonstration farm with seven satellite projects throughout Mindanao.
It now has a staff of over 120 people with a good deal of those being
involved in local village development programs. Over 20,000 visitors
come to the MBRLC per year with about 2,000 of those being one-week
trainees per year. Moreover, through linkages with international
organizations such as the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation (ARLDF),
the MBRLC now has ties to projects in over 12 Asian countries, primarily
promoting sustainable development for the uplands utilizing agriculture,
health care, literacy, and community organizing, among others.