Coco farmers’ income in CamNorte projected to rise, with DA's help

STA ELENA, Camarines Norte— Cheap buying price for coconut impelled 47 year-old housewife Estela Velasco of Brgy. Poblacion Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte to work as piggery caretaker for P3,000 monthly.

A mother of five, two of them, born with special needs, Velasco felt the need to augment her husband, Roger’s income to support their family. The latter is a tenant coconut farmer who has been earning P2,000 only every two months since the buying price for whole coconut dropped at P3.20 per piece.

“Mahirap ang buhay (Life is hard),” she lamented.

That is why Velasco did not have second thoughts about joining the Philippine Rural Development Project-Bicol’s (PRDP-Bicol) training on coco geonet processing for members of the Samahang Organic Fair Trade Coconut Farmers Bicol-Quezon Cluster Inc. (SOFACOFA B-Q) on August 14-15, 2019 at the Coco Geonet Production Project Site, this municipality.

The training aims to boost the SOFACOFA B-Q’s production in order to sustain market demand. About 17 members and officers of the cooperative participated in the training facilitated by members of the Tunay Tapat Lahing Pilipino Cooperative, which implements the PRDP-funded Albay Coco Geonets Manufacturing Enterprise in Libon, Albay. Using the learning by doing approach, Jayson Pedrocillo, Project Manager of the I-REAP enterprise, together with Rexzaldo Panday and Kim Jay Novenario trained the participants on the step-by-step process of coco geonet production which includes decorticating, carding, sieving, twining and weaving.

“Makakatulong ng malaki yung ganitong activity kasi ang malaking problema po ng coco geonet production project dito sa Philippines is napakarami po ng raw materials natin pero hindi yun nau-utilize dahil sa kakulangan sa kaalaman. Sa pamamagitan ng pinalawak na project ng PRDP, mau-utilize natin lahat ng raw materials para sa coco geonet production sa buong Bicol Region at makakaya nating i-sustain yung demand na hinihingi ng mga buyers,” Pedrocillo said.

According to SOFACOFA B-Q Vice Chairman Ronald Nasol, the training will help the members develop quality techniques in coco geonet production and encourage them to appreciate the enterprise as a value-adding activity.

“Alternative source of income ito sa pagbaba ng presyo ng niyog kaya talagang nagpupursige yung ibang coconut farmers tulad nila na matuto kasi isa po itong dagdag-income. Maliban sa bunga ng niyog at sa ibang pinagkakakitaan po nila, sabi nga nila, kaya na nilang gumawa sa kanilang bahay o dito mismo sa production area natin,” Nasol said.

Velasco came with zero-knowledge on coco geonet production but after the two-day training, she proudly shared that she’s now adept in twining and weaving coco geonets. With these skills, she is now qualified to apply at SOFACOFA B-Q as twiner or weaver with an opportunity to earn P300 daily.

“Maalwan na po ito kesa yung isa lang yung inaasahang hanap-buhay. Meron pang dagdag-kita. (This is easier unlike having only one occupation. Plus, this is a source of additional income),” she added.

The P7.62 million-worth Coco Geonet Production and Coco Peat Processing Project in this municipality is a PRDP I-REAP-funded enterprise designed to provide employment and livelihood opportunities to coconut farmers through coco geonet production and coco peat processing using coconut husks which are considered as farm wastes.

With support from the PRDP-Bicol and the Provincial Local Government Unit of Camarines Norte, it will be implemented by the SOFACOFA B-Q, an organization composed of 1,057 organic coconut farmers. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)