There’s money even in ‘bunot’
LUCENA CITY—For solo parent Lea Manalo, the P400 she earns daily from twining coconut fiber is heaven-sent. It helps her raise two children while her husband is in prison.
The Manalo family is among the growing number of beneficiaries of the provincial government’s coco-fiber utilization project (CFUP), which was initiated by Quezon Gov. David Suarez to provide alternative livelihood to impoverished farmers and fishermen.
CFUP, a “village-type enterprise,” was launched by the coconut development division of the Provincial Agriculturist Office (PAO) in 2013. The project is a public-private partnership with companies engaged in the production of coconut fiber products, according to PAO head, Roberto Gajo.
Fiber extracted from coconut husk, or coco coir, can be made into ropes, floor mats and mattresses or used as natural and organic growing mediums for landscape plants and grasses, eco-friendly fishing nets and fiber mesh nets as protective cover for soil and slopes to prevent landslides and erosion.
For the beneficiaries, twining and weaving fibers serve as an important fallback when farming and fishing fail to provide income, Gajo said. At least 22 groups of twiners and weavers were organized in the towns of Unisan, Candelaria, Agdangan, Lopez, Padre Burgos, Guinayangan and Lucban.
In the coastal village of Ilayang Kalinawan in Unisan in the Bondoc Peninsula district, the CFUP has changed the lives of residents.
“Before, most of the villagers spent their spare time drinking and gambling,” said Lilibeth Cagula, head of the local project beneficiaries. “Most of us are now busy earning extra money from coco fiber twining and weaving.”
Since most people rely on farming and fishing for livelihood, they are occasionally idle during rough weather. “No fishing, no income for us,” said fisherman Ricky Delin.
With the introduction of the CFUP in his community in 2013, Delin’s family earns P450 a day, producing 1 meter by 25 meter nets on a weaving table provided by the PAO. “We can finish an average of three nets a day. That’s a great help for my family,” he said.
Compacted bales of coconut fiber, weighing around 25 kilograms, are delivered to the beneficiaries by partner-companies.
The companies buy coconut husks, which are considered waste products, at 20 centavos a piece. The husks are brought to a plant to be turned into coco fiber through a decorticating machine.
The Manalos can turn the bale of fiber, after assortment and twining, into an average of 400 pieces of rope, measuring 14 meters long each.
“We can finish the bale in two days. We earn at least P800 for our labor, our only capital in this venture,” Manalo said.
The finished product would be picked up by the company vehicle, which also delivers a fresh bundle of coco fiber to them.
Like child’s play
Gajo said entire families were involved in the enterprise. He described the project as a “family business.”
The simple technology used and basic skills involved make the activity like a children’s play.
“When we return home from school, we immediately join the twining work. But it’s no work for us. We’re just like playing,” said Jenela, 14, one of Manalo’s two children.
Gajo said CFUP operations had brought a monthly income of P5,800 to P8,500 for rope twiners and P7,000 to P10,500 for net weavers.
“Prospects for this project are bright due to the big market for coco fiber finished products,” Jacobo said. According to the Philippine Coconut Authority, coconut fiber is becoming popular as an industrial material in the United States and in Southeast Asian countries because it is cheaper, renewable, and completely organic.
To families involved in the program, said Ricardo Rentoria, CFUP technician, “there is money even in bunot (coconut husk).”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.