DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/17 May) – Waste doesn’t have to be wasted away. This an NGO for the development of women has proved with a project on making paper out of durian husk. It is women empowerment and environment protection at work. Sounds ambitious, but a women’s group has made it come true.
Katakus, Inc. or the Kababayen-an Alang sa Teknolohiya nga Haum sa Kina-iyahan ug Kauswagan is an offshoot of the Women and Appropriate Technology Program of the Women Development & Technology Institute (WDTI) National Office in Davao. After the program ran out of funds and folded up, Katakus was officially established to continue the development program supporting the local women in 1996.
To this day, the group is running several projects such as sustainable agriculture and technology, organizing, capacity building of women, and the latest one, social enterprises.
The original idea was to help the women in Davao increase their income aside from their farming work. Then they saw that there were raw materials in the community that could be made into products. Fortunately, another NGO from Davao, which was running a program on handmade papers approached them and offered to teach them the technology and skills of paper-making.
The women in the communities were later provided a capital of 5000 pesos to start the handmade paper production. That was in 2005 when the durian fibers started to be developed. And it is said that Katakus was the first to discover that durian husks can be made into paper. Now, the group is playing the role of organizing, developing the products of the communities, and marketing them.
Husbands join trainings
At present, there are two communities where the women are employed in the handmade paper production, one in Barangay Katipunan, seven kilometers from Panabo City and another one in Toril, Davao City. According to Malba Omboy-Relon, product development officer of Katakus, each woman can earn an average of 700 – 1000 pesos per week if there are regular orders from clients. They work six days per week and eight hours per day.
As soon as the women are employed, they are invited to a two-week training accompanied by their husbands. During the training, they are familiarized with the manufacturing process, formulas and types of chemicals they will be using as well as effective time management.
From the start, there were reactions from the husbands since their wives would not be able to take care of the household the whole time anymore and the husbands themselves have to help with those duties. However, involving the husbands in these seminars and trainings make them informed and prepared. Little by little, they come to share the same understanding that household chores are not only the women’s duty but also the husbands’ and children’s.
The process of handmade paper production is quite time consuming because it is almost manual. The women collect durian husk from fruit stands in Magsaysay Park and bring them to the paper factory in Panabo. Durian husk is chopped into small pieces and fed into the chopping machine in which they are chopped into smaller pieces to be cooked in a drum before the fibers are formed.
After that, the fibers are washed, drained, bleached and then fed into the beater for easy sheet forming. A mold and deckle are used to mold or form the sheet. The excess water later on is extracted manually with a sponge or any absorbent material. Then the papers are dyed as required by clients. The fibers can be used for designing unique and original craft products such as lamp shades, scrap books, cards and boxes.
Betty More, one of the founders of Katakus, proudly believes that the nature of this production activity is recycling and maximizing the use of waste. And the paper they are producing is also environment friendly because the materials are obviously not from trees.
Every year, the Philippines produces around 54,700 metric tons of durian, with majority of production areas located in Mindanao. The flesh and seeds make up around 60 percent of the fruit, while the husk or skin which is generally considered waste material represents 40 percent or 21,880 metric tons.
Hence, every year, the country produces around 22,000 metric tons of durian husks, which usually end up in the garbage dumps or worse, are just left along the sides of the streets to rot, according to data from the Department of Agriculture.
The amazing fact is that the women are not only aware of their ability to earn more income to support their families, which results in their self-sufficiency and confidence, but they also understand that what they are doing helps protect the environment. (Bui Tran Nhu Phuong is a journalist from the Vietnam Forum of Environmental Journalists visiting MindaNews under the Fredskorpset Journalism Exchange Program.)