DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 12 Sept) – Mindanao coconut farmers get another boost, receiving almost half of the P600 million budget allocated by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) for its new “coconut hub” program launched on August 27 to 30 during the Coconut Week Celebration held at the SM Megamall.
Mindanao’s coconut plantations account for 1,730,580 hectares planted to 164,454,984 trees and a production of 9,039,176 metric tons.
In an interview during the two-day Kakao Konek 2015 on Saturday, PCA deputy administrator Roel M. Rosales told reporters that the coconut hub program dubbed as “KAANIB Agro Industrial Hub” will capacitate further the farmers who own businesses that are producing commercial coconut products, including coco sugar, coco syrup, coco coir, and virgin coconut oil.
“Our focus will be on the coconut farmers who have been owners of ventures dealing with coconut,” he said.
The KAANIB Agro Industrial Hub is an offshoot of PCA’s “Kasaganaan sa Niyugan ay Kaunlaran ng Bayan” (KAANIB) Project, a sustainable livelihood program for the coconut farming communities.
Unlike the KAANIB project that benefits only a few farmers, Rosales explained they will bring PCA’s support to a community level by providing infrastructure and capacity-building activities to coconut farmer cooperatives.
Rosales said that they will implement the coconut hub project, either by working with the local government units or with another government agency or directly with the farmer cooperatives.
The PCA can provide processing facility with the farmers with a counterpart from the LGU or a capital so that they can hatch an agricultural venture, he said.
Farmers will also be trained on the financial side of the business to ensure that they will be able to sustain their businesses in the longer run.
A technical evaluation has already been conducted on what kind of enterprise some coconut farmers in Mindanao want to pursue and what equipment they require.
“We are now in the process of procuring the equipment,” Rosales said.
Among the coconut farmer beneficiaries under this new program are those in Davao Oriental and Davao del Sur in the Davao Region, Caraga, and Zamboanga Region, with proposed equipment mainly for the production of commercial coconut products.
In Caraga region where some mining firms operate, he said farmers there have a market niche for mats that are made of coconut coir for the soil erosion control program.
“There are areas there that need rehabilitation for erosion control. So they can take advantage of coco coir, the main product of Caraga. The market is too big even if it runs for decades, the demand will not be met,” Rosales said.
The PCA also allocated another P300 million for the three-year coconut and cacao intercrop program called Coconut-Cacao Enterprise Development, covering 10,000 hectares across the Philippines, which started last year.
The agency planted 500 seedlings per hectare and distributed organic fertilizers to farmers on program’s first year implementation.
Rosales said this program aims to support smallholder coconut farmers and their families to gain sustainable employment and income; maximize utilization of coconut lands for increased productivity; achieve food sufficiency; conserve and protect the natural resources that support their livelihoods.
“Clustering of farms shall be implemented in areas identified as suitable for coconut-cacao intercropping to gain economies of scale. A cluster of coconut farms should preferably be a contiguous area. It could also be a non-contiguous area depending on the geographical condition and size of the area,” he added.
The size of one cluster of coconut-cacao intercropping is 50 hectares at a minimum.