By Rhaydz B. Barcia
MALINAO, Albay, Aug. 19 (PNA) — Once treated as a farm waste, the coconut husk has become a major source of income for mothers in the agricultural village (barangay) of Tagoytoy in this town.
Like many of her relatives and neighbours in the village today, Virginia Encano, 54, continues to augment her family income as a coconut husk weaver.
A widow who sends two children to school, Encano said she “earns PHP240 each day for this venture which she does inside her house.”
Her next of kin, Julie Encano, is also a weaver of the coconut byproduct.
The women of Tagoytoy sell their woven coconut husks to local trader Ramil Canicula who manages privately-owned enterprise Southeastern Fiber Products located in Sitio (sub-village) Zone 3, Barangay Sta. Elena, also in Malinao.
Canicula has been in the coco fiber business for the last 25 years.
Coco geonets, or textile fashioned out of coconut husks is one of the major products of his company.
Soil Erosion Control
Data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Bicol showed that several years ago, Albay had pioneered in coco coir manufacturing that involves technologies in coco fiber-twining and weaving.
This has led to the manufacture of coconut husk-derived geonets, which have become in demand as soil erosion control material, among many other local and overseas applications.
DTI said that as a modern civil engineering construction material, geonets are suitable substitutes for scarce raw material resources like steel and cement.
Experts maintain that geonets are both cost-effective and eco-friendly in carrying out basic functions such as “filtration, drainage, separation, reinforcement and protection.”
Engineer Ramon Orticio of DTI-Bicol noted that coconut farmers in the region used to burn their coconut husks and treat the ashes as farm wastes.
“Today this farm waste has helped prevent soil erosion in the world, aside from being a major source of income for the grassroots in Bicol,” he said.
Orticio added that former President Benigno Aquino III had directed the Department of Public Works and Highways to apply the geonet technology in government construction activities not just “to promote green engineering” but also “to minimize the effects of climate change.”
Early this year, the Board of Investments (BOI), the industry development and investment promotions arm of DTI, said industry road map forums it conducted in Bicol had pointed to coco coir on top of the dominant thriving industries in the region.
In Malinao town, during the 1990s, Canicula formulated a “decorticating” process to intensify the use of coconut husk for the production of coconut coir fibers.
He said, however that his operations suffered setbacks in 2007 due to the low demand for his product and ensuing financial constraints.
In December 2011, Canicula was back in business, engaging a work force of around 500, most of them women, in coco husk weaving.
He said that today, his business has been providing “additional income to over 3,000 women who produce geonets” from what used to be farm wastes.
Canicula’s company uses a bio-engineering technology to allow installation of the geonets in erosion or landslide-risk areas such as slopes, rivers and shorelines.
The women of Malinao may have known by this time that they are also contributing to climate change mitigation efforts as they engage in coco husk weaving inside their homes.