AGUSAN DEL SUR
Creating a Livelihood from Coconut Coir
Maximo Robles Jr. of Kaagap Development Multipurpose Cooperative
For Maximo Robles Jr., general-manager of the Kaagap Development Multipurpose Cooperative (KaagapMuCo), there is livelihood to be derived from coconuts—but not from the usual copra.
Based in Hubang, San Francisco town in Agusan del Sur, this cooperative has found ways to earn by maximizing the coconut tree: coco vinegar, virgin oil, syrup, flour, charcoal briquettes, organic fertilizers, and coir woven into ground nets or geonets.
The last one is important as coconut husks—which are usually thrown away—can be used as geonets to stop soil erosion. The product has paved the way for the cooperative to acquire clients that range from mining firms in Surigao del Norte and Sur to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and tourism resorts.
An idea from coconut waste
From only 10 members about a decade ago, KaagapMuCo’s membership has increased to 678, with each making P200.00 a day thanks to these geonets. This totals to P4.06 million in aggregate monthly income, excluding those from other products.
The cooperative can produce up to 1,000 rolls of geonets, each measuring 50 meters long, a meter wide, and about 30 kilos in weight a month, and these nets can be used in ground rehabilitation and greening. Because of the material used, Robles said coir can also be used to fertilize the soil as it decomposes.
“Malaki talaga ang naitutulong ng pag-gawa ng geonets, pati na din ng iba pa naming (coconut-derived food and agro-industrial) products dito sa community namin,” Robles said
“Nakakatuwang isipin kasi na madami kaming natutulungang magkaroon ng marangal na trabaho na talagang maipagmamalaki nila. Partner in poverty alleviation talaga,” he added.
Giving various assistance
The cooperative’s production of the geonet became a huge success with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in getting KaagapMuCo various grants.
Likewise, the DTI provided the cooperative with a Shared Service Facility (SSF), a program that includes the provision of production equipment and machinery to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) under a shared use scheme.
The local DTI office also provided makeshift twiners made of bicycle rims to boost their production capacity.
But the cooperative is not limited to producing geonets. Robles said: “Yung iba ginagawang fish nets. Yung iba naman sa high-end decoration and upholstery ginagamit.”
Facing emerging competition
Due to the vast market potential for geonets, the cooperative faces a lot of competitors, including a Japanese version made of biodegradable plastic material that makes the product cost 20 percent less.
However, to the cooperative’s advantage, its products are made of fibers from the coconut husks, which make geonets more environmentally beneficial and sustainable than those of the Japanese.
Moreover, the cooperative is confident that it can overcome its competitors’ price advantage through cost-efficient production technologies without affecting margins.
For the latter, they are relying on the help of DTI in facilitating assistance from other government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and its Technology Resource Center (TRC).
“Dito tulong-tulong kami. Walang malaki, walang maliit. Lahat masipag. Lahat sabay-sabay aasenso,” Robles said.