Called the “tree of life”, the coconut is one of the most important crops in the Philippines. All its parts—from top to bottom—are used to sustain human life. But despite major contributions in the Philippine economy as the second largest producer of coconuts among Southeast Asian countries, the coconut farming sector continues to face challenges including landlessness and poverty.
To help address these problems, the Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA) is convening key players in the coconut sector through the Coconut Working Group (WG). The Coconut WG, led by Cargill Philippines Corporate Affairs Director Christopher Matthew Ilagan, consists of private and public stakeholders and aims to strengthen support for the coconut sector through collaborative action, value chain projects, and policy initiatives.
The kick-off meeting—attended by 26 organizations from the agribusiness, agri-finance, farmers groups, cooperatives, government agencies, and development sectors—assessed the direction of the coconut sector by revisiting the Coconut Farmers Industry Roadmap (COCO-FIRM) and Coconut Farmers Industry Development Plan (CFIDP), and discussed pressing challenges and possible points for collaborations in an open forum with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA). The Coconut WG meeting also highlighted action points identified from previous consultation workshops, particularly professionalizing coconut farms and farmers, establishing efficient coconut-based farming systems, adapting sustainable practices, and strengthening support for the coconut industry.
“We can do something that will help shape a more sustainable future for our coconut farmers. I hope that we can leverage on the expertise of each one of us to make this better future a common reality for all,” said Ilagan.
REVISITING THE COCONUT SECTOR
Low productivity is one of the key challenges that coconut farmers struggle with. PCA Deputy Administrator Roel Rosales stated that the Philippines produces around 15 billion nuts from 345 million coconut-bearing trees. But despite these numbers, the country has a low productivity rate of about four metric tons of coconuts per hectare. Moreover, coconut trees on average in the Philippines produce around 44 coconuts per year. This is significantly lower compared to the productivity rate of Indonesia which produces approximately 17 million metric tons of coconuts annually.
Rosales also touched on the CFIDP which aims to deliver a comprehensive package of projects and programs that intend to address issues and concerns of the coconut farmers and provide remedies needed by the entire coconut industry.
The CFIDP seeks to address concerns and implement programs in the next 50 years that will provide social protection, economic alleviation programs, and projects for the benefit of the coconut sector. Some of these programs are focused on the organization and empowerment of coconut farmers, and support services that will enhance productivity. The benefits of projects and programs cultivated will also extend to farmers’ families, with special emphasis on the youth who can now avail scholarship opportunities.
“CFIDP is farmers focused, what you can see in there are programs intended for the farmers and their capacity building, social protection, and village level type of programs for the benefit of coconut farmer organizations and cooperatives,” said PCA Administrator Benjamin Madrigal.
Admin Madrigal also shared that the core objectives of programs and projects of PCA will ensure that coconut farmers benefit from them. He encouraged the private sector and government institutions to be in close collaboration with PCA to scale up support and impact on the coconut industry.
Moreover, the meeting also facilitated dialogues between representatives from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development and Department of Agriculture-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service. Lionheart Agritech Limited also identified some recommendations on establishing accessible financing strategies to cater to farmer communities with potential discussion with the Development Bank of the Philippines.
UPLIFTING THE LIVES OF COCONUT FARMERS
First launched in 2017, the Coconut WG supports farmers in building their capacities, providing high quality produce, and supplying to institutional markets.
“With the reconvening of this Coconut Working Group, we aim to do more and reach a wider scale. I hope after this first meeting, we receive your commitment of support—that being your time and expertise—to collaborate with us in doing impactful interventions,” said PPSA Country Director Amy Melissa Chua.
Convening and facilitating the Coconut WG is part of PPSA’s larger efforts in promoting sustainable agriculture and food systems transformation, and is aligned with Grow Asia’s flagship programs on agri-food innovation, women’s economic empowerment, responsible investing and climate change adaptation and resilience. With the launch of Grow Asia’s USD 20.2 Million Impact Fund for these flagship programs, the PPSA network expects to be more deeply involved in interventions related to sustainable agricultural transformation in Southeast Asia.
For more information about the Coconut Working Group, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.