Pokok seribu guna—the Malays call it “the tree of a thousand uses.” In Sanskrit, it is kalpa vriksha, which means “the tree that provides all the necessities of life.”
We in the Philippines share the thoughts of our Asian neighbors on the useful coconut palm. The coconut not only nourishes us with its meat and milk, it provides virgin coconut oil (one of our country’s best exports), copra, nata de coco, and coco jam.
Distillation yields our favorite local wines—tuba and lambanog. Needless to say, delicacies like ginataan, bibinka, pitsi-pitsi, and palitaw would lose their savor without a smidge of its fruit.
But in the picturesque village of Linabu, Misamis Oriental, the coconut not only provides sustenance, it also nourishes the dreams of farmers for more prosperous lives. Since the Linabu Agrarian Multipurpose Cooperative (LAMPCO) started producing coco sugar, earnings have been on the rise. Orders from exporters have even exceeded their processing plant’s capacity.
The operations of LAMPCO have since generated a total of livelihood opportunities for 53 individuals. Fifteen laborers are employed for production while 11 farm owners and 14 sap gathers received the chance to earn for their families.
In an interview with Sun Star Davao, the Philippine Coconut Authority for Northern Mindanao regional manager Luis Cruz said: “Coco sugar has given the coconut farmer literally his daily bread.”
Less boozing, more earnings
Every successful industry calls for sacrifices. In the case of coco sugar industry, it has quite amusingly led to the decreasing population of the drunken farmer. As the sugar is made from tuba, most farmers choose to boil the wine dry to make coco sugar rather than get inebriated.
A whole night of drinking usually goes to coco sugar production as two gallons of tuba is needed to make a kilo of coco sugar. One can sell it for 160 to 200 pesos per kilo at the plant or at cooperative stores. If the farmer has 20 to 30 coconut trees, and extracts up to around 10 gallons a day, he or she earns at least 1000 pesos a day. The coco sugar producer’s monthly income of 30,000 pesos a month then matches what the copra farmer earns for an entire year.
The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) of the Department of Science and Technology also has good news for people suffering diabetes—coco sugar is also safe for consumption even for people with high blood sugars.
FNRI notes that coco sugar has a low glycemic index (GI) of 35 plus/minus 5 and hence does not induce high blood sugar. The GI measures how fast carbohydrates convert to glucose in the blood.
The FNRI even collected blood samples from 10 non-diabetics before and after eating coco sugar. The experiment showed that intake of the sugar did not significantly increase blood glucose levels.
Studies showed that coco sugar also helps lower cholesterol, and is rich in nutrients such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, and vitamin C.
A partnership for the future of coco sugar
This year marks the beginning of a partnership between PinoyME and LAMPCO. PinoyME will provide the cooperative with funds that will help expand its coco sugar production so that it can meet the demand of exporters and generate more income and employment for the residents of Linabu.
“If said expansion were to happen, current employment, both for the processing site and farmer level will be doubled,” said Andres Ruba, Jr., credit and investment officer of PinoyME. ”This will greatly benefit the community as it provides a monthly income for people who usually earn just two to four times a year from conventional coconut farming. It also helps a lot since most people involved in the coco sugar production are breadwinners of their respective families.”
“Such project will also bring a sense of empowerment not only to the people involved in the production and enterprise but the whole community as well. The area’s recognition as a quality supplier of coco sugar among others can and will eventually put Linabu in the map so to speak,” he added.
PinoyME, which stands for Filipino Microenterprises, is a social consortium of Filipinos that believes that industry and unity is key to helping our people move out of poverty. PinoyME was established by former president Cory Aquino to advance microfinance as the New People Power to provide our struggling countrymen with more sustainable economic opportunitie