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Green Currency: Bringing Lights and Income to Poor Coconut Farmers



This policy, developed in the city of Tayabas, aims to reduce poverty through income generation, job creation, and access to light provision for coconut farmers living in the slopes of Mount Banahaw of Quezon Province, a volcano located at the boundary of Laguna and Tayabas (Quezon province).

Due to the physical and financial constraints experienced by the coconut farmers, such as remoteness and poverty, environmentally harmful activities have been conducted by them in order to survive and great amounts of coconut husks get discarded, leaving them to rot, or are used as burning fuel. These communities are also deprived of basic commodities such as electric power and, consequently, lighting. Nevertheless, the territories in which these upland coconut farmers dwell are rich in hydric resources such as rivers and creeks.

The policy/project described here aimed to develop an alternative and innovative paying scheme, using the river currents to generate clean electricity through a micro dam installed on Mount Banahaw that, in turn, provides energy to a battery recharging facility. Batteries and light bulbs have been distributed to provide lighting to the households scattered throughout the mountain, thus improving the quality of life of the coconut farmers. Beneficiaries of the lighting systems and batteries have been trained on how to process coconut fibre. Fibre twinning and looming machines have been distributed and installed and the beneficiaries are already producing coconut fibre nets.

As of May 2007, 25 households had been provided with lights and a total of 40 households had been provided with a coconut fibre livelihood. This livelihood has provided three times more income than previous incomes and many people have stopped their environmentally destructive livelihood activities. In 2007, the project ambitiously planned to expand to at least 100,000 more household beneficiaries over the next 10-15 years (Baroña-Cruz 2007). The Philippine Coconut Authority in the region now adopts this project approach in its own fibre development programs.

The policy demonstrates a very efficient mechanism of community involvement, economic production, and environmental sustainability, which, nevertheless, can be replicated only if its principles are adapted to the context. The concepts on which the policy was built and implemented were wisely conceived and thought out with reference to several complementary aspects of the coconut production chain and its interlinkages, and available markets. Thanks to the technology, the voluntary work, and the synergies between different sectors a sustainable chain of coconut fibre was formed without waste nor damage to the environment, and with a spatially proximate economic cycle of production. The coconut market chain determined possibilities for farmers' adoption of these processes and for the creation of 'productive capacities' within the communities of Philippine coconut farms, identified and enabled through university-based research and the local government. If the ability to reproduce this cycle and this mechanism are created, then the policy can be successfully replicated in other contexts.