MANILA, Philippines — There’s really money and job opportunity in those green coconut husks with shell usually thrown away by vendors of “buko” who are found in many places in Metro Manila.
The proof is exemplified by the project of Mrs. Cynthia Villar, a former congresswoman of Las Pinas City. Although she has finished her term in Congress, she continues to maintain projects that are deemed to enhance the environment as well as create job opportunities for the city’s residents, especially the poor.
The coco net production project extracts fiber and coco peat or coir dust from the green husks and shell of the “buko” or young coconut. The fiber is used for making coco net which is a versatile material for controlling erosion in sloping areas. On the other hand, the coco dust is used as raw material for mixing with household and market wastes to make organic fertilizer.
A decorticating machine is used to extract the fiber and dust from the green husks. The machine can extract fiber and dust from 8,000 coconut husk halves in one day. The fibers are then made into twines by women workers who usually work part time because they have to also do household work, cooking and taking care of their children.
There are 26 twining machines that are usually manned by a mother and her child. For every twine, eight meters long that they make, they are paid P1.50. On a part-time basis, mother and child can make 200 twines a day for which they receive P300.
One group of workers sort the fibers so that they are readied for twining. Most of the workers are also part-timers because they have also to do their household chores. They are happy because they can make some money without neglecting their duties at home.
Another set of workers do the weaving. Usually, two people operate one loom, also on a part-time basis. In two hours they can weave one roll measuring one meter by 50 meters. For this they are paid P200.
The big buyer of coco net is the Department of Public Works and Highways. They use this to control erosion in sloping areas along the roads and river banks. The coco net is installed in sloping areas together with seeds of grasses or shrubs. By the time the coco net has degraded after three years, according to Mrs. Villar, the grasses or shrubs will have been well established to prevent erosion.
The coco net sells for P2,000 per roll. Mrs. Villar said that about half of the price of one roll is used for paying the laborers from the gathering of the husks, decorticating to twining and weaving operations. The other half is used for maintenance of the equipment and for expansion of the project.
The buko waste materials are obtained not only from Las Piñas but also from Alabang, Parañaque and Bacoor, Cavite. The vendors are thankful for their waste products being hauled by the project of Mrs. Villar.
Mrs. Villar is also thankful for the fact that the roofed structure was available for the coco net project. She said that it was a white elephant built by the city administration several years ago. It was originally intended as a market to be used by street vendors. The vendors did not like selling their wares there so the place was abandoned. Now, it is a perfect place for the coco net project of the Villar Foundation.
The coco coir dust or peat, on the other hand, is a perfect raw material for mixing with the household and market wastes in making organic fertilizer. This is another project initiated by Mrs. Villar to inculcate the value of segregating biodegradable and non-biodegradable household and market wastes. In the process, the communities become environmentally clean and at the same time it produces an important byproduct – organic fertilizer not only for use of Las Pinas residents but also farmers who are into natural farming outside of the city.