STA. ELENA, CAMARINES NORTE – Over a thousand coconut farmers in Camarines Norte will now have an additional source of income as the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) in Bicol turned over the P7.62 million-worth Coco Geonet Production and Coco Peat Processing Project to the Samahang Organic-Fair Trade Coconut Farmers Bicol-Quezon (SoFaCoFa B-Q).

In a Turn-Over Ceremony held on January 25, 2019, in Brgy. Poblacion, this municipality, the PRDP turned over the 10 m x 12 m processing and drying shed, a 10 m x 15 m warehouse, one unit decorticating machine, one unit carding machine, one unit sieving machine, one unit baling machine, 77 units twining machine, 17 units weaving loom, one heavy-duty weighing scale, and one unit hauling truck. Governor Edgardo Tallado and other local officials including 1st District 3rd Board Member Reynoir Quibral, 4th Board Member Muriel Pandi and 5th Board Member Artemio Serdon Jr. graced the occasion, which also marked the blessing and inauguration of the facility.

“Dati nung wala pa itong proyektong ito, ang ating mga bunot (coconut husk) ay atin lang sinusunog o itinatapon—ito ay isang dating basura, na ngayon, dahil sa PRDP project na ganito ay nagkaroon ito ng value. Ito po ay dagdag na kita sa ating mga miyembrong magsasaka ng niyog,” said Reynaldo Lucis, president and project manager of SoFaCoFa B-Q.

The enterprise development (I-REAP) subproject will be implemented by the SoFaCoFa B-Q as a community-based enterprise. The organization, which currently has 1,157 members, will engage coconut farmers associations, rural women and youth in the 24 barangays covered (19 in Sta. Elena and five in Capalonga) as source of coconut husks and labor providers. The project targets to create at least 2,152 additional new jobs and generate an average additional income worth P150 to P180.

Adelina Losa, PRDP-Bicol Deputy Project Director, acknowledged the support of the Provincial Project Management and Implementation Unit (PPMIU) as well as the proponent group in the project’s completion. She also assured the project partners of the PRDP’s continuous assistance towards successful enterprise operation.

PRDP Project Support Office South Luzon Deputy Project Director Shandy Hubilla underscored four success indicators of the I-REAP subproject namely market, operation, financial management and organization. He also announced that the pre-procurement conference for the P77 million-worth Concreting of the 3.44-kilometer Poblacion to Pulongguit-guit FMR adjacent to the I-REAP facility was already conducted on January 24, 2019.

“Kung nasaan ang enterprise nandoon din po ang kalsada at yun ang intensyon ng rural development project,” Hubilla added.

Camarines Norte accounts for 22.2 percent or 100,337 hectares of the coconut area in Bicol while Sta. Elena, where the project is located, ranks second in terms of number of coconut farmers and 3rd in terms of production. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-RAFIS V)