By: John Maico M. Hernandez

Padre Garcia, Batangas – To raise awareness on the current technology on Decorticated Coconut Husks processing which converts “basurang bunots” to coconets and other crafts among the local processors from Dist. IV Women Coordinating Council (DWCC), Municipality of Lobo and Lingkod Barangay Livelihood Program, Inc. of Brgy. Gasang, Mabini, Batangas, “CocoTechKnowledge: Forum and Training on Current Technology on Decorticated Coconut Husk Processing” was conducted by DOST Batangas in partnership with the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Zamboanga Research Center (ZRC), office of Cong. Lianda Bolilia and the local government of Padre Garcia, May 31 – June 01.

Batangas is one of the country’s largest producers of coconuts. One of the coconut parts that has establish economic value is the dried coconut meat or what locals called “copra”. This is commonly used as a raw material for vegetable oil, soap, animal feed and industrial processes. However, discarded husks which home these coconut meats are customarily considered wastes which are thrown away anywhere contributing large to our environmental problems. These are considered to be the largest waste products of coconut-growing regions and it is estimated that the Philippines produces 12 billion coconut husks a year, with 75 per cent of them thrown away according to studies.

To address this problem while also combatting livelihood opportunities, Dist. IV Women Coordinating Council, Municipality of Lobo and Lingkod Barangay Livelihood Program, Inc. of Brgy. Gasang, Mabini, Batangas ventured in converting these discarded coconut husks collectively called “basurang bunots” into coconets. According to Ms. Zenaida Fernandez, participant, they never thought there’s more profit-generating craft out of discarded husks. “Hindi naming inaasahan na yan palang bunot ay malaking katulungan sa tao. Itong hanapbuhay na ito ay maganda upang makatulong kami sa aming barangay at sa mga tao bilang kanilang hanapbuhay,” she said.

The two-day activity is part of the DOST GIA project for DWCC entitled, “Establishment of Coconut Husks Common Service Facility in Dist. IV of Batangas”. To maximize the opportunity, DOST Batangas gathered all the local coconet processors to participate the activity.

The forum paved way for these local coconet processors to acquire knowledge on how they can meet the product standards, new technology used in production, strategies and laymanized techniques and on the principles to practice when using the decorticating machine developed and designed by PCA ZRC. Mr. Leo Jess Baya, Engr. Christian Dominique Bongcaron and Ms. Alshia Beralde of PCA ZRC led the forum. According to them, the traditional method or the retting process, widely used in rural areas of the country, is laborious, time-consuming, and unhealthy. It involves soaking the husks in ponds for 4-6 months to induce the breakdown of the husk components. The used water and rotten peat also gives off foul smell, thereby exposing farmers to unhealthy work condition, a reason why decorticating machine is more advisable.

Decorticating machine features a prime mover, shafting assembly that defibrizes the husks, semi-cylindrical casing that houses the machine's internal mechanism, the intake chute, and the exhaust chute. According to PCA ZRC, design consideration was based on affordability and adaptability of the machine to village-level operation, reasonable production output with acceptable fiber quality, and safety of operation. The coconut husk-decorticating machine generates a production output of 800 kg of dried fiber and 1.5 t of coir dust per day.

Meanwhile, Cong. Lianda Bolilia detailed out how this potential livelihood could be a family enterprise for DWCC members. According to her, most of the non-employed people are housewives and with this decorticated coconut husk processing, they now have the opportunity to earn money even when at home. She also encouraged the participants to remain aggressive in pursuing this enterprise. “Huwag tayong tumigil sa paggawa. Ang tagumpay po dito ay hindi ginagawa ng isang gabi lamang. Mahaba-haba po ang ating kailangang gugulin,” she discussed.

The training on decorticated coconut husk processing was conducted the next day, June 01. Engr. Bongcaron demonstrated how to operate the decorticating machine. The system was driven by a single piston 22 hp diesel engine running at 2200 rpm (rated). Its engine is mounted on a metal cart which can be towed by a tractor or a working animal. On the other hand, the shafting assembly has seven (7) sets of blade consisting of four (4) blades per set or a total of 28 blades uniformly set at 12-degree angle inclination arranged in spiral pattern along the length of the shafting. Two members of DWCC were trained in operating the decorticating machine and the rest were taught how to feed discarded coconuts to undergo decortication process.

Twining of decorticated coconut fibers was demonstrated by Ms. Beralde. She taught the participants the right way of using the twining machine and the appropriate twining process to produce standard-quality of twined coconut fibers. Afterwards, demonstration of coconets weaving took place. A large customized weaving machine designed and developed by PCA ZRC was used. Participants were encouraged to try weaving with the supervision of Mr. Baya and Ms. Beralde. A 3x1 meter coconet was produced after the demo-production.

Ms. Wilma Galela, DWCC Coordinator/MSWDO of Padre Garcia, extend their gratitude to DOST Batangas, PCA and Office of Cong. Lianda Bolilia for the conduct of the activity. “Maraming salamat po sa DOST Batangas sa pagkakaloob sa atin ng mga equipment at nitong training katulong ang mga taga PCA ZRC at Office of Cong. Bolilia,” she said.