Celebes Coconut Corporation, Philippines
Celebes Coconut Corporation is a FairTSA Fair Trade certified producer of products derived from coconuts and bananas. Among many other products, the Company produces FairTSA Fair Trade coconut oil, coconut water and other coconut products. Located in Butuan City in the North of the Philippines’ southernmost large island, Mindanao, Celebes buys coconuts from many small farmers of the surrounding villages and towns, who grow the coconuts for the coconut oil mainly in an agroforestry setting.
In agroforestry the crops (here bananas and coconuts) are grown amongst the natural tropical vegetation, and it is one of the most environmentally friendly agricultural production systems in existence. Once harvested, the coconuts are brought to the Celebes processing facility, and the coconut oil with its many health benefits is made from the flesh of the coconuts. The small farmers are paid a fair price for the coconuts they supply, and a community development project, paid for by the social premium paid to the farmers, is planned by the producer community. Such a project is part of every FairTSA certified Fair Trade operation.
Every year, an inspector visits the small farms and the processing facility and checks if the organic and fair trade requirements for the small farmers and the workers in the processing facility are met. He/she evaluates if the fair price has been paid, if the community development project is progressing according to plan, and other topics such as occupational health and safety and fair wages. Then the inspector sends the report to the certification agency, where the report is checked for compliance with the FairTSA Fair Trade standard by the certification reviewer, and when everything is in good order the Fair Trade certificate is issued.
The 2015 Deep well Project in Mayo-os
The Community Development Project is chosen by the producer communities and a simple plan is drawn up. In the case of Celebes, the first project chosen by the producer communities was the drilling of two wells in the Barangays (villages) of Concepcion, north of Butuan City, and Camanga, south-east of Butuan City. See more about this past project below. With the success of these wells, and with the hardships of potable water in the area, another deep well was proposed for the Mayo-os region.
The project was brought up in an informal dialogue held in March 2015 between Celebes Field Supervisor, village representatives in Mayo-os, and the chieftain of the tribe in Mayo-os of which Celebes Coconut Suppliers belong. Then, the only water source of the community is a single PVC pipe connected to the nearest stream, and when it rains, the people cannot provide water as soil covers the pipe. On April 2015, a site visit was conducted to verify the feasibility of the deep well project by the FairTSA Committee, and then the project was undertaken. Now there is a consistent water source easily accessible to the entire village.
The 2015 Solar Panel Project in Mayo-os
These panels were distributed in the Spring of 2015. The units have been distributed and installed in the residences and farmhouses of the farmer-members. Currently the Internal Field Inspectors are surveying to provide additional solar panels to qualified recipients among farmers, bringing light and accessibility to a wider reach of farmers.
The recipients of the solar panels make use of the units overnight, providing them with additional time to process their coconut products. They can now opt to have the drying process for the coconuts at night, a new and valuable achievement for productivity. The panels also enable farmers who have cellular phones to charge them in their homes and more easily communicate and coordinate their endeavors. The lights also provide farmers with extra time after sunset to peruse was was previously limited to daylight hours.
The First Celebes Community Development Project
Two wells in the Barangays (villages) of Concepcion, north of Butuan City, and Camanga, south-east of Butuan City for the first Community Development Project. The reason for the selection of these two projects is simple and obvious: Before the project started, it took the villagers about 2 hours (Barangay Concepcion) and 1.5 hours (Barangay Camanga) respectively to fetch potable water.
Initially, it was envisioned to drill the wells by a hand-powered system, but owing to the difficult rocky terrain it had to be drilled by a diesel-powered drill. In October 2012, the first well in Barangay Concepcion had been drilled and in early November, as is custom in the Philippines, the completed well was blessed in an inauguration ceremony in the presence of many villagers and some employees of the Celebes Coconut Corporation.
In our developed societies we often even don’t think about access to safe drinking water, we simply take it for granted. For indigenous communities such as those on Mindanao, access to safe drinking water can be a matter of life and death, and that is no exaggeration. Many waterborne pathogens, both bacteria and viruses, can cause severe illnesses, and waterborne pathogens are one of the leading causes of infant and small children deaths. Health care in the rural areas of the Philippines is bad to non-existent, and with an annual national health care budget of $7 per capita (2010), most of which is spent in the urban centers, this is not surprising. With an average annual family income of EURO 1,850 (2011), limited or no public transportation, and very limited access to health care, this simple hand-operated well alleviates some of the hardship in the lives of 200 people and may save many young lives.
In August 2013 the drilling process for the second in Barangay Camanga was completed. The next envisioned project is the installation of solar panels in villages that have no access to electricity to provide them with a least basic lighting and low-voltage electricity for basic needs.
In order to increase community involvement, a five person producer committee was created to support community decision-making. Also, an on-site community project training is envisioned for the fall of 2014 to support community involvement and democratic planning and evaluation skills.
Step by step, the community development process will make a difference in the life of the villagers. Not only can they be proud that their work is compensated fairly, they have tangible evidence that their voice is important in the creation of a community they can shape according to their needs and wishes.