Fiber to fortune Improved technology for producing coconut coir by-products

Market prospects for fiber extracted from coconut husk, which is usually underutilized except for its use as fuel, have given rise to technology innovations.

As one of the largest producers of coconut products, the Philippines stands to benefit from fully exploiting the potentials of coconut fiber for various industrial uses. The Metals Industry Research and Development Center of the Philippines have introduced improved coco coir processing machines: micro decorticator, slivering machine and twining machine.

The mechanized micro decorticating machine separates coir fibers of wasted coconut husks; while the slivering and twining machines produce strands of coir fibers and bundles of two-ply ropes which are also used as input materials for making geo-textile nets and other matting products.

The previous micro-decorticators use the crushing action of multiple, fixed blades to separate the fibers but the newly-designed decorticators were made of replaceable blades with holders. The holder is strategically welded on the rotating drum that spins at 2000 revolutions per minute. The design and configuration of blades cause the rapid separation of fibers and dust as the husks are crushed against a set of fixed counter blades arranged horizontally and parallel to the axes of the decorticating blades. From 8 hp, the improved machine is now run by a 14-hp diesel engine

Slivering machine is a motorized machine composed of crumpet, a motor, and a casing that holds the slivered bundle of strand. It is used for twisting the coir together in order to produce a rope-like strand. This is run by a single phase ½-hp electric motor instead of the ¼-hp motor used by its predecessor. It can produce 3-meter long of strands per minute while the old design is only capable of yielding a meter long of strand per minute.

The twining machine produces 2-ply rope of 4-6 mm diameter by intertwining the 2 strings of loose and twisted coco fibers through two conical spools. The rope or yarn will then be wound and spanned by a revolving spooler in the spindle assembly. The production capacity is about 96 kgs per day of twined fibers. The improved design is easy to operate because of the removal of the belt conveyor. And the increase in production capacity from 24 to 96 kgs per day is attributable to the use of flexible and collapsible spindle/spooler mechanism that markedly reduces the production cycle.

Equally flexible feature is the inclusion of a frequency inverter that allows the machine to twine not only coco coir but also other fibers like abaca, piña and others.

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Coconut water – simple production process gives coconut growing communities key to booming sports drinks market

Players in the world’s market for “sports beverages” may find themselves facing an unexpected new competitor: coconut water. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has taken out a patent on a new process that would allow manufacturers to bottle coconut water that is biologically pure, very tasty and full of the salts, sugars and vitamins demanded by both sweating urban joggers and serious athletes.

The process was invented by Morton Satin, Chief of FAO’s Agricultural Industries and Post-harvest Management Service, whose previous food inventions include high fibre white bread and wheatless bread.

Coconut water is a natural isotonic beverage, with the same level of electrolytic balance as we have in our blood. It’s the fluid of life, so to speak. Most coconut water is still consumed fresh in tropical coastal areas – but once exposed to air, the liquid rapidly loses most of its organoleptic and nutritional characteristics, and begins to ferment. But the production of coconut beverages, particularly as a byproduct of processing operations such as coconut cream processing and coconut dessication, has long interested food manufacturers.

“Most commercial production today is carried out in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, using high-temperature/short-time pasteurization (the same technology used in UHT long-life milk). But thermal processing has a drawback – it eliminates not only the risk of bacteria, but some of coconut water’s nutrients and almost all of its delicate flavor. This severely limits the product’s marketability,” Morton Satin said.

“The way we saw it, coconut water only had a future if we could invent a new cold sterilization process that retained its flavor and all its nutritional characteristics,” Satin explained. “The answer was microfiltration technology: you filter the water through a medium – such as porcelain or a polyacrylic gel – that retains all microorganisms and spores and renders the permeate commercially sterile.”

Late in 1997, FAO officially submitted the new process to patent offices in Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom. The UK patent was granted in May 2000. FAO is now developing a licensing policy so that the process can be made freely available to wide range of manufacturers in developing tropical countries. The main beneficiaries – apart from sportspeople – will be small farmers who grow coconut for livelihood.

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Small firms quick on seizing business opportunity across developing countries

In today’s globalized economy, small enterprises are quick in responding to fresh opportunities from faraway places. Such is the case of a Zimbabwean company that tapped the experience and expertise of a Philippine consulting group for bat guano processing and production start-up project.

Zimbabwean firm, Universal Services (Pvt.) Ltd. entered into consultancy services agreement with a Philippine consulting group for setting up an integrated processing plant for bat guano.

Bat guano starts as bat manure or bat droppings that fall to the floor of a cave. Once on the cave floor the manure is eaten by guano beetles and microbes, thereby rendering the guano odor free, free of pathogens and other toxins, and turning it into organic, natural fertilizer rich in nutrients for plants.

In the Philippines, the province of Palawan is known to have guano producing caves. Guano collected from these caves is in commercial quantity.

According to the Filipino consultant, Benito Maray, Zimbabwe is known to have huge untapped guano deposits in various places across the country. Universal Business Services (Pvt.) Ltd. has taken the initiative to develop the country’s guano resources for the domestic market as well as for export. The consultancy agreement covered all aspects of guano collection and processing, from feasibility study to the implementation of a production plant.

The transfer of know-how in collecting, processing and export of bat guano started when the Zimbabwean company made an inquiry with the Technological Information Promotion System (TIPS) bureau in Zimbabwe, which in turn passed on the information to its counterpart bureau in the Philippines.

The business cooperation between two small enterprises that had no previous contact with each other was made possible through exchanges of information and the assistance of TIPS-Philippines and TIPS-Zimbabwe.

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Mothers for mothers Innovative approach in providing livelihood to communities

A member of the WINNER (Women into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement) network of partner organizations, Kasipagan, is showing the way to tackling mothers’ dual roles in their families i.e. taking care of pre-school age children and babies needing special attention while doing work to earn a living.

Unlike the normal model of turning over children to day-care centers before reporting for work and fetching them at the end of a work day, the women-mothers of Kasipagan have their children entrusted to trained personnel at the same place where they work. These women do cross-stitch embroidery after having undergone training conducted by experienced members.

The association directly benefits over 200 mothers whose children have once been malnourished. At one time these mothers had their children confined at a malnutrition rehabilitation center. Today the women are gainfully engaged in cross-stitch embroidery production which has been organized and managed by the association.

The association directly benefits over 200 mothers whose children have once been malnourished. At one time these mothers had their children confined at a malnutrition rehabilitation center. Today the women are gainfully engaged in cross-stitch embroidery production which has been organized and managed by the association. Occasionally, foreign buying agents would visit Kasipagan at trade shows or at its production shop to place orders for their customers abroad.

Kasipagan is a community initiative in San Carlos, Negros Occidental, whose aim is to strengthen the capability of its members to provide for their families’ needs. Membership consists mostly of wives of sugarfarm workers and out of school girls.

The women produce exquisitely hand- embroidered (cross-stitch) ladies’ bags and purses, wallets, throw pillows and gift boxes and various novelty items which appeal to buyers from Europe (Switzerland). Established in 1989, Kasipagan has received various recognition plaques and trophies from award-giving bodies, including the GTZ Hamis Awards and Sikap Awards. Aside from WINNER membership, it is also part of with the Association of Negros Producers, Association of Partners for Fair Trade, Philexport Confederation and Council of Women of San Carlos, Negros Occidental.

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Technology innovations showing new ways of addressing old development challenges

Some of the needs of manufacturers of commercial goods and producers of services may be addressed by technology solutions from industrialized countries as well as advanced developing economies. These innovations on new ways of doing things efficiently could be made available to interested parties, based on mutually-beneficial commercial terms and conditions.

Recently, Innovations for Development and South-South Cooperation (IDEASS), a programme of UNOPS (United Nations Office of Project Services) has published information bulletins on various technological breakthroughs that can easily be transferred to or adopted by developing countries. The aim of this programme is to strengthen the effectiveness of local development processes through increased use of innovations, which may be products, technological know-how or even social, economic and cultural practices.

On the other hand, since its inception in 1986, Technological Information Promotion System (TIPS), an interregional project of UNDP for South-South Cooperation, collects and puts together information on available technology products as well as research and development breakthroughs, information about which is disseminated to information users in the participating developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America as well as Eastern Europe. Information, both in hard and soft copies, is shared with its partner organizations and allied programmes in the developing regions of the world.

Both IDEASS and TIPS have been collaborating with each other on the sourcing of information on technological innovations, commercial products and technologies that are ready for transfer as well as results of research and development activities.

Both programmes put out information on the Internet and through their respective global portals, publicize the same through participation in major trade fairs and technology exhibitions, locally as well as at international venues. In the last two World Expos (Shanghai, China and Milan, Italy), TIPS represented its partner organizations by way of joining technical and business discussions, economic forum, market-match meetings and maintaining physical presence by putting up exhibit booth and pavilion.

Some examples of these technology innovations are: solar still for drinkable water production from polluted waters; pallet production by recycling flower stems; complete drying of lemons without any artificial or chemical substances; multi-level towers for increased cultivation surface in organic farming; autonomous solar ice fridge, among others.

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Raw material innovation – bamboo, ethnic fabric make bagful of dreams a success

Rovilyn Mayat-an, owner of Mayat-An Handicrafts, is known for having innovatively mixed two ethnic crafts of Northern Luzon (Philippines) in weaving – that of earth colored bamboo with woven ethnic fabric in every imaginable hue. Her production ranges from fashion handbags, backpacks, gift bags, purses, among many novelty items.

With ease, Mayat-an said that earning her own money always seemed a part of her since childhood. “When I was in grade school, I used to bring candies to sell to classmates and friends. Then in high school, I took a summer job. I would cry while picking strawberries from endless rows of strawberry fields. Then an old woman told me that was how a farmer lived, and I thought of my hardworking parents,” she said in mixed dialects.

Mayat-an did not have to work for money. In Baguio City, she stayed with her elder sister and back in Banaue, Ifugao Province where she comes from, she had her parents who would always be supportive of all her efforts to pursue her dreams.
Mayat-an studied at the Benguet State University where she finished a course in Agriculture.
Mayat-an said that during those years, classmates and teachers at the university were fascinated by ethnic accessories and clothes she wore whenever she came back from a school break from Banaue. It was the germ of an idea for brisk business for Mayat-an who later on was quick to notice that ordinary items backhome in the rural areas were of exotic fashion value to city dwellers. That was back in the early 90s.
Mayat-an is part of the Women into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement
Reserved at the back of her mind through all the years was the experience when she went home to her hometown, in Ilocos Sur. A full sack of woven bamboo baskets would sell in Baguio City at thrice the price in Banaue. With the little money saved, she bought more baskets and got into real business.
The Department of Trade and Industry opened an opportunity for her to participate in a trade fair. She had no money to even make the first samples, but she said she had the two samples required per item which qualified her to join the fair. An importer gave an order worth $17,000 and asked for her bank account so she could deposit 50% of the payment.

Mayat-an Handicrafts has over a hundred cloth weavers and continues to give income to bamboo bag weavers in remote Ilocos Sur. She has won several recognitions from award giving organizations for her amazing microenterprise story.

Mayat-an is part of the Women into the New Network for Entrepreneurial Reinforcement of UN Women/UNDP. “Information about my products is on the internet,” she said.

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Disseminating benefits of technology innovations to more people, in more places

Growing techniques in bags can be very useful in areas characterized by scarcity of water and arable land. This is what DEVNET International is promoting in collaboration with the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre of Zimbabwe.

Experiments and trials of planting different varieties of potato seeds available in Zimbabwe, using different soil types and levels of nutrient management have been successful. Based on the results of field trials, a comprehensive training module was developed to transfer the know-how to women and men in communities. Around 300 women trainees who completed the program echoed their know-how to others through community outreach. Potatoes are planted in 50 kg woven polythene sacks filled with top soil and grown in backyards and open public spaces.

These technologies are oriented in Zimbabwe to increase the income of women with limited land and limited formal training in horticulture. However, they can be utilized in different ways to increase basic food production. The significant advantages of these technologies, in fact, are as follows:

 Sack potato production can be done on a small piece of land and in public spaces.
 Sacks keep a lot of moisture, the water needed to water the plants is not dispersed in the soil and therefore is significantly conserved
 The cultivation of potatoes is facilitated because there is negligible loss of liquid fertilizer and it is easy to control pests and diseases.
Cultivation method is very easy. The bags can be in polythene or woven jute that is breathable and allows the soil to oxygenate and retain the right amount of water, avoiding stagnation. The bags, high enough to accommodate the growing potatoes that can measure 80-100 cm., are wrapped at the time of sowing and sprinkled on the bottom with a layer of terrain and possibly compost. The sprouted potatoes (3-4) are cut into slices, placed in the soil with the bud facing upwards, and covered with topsoil and compost. As the plants grow the lot is unrolled, adding more terrain and they shall simply be watered when the soil is dry. In two to three months cultivation, a bag can make up to 60 potatoes.
The simplicity of cultivation and the results that can be achieved in a short time in terms of production are the reasons why this method has proved a great success in Zimbabwe. Some other co-operatives are reported to be trying the method out on a medium scale. The National Commercial Farmers Union in Zimbabwe is promoting these methodologies. So successful the growing of potatoes in bags that this method is becoming popular even in other African countries.

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Little innovations add up to make a big difference

Whether it is something unique in the product, its packaging or even the customer service itself, all these come-ons and sweeteners keep buyers satisfied and coming for more. Such is the story of two micro enterprises that started to be innovative in order to hold on to their place in the competitive market.

 Ma. Josephine “Olive” Parilla, a native of Leyte in Southern Philippines, has already sold more than half a million pairs of bedroom slippers, children’s footwear and similar items since she started her footwear business.

“I never stopped working,” says Parilla, also marketing research officer of the Pambansang Kalipunan ng mga Manggagawang Impormal sa Pilipinas (Patamaba, or National Network of Informal Workers), with a membership of more than 13,000 women home makers in 34 Philippine provinces.

Parilla beams when recalling her heyday in footwear. “Modesty aside, I was the first to introduce the personalized touch in the market,” she says, referring to a popular marketing strategy of giving customers the choice to have their names embroidered or printed in their bought item immediately.

Parilla was into ‘personalizing’ her footwear as early as 1988, an innovation which made her the main feature in an issue of a popular women’s magazine in the 1990s. To date, most novelty shops offer this service in almost all their items.

Parilla says she aims to reach — even surpass — her heyday in the footwear business in the next few years. Her experiences tell her what to do this time:“Prioritize the quality and never cease to widen your market.”

 Not all buko pies are the same. And among all buko (young coconut) pies in the Los Baños-Calamba area, the one that rises above the rest is Lety’s Special Buko Pie. This was the conclusion of a “focus group discussion” which was published in the July 2002 issue of FOOD magazine. Such sweet commendations are but icing on the cake for Mrs. Lety O. Belarmino, the driving force behind Lety’s Special Buko Pie.

Having earned undergraduate units in home technology from the University of Santo Tomas, Belarmino knew her food. So in 1976, armed with two hundred pesos capital and her own secret recipe, she rented a stall along the road to UP Los Baños and began selling her buko pies to employees, faculty and visitors to the UP campus. By word of mouth, her regular clientele grew.

A hurdle that must be overcome in exporting food items is shelf life. Buko pies can still be consumed within three days without refrigeration, and one week if it is stored in the refrigerator. However, while regular freezing extends shelf life (up to one month) substantially more than refrigeration, the frozen pies when reheated, come out soggy and lose the desired texture. The answer is blast freezing. Once frozen, the buko pies can last up to 12 months. Lety’s Special Buko Pie has already acquired the blast freezing technology.

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A Nepalese woman’s story: Growing business in seed production for export market

A woman-run seed production company networked with ordinary women folks in the remote hills of Nepal is giving well-established seed producers and exporters tough competition. How she does it is a story she offers to share with other women working in the farms of mountain communities elsewhere.

At a global summit of women, Jamuna Kayastha made a presentation of her company’s development from a mere idea to a successful business enterprise. A teacher by profession, Jamuna extended the walls of her classroom to the communities around the typographically gifted hills of her country. With faith in the capacity of women in the communities, she nurtured her vision of a company that processes and exports vegetable, fruit and cash crop seeds.

Nepal’s natural environment, with its wide range of climate and altitude, provides seed production opportunities. Traditionally, a sector dominated by men, seed production is dominantly run by men. But Jamuna defied traditions and ventured into seed production, in cooperation with other women folks in remote hillside communities in Nepal.

The idea dawned on Jamuna when she took note of the perennial oversupply of vegetables, fruits and other cash crops that usually found their way into the market for feeds for local farm animals. Why not grow these plants for seed production for export? And why not? She started a project for teaching local community farmers new techniques in seed production, particularly hybrid varieties, and processing these for export.

Good climate, fertile soil, wide hillside areas untapped for farming, available labor and big market outside of Nepal are ingredients of a sleeping opportunity All it takes is one person to get the idea going and make it bloom into big bucks business.

“Given the vast opportunities for seed production, the number of people living in remote areas and their need to go into livelihood activities, I picked up the challenge to create a seed industry run and managed by women,” Jamuna explained how the vision got started. A language teacher, she knows that all it takes is teaching the women folks the technology for seed production, introducing to them entrepreneurial values and opening their eyes for greater potentials as productive members of society.

“At first, people doubted my venture. In fact, people ridiculed me by saying it was impossible for a woman to go into a very tricky and troublesome business,” she related. “The hurdles were awesome because of their social dimension, but I was not discouraged. If a woman could give birth, why couldn’t a woman give birth to a business?” she explained.

From a handful of women producers, the company now has hundreds of women in 25 seed production sites all around Nepal. Nurturing the transformation from home-based farmers to new seed entrepreneurs, her company is now giving the big businesses tough competition only women can give. “I am a firm believer in women’s power to transform their lives and to take important decisions outside of the traditional role as care-givers and family nurturers. As empowered women, we now can take control of our lives and be equal partners with the men in improving the quality of life of our society,” Jamuna declared.

The great oak tree sleeps in its acorn, the saying goes. The seed of success has awakened the full potentials of big seed business for women of Nepal, thanks to a lady teacher-turned-entrepreneur, Jamuna Kayastha, for showing the way.

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Ethnic foods cater to international market, Filipinos overseas

Few have the time, energy and inclination to prepare a dish that takes hours to prepare. One such dish is laing, a staple of Filipino cuisine that has gained wide acceptability throughout the world.

Owners of Moondish Foods Corp., Anna and Rufino Manrique decided to make available the goodness of this native specialty to Filipinos residing overseas at any time they desire.

The ready-to-eat laing was launched during recent Asian Ethnic Food Exhibition. Local as well as international wholesale buyers were tickled by the idea of canning one of the national food favorites. Almost all major supermarkets in Metro Manila now sell all six variants of ready-to-eat laing.

Laing is a native Filipino dish that has coconut milk and taro leaves as its main ingredients.

Before setting up a food business, Moondish owners Rufino and Anna Manrique were social workers, helping poor families in depressed communities. The couple decided that setting up a business is another way of helping the urban poor by providing them with employment. They set up a small business that catered to the needs of people in their neighborhood in Las Piñas City (Metro Manila).

“We heard that the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology had already developed several products that were ready for commercialization. The institute was only looking for individuals who are willing to invest some time and money to bring these products to market,” related Anna. “Of these ready technologies, what appealed to us was the technology of canning laing,” she confided.

“Right there and then, we realized that canned laing has great potential not only locally, but also overseas. There are many Filipinos living abroad who would like to have a taste of Philippine cuisine as often as they can,” Anna Manrique said.

“Short of advertising in media, we tried to get as much exposure for our canned products as often as possible. For instance, we have information about our products placed in the WINNER global portal, thus foreign buyers can view them and contact us for orders. So far, our efforts have paid off. Aside from the local market, which is basically Metro Manila, we have also managed to get orders from importers from Guam, Saudi Arabia, Canada and the United States,” Anna said.

The Moondish normal production capacity for laing is 2, 400 cans per day. It can be scaled up when big orders come.

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