“Empowering Coconut Farmers: A Tale of Resilience and Transformation”

In a dedicated mission to uplift the lives of coconut farmers in the Philippines, the Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) and its esteemed partners—Livelihoods Venture, Danone Company, MARS Company, and Franklin Baker Company—launched an ambitious project titled “Restoring Livelihoods and Building the Resilience of Coconut Farmers.” This initiative took shape following comprehensive baseline surveys conducted before June 2018. Its primary goal was to address the pressing concerns faced by coconut farmers and foster robust, sustainable organizations.

Amidst the backdrop of plummeting agricultural prices, which disproportionately affected the socio-economic conditions of coconut farmers, this project emerged as a beacon of hope. Initially, the focus was on coconut farmers’ organizations in North Cotabato and the Davao region. However, as its impact grew, the project extended its reach, giving rise to new partner organizations across Mindanao.

Today, these organizations stand as living proof of the project’s success. They showcase leaders who embody unwavering commitment and dedication to their cause. Let’s meet three remarkable individuals:

1. Charlie Lambenicio, Chairman of the Board at the Kamarahan Agriculture Cooperative (KAMAGCO), achieved a significant milestone by transitioning his farm to organic practices. He courageously abandoned synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, becoming a model for his community. Charlie’s sustainable farming initiatives inspired others, as he openly shared the challenges he faced when synthetic inputs eroded his income. His unwavering commitment not only improved his family’s well-being but also contributed to educating the next generation.

Kamarahan Agriculture Cooperative operates from Barangay Kamarahan, President Roxas, North Cotabato.

2. Henry Arnado, the marketing manager of the Tubon Coconut Farmers Association (TUCOFA) in Tubon, Makilala, witnessed firsthand the struggles coconut farmers endured during the 2018 price downturn. Recognizing the urgent need for action, Henry and fellow farmers formed TUCOFA. With crucial support from IRDF, the association transformed into a powerful consolidator of coconut products. By trading directly with Franklin Baker and effectively marketing other coconut-based goods, TUCOFA ensured higher values for its members compared to private traders.

The success of TUCOFA serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of coconut farmers. Their unwavering spirit, combined with strategic partnerships, has not only restored livelihoods but also strengthened the very fabric of their communities.

3. Rodolfo Lumayag, the unwavering president of the San Vicente Coconut Farmers Association (SANVICOFA), stood firm in the face of adversity. His commitment to the well-being of members drove him to swiftly address critical situations. Lumayag, in collaboration with the Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF), orchestrated a series of seminars and training sessions. These efforts aimed to instill a sense of belonging and collective responsibility among the association’s members.

Founded in August 2019, SANVICOFA operates from San Vicente, Makilala, North Cotabato. Despite challenges, the organization continues to grow, attracting more dedicated individuals who share Lumayag’s vision.

Through their tireless efforts, leaders like Charlie Lambenicio, Henry Arnado, and Rodolfo Lumayag exemplify how steadfast leadership can positively impact the lives of coconut farmers and their entire communities.

These organizations and their leaders’ stories are a testament to the project’s success in empowering coconut farmers in the Philippines. Through a combination of community engagement, sustainable farming practices, and effective partnerships between organizations, the project has transformed the lives of countless coconut farmers. It is a reminder that with dedication, commitment, and resilience, transformation is always possible.