For decades now, residents of a barangay on Talim Island, the largest lake island in Laguna de Bay, have put up a viable livelihood out of bamboo grass that grows abundantly on the island’s hilly terrain by making barbecue sticks and earning as much as P6,400 to a low of P1,000, or an average of P2,776 monthly.
The bamboo stick makers of Barangay Ginoong Sanay indeed need help to upgrade their lowly bamboo craft business into a profitable collective business enterprise.
The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) has been helping the Ginoong Sanay bamboo group, which is composed of 70 bamboo stick makers and 10 dealers. They make up 95 percent of the barangay population. Some of them produce their own bamboo poles and market their own goods.
However, ERDB Director Dr. Sofio B. Quintana hopes partners in mechanization and financing would come into the picture so the group could level up into a more organized enterprise.
ERDB has recommended the group’s more formal organization and increased investments in bamboo planting.
Quintana said credit assistance in bamboo plantation and the aid of machinery will enable the Ginoong Sanay microenterprise to supply their own raw material needs and even expand into other more profitable bamboo products.
More valued products, such as bamboo beds, bamboo sofa and bamboo table are already made by other barangays on the island.
“They should establish linkages with LGU [local government units] and nongovernment institutions, including the private sector for any technical and financial assistance they may need, such as the bamboo stick drying machine. They should plant more bamboos in order to sustain their supply of raw materials,” according to the ERDB.
The bamboo grass has been proven to be a versatile crop that flourishes in Talim Island since the island’s soil has not been suitable for planting other crops.
“Talim’s craggy terrain may be hostile to other crops, but bamboo particularly the kawayan tinik variety grows abundantly on its slopes,” according to Maria Vienna O. Austria and Myline O. Aparente of ERDB.
The Barangay Ginoong Sanay bamboo enterprise started with the production of kaing, the native-looking, nature-friendly equivalent of plastic crates used as container for hauling fruits and vegetables.
“Because kaing slowly became unpopular due to the influx of plastic containers and its production requires more bamboo poles and a higher capital, kaing producers shifted to bamboo stick making in the 1960s with barbeque,” said Austria and Aparente.
The majority of them, or 90 percent, have no alternative income source but rely solely on bamboo stick making for sustenance. Extra income comes from fishing, fish and food trading, construction work, laundry and sari-sari store jobs.
A bamboo farmer, meanwhile, sells the raw material for P62 per pole.
The bamboo traders among them earn a higher average of P6,640 per month on top of additional P3,685 per month for stick making.
As they grew short of raw materials within their barangay, they sourced bamboo poles from nearby barangays, which somehow benefited people in Malakaban, Tabon, Kinaboogan, Talim, Binitagan and Sapang. Most of their supply now comes from other areas, leaving only 27 percent sourcing from Barangay Ginoong Sanay.
The bamboo trade has been a family tradition with each member playing roles in harvesting, hauling, cutting, slicing or splitting of bamboo poles, sharpening into small javelins, drying of the stocks, cleaning or polishing, counting, bundling and selling.
Right now, the dealers serve as financiers for the stick production. The products are sold to the market on a consignment basis—paid to farmers and producers upon sale completion. They are distributed to market stalls throughout Biñan, Santa Rosa, Cabuyao, Calamba in Laguna, Bicutan (Taguig), Alabang (Muntinlupa) and Antipolo.
Due to lack of raw materials, ERDB has partnered with Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc. (PSFI) on clonal nursery operation and bamboo propagation.
In support to the government’s National Greening Program, PSFI will help propagate quality-planting materials, or seedlings, of indigenous trees including bamboo propagules.
ERDB and PSFI have just opened PSFI’s clonal facility and forest nursery for bamboo in Barangay Malaya, Pililla, Rizal, on July 26, 2018.
“The regard for the environment is very high in Pilipinas Shell’s agenda. We see a very good alignment on what Shell wants to happen with what the government wants to happen,” said Cesar G. Romero, Shell Philippines country manager.
The clonal nursery will yield about 30,000 bamboo seedlings for nine to 12 months.
“That’s a big jump from what we produce in our existing nurseries,” PSFI Executive Director Edgardo Veron Cruz said.
PSFI’s bamboo propagation facility will also grow select Philippine bamboo species.
“This is an initial move and what excites me also is the inclusion of bamboo propagation for two things—one, bamboo can absorb three to four times carbon dioxide compared to other species. And also, bamboo provides plenty of livelihood opportunities,” said Cruz.
ERDB carried out a training from September 12 to 14 on Tree Clonal and Bamboo Propagation Technology and Nursery Operations at the PSFI Training Center in Pililla, Rizal.
The training also delved on technical and managerial skills needed to run the clonal facility.
The training observed a “hands-on demonstration” mode and also led a target and action planning workshop.
Romero said an environmental uplift is a top priority for the company having engaged in the conservation of the Tubbataha Reefs, coastal cleanups, mangrove tree planting, community waste management programs around its distribution terminals nationwide, and tree planting of endemic species in Mount Banahaw, Quezon, as part of its Carbon Sink