Dr. Justino Arboleda, dean of the Bicol University College of Agriculture, won one of the Global 100 Eco-Tech Awards which aims at promoting the role of technology in sustainable development and protection of the environment.
“Dr. Arboleda gets the award, and the Philippines the honors,” said Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano who cited the scientists victory as a boost to the government’s campaign to promote the country as a nature destination for Japanese tourists.
Arboleda pioneered the use of coconut coir geotextiles nets, which are installed in eroded slopes and other degraded landscapes to arrest soil runoff and promote re-greening by protecting vegetative shoots.
Geotextiles, which is made of coconut fiber, degrades naturally at a rate that allows plants to “re colonize” the soil. Similar organic materials like tree branches, hay and jute degrade much too fast, particularly in tropical climates.
With the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry and the German aid agency GTZ, Arboleda’s Juboken Enterprises was able to work with another German company, Bestmann, to develop the coconut fiber rolls and geotextile nets.
Arboleda’s invention has found ecologically and economically beneficial use for the country’s six billion kilos of coconut husks that constitute the bilk of farm wastes, which could be harmful to the environment if burned or dumped into water wastes.
It has also provided coconut farmers with a supplemental source of income.
A small coco fiber plant employs around 40 regular factory workers. The plant subcontracts fiber twining and weaving activities to low income households in the community. One factory can support 260 to 360 twiners and 70 weavers.
A household completing 360 coco fiber twines a day can earn as much as P8,712 each month, which is 297 percent above the regional minimum wage.
Net weaving household, on the other hand, can earn as much as P9,63 a month-329 percent above the regional minimum wage for producing one to 1.6 rolls a day.
Arboleda’s coco coir was one of the natural materials used in the design of the Philippine pavilion at the exposition. It contributed to the country’s winning winning its first award, the Nature’s Wisdom Award, for encouraging the people to be in social and technological harmony with nature.