In April, 2017 the Mayor and municipal council members of Oroquieta, a coastal city of some 80,000 people on the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines, were introduced to Prout. This catalyzed a better understanding of the potential to develop a more vibrant and resilient local economy. A new initiative grew, a partnership aimed at fostering greater self-reliance; and the creation of a practical model that implements several key economic policies of Prout. The vision included an increase in local organic food production and markets, small scale industries, employment, and the formation of cooperative enterprises to ensure greater participation, and local control. And to do so in a way that protects and preserves the natural environment.
In the first phase more than 200 backyard organic gardens started. This helped families to eat a more balanced and healthy diet as well as provide additional income through market sales. Now more than 900 such gardens are running. And a large building was constructed in which an organic market operates, 7 days a week, just next to the city’s main market.
Priorities include to keep money rolling within the community and to make better use of local resources. The area has more than eight thousand hectares of coconut plantation. Traditionally the harvest has been used almost exclusively for oil production. Prout activists liaised with coconut processing experts in Manila. A training program soon inspired everyone with the possibility of producing more than a dozen products, each with viable market potential. A buzz was created that led participants to declare, “this will revolutionize our economy”.
To ensure local and cooperative ownership and control, as well as economic equity, a Social Enterprise Code was drafted. Further assistance and support to realize the vision was tied to agreement to and signing of the Code.
In the first week of December a meeting was held with members of the community ready to form cooperatives, representatives of the municipal government and Prout activists. The mayor, his colleagues and more than 40 aspiring member/owners signed the Code (see text in photo).
Already 10 or so products have been identified and samples produced. Several are being packaged and marketed. One of the new products, “Coconot Soy” (substitute for soy sauce) was awarded first prize by the Department of Agriculture and Mindanao Regional Development agencies in a state-wide best products competition.
Oroquieta’s Mayor committed the local government to purchase US$10,000 worth of products within the coming months and ensured other large orders would be placed for Christmas season parties. In response the production of coconut products has shifted into high gear. The coop teams now need to quickly develop while they simultaneously scale up their productive capacity and systems. This translates into more employment and participation by many currently unemployed members of the community.
Further developments in Oroquieta and elsewhere in Maharlika (the original name of the Philippines) will soon be shared in future issues.