Social entrepreneur’s mission to preserve Philippine cinnamon also benefits farmers – Manila Bulletin
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner bark of several species of trees in the genus Cinnamomum. It is an aromatic condiment and flavor additive for sweet and savory dishes, making it a popular product around the world. Due to its popularity, there has been a great demand for cinnamon. Many Filipinos even import this spice from other countries just to taste the sweet, earthy flavor of cinnamon.
November Canieso-Yeo, a social entrepreneur based in Bacolod, finds the practice unnecessary since there are 19 endemic species of cinnamon from the Philippines.
She discovered it in 2013 when she returned from Manila to Bacolod. Even before urban gardening became a trend, Caneiso-Yeo was gardening in his own home. Three years later, she started to share her experiences and learned new information through blogging.
It was while blogging that Canieso-Yeo learned the truth about cinnamon from the Philippines. She also discovered that the species was endangered.
âA lot of Filipinos don’t know we have cinnamon from the Philippines. They just know him as kalingag (Cinnamomum mercadoi), and it’s an aromatic tree, âCanieso-Yeo said. The social entrepreneur also added that kalingag trees are turned into charcoal, or uling in Filipino, resulting in a decrease in the number of trees. She then saw an opportunity to transform this circumstance into an agro-industry that could benefit everyone.
A social enterprise focused on the value chain
Canieso-Yeo currently acts as founder and manager of Plantsville Health: a social enterprise focused on conservation, livelihoods and health.
âFor the conservation part of the business, we want to conserve cinnamon from the Philippines. We want to prevent him from being in danger, âsaid the social entrepreneur.
She added that they hope to achieve this goal by partnering with local farmers, hence the livelihood part of Plantsville Health. Canieso-Yeo started by going to the Negros Occidental Provincial Environmental Management Office (PEMO) to ask her friend if they knew about Kalingag. It turned out that there were several trees in Don Salvador Benedicto, but the farmers were not fully aware of its potential, which prompted them to use the kalingag trees for charcoal.
The social entrepreneur, through her friend from PEMO, was introduced to the farmers. She then completed her mission to raise awareness of Philippine cinnamon for its preservation while convincing farmers to plant the trees as part of a livelihood program.
It seems luck was on Canieso-Yeo’s side as well. PEMO had a project called Integrated Social Forestry (ISF), which urged partner farmers to rehabilitate areas of the province. At that time, farmers received funding from LGU through this project. Canieso-Yeo succeeded in convincing the LGU to allocate a budget for the cinnamon plantation in the Philippines.
âAt that time, in 2017, there were only 50 trees left in the city. After the funding, in 2019 they were able to plant 14,000 seedlings, âCanieso-Yeo said.
Eventually, the farmers of Don Salvador Benedicto learned about the Kalingag because Canieso-Yeo repeatedly educated them on the use of the tree in food, cosmetics and agriculture.
Plantsville Health will then buy the Philippine cinnamon plants from farmers and sell them to the public to raise awareness of its existence.
Besides Kalingag seedlings and Filipino cinnamon products, Plantsville Health also offers other seedlings such as batuan and ylang-ylang.
Canieso-Yeo added that they also buy part of their partner farmers’ crops, but only on a small scale as their main focus is the production and conservation of Philippine cinnamon.
How farmers earn by growing Kalingag
LGU pays farmers a total of P 25 for growing Kalingag, and the price is decided by the farmers. Farmers get P15 by bagging kalingag seedlings and another P10 when planting them.
âIf you’re a farmer, if you plant 1,000 trees, you get P25,000. Farmers usually earn 5,000 pesos a month, but growing Filipino cinnamon they get five months of income just from planting. a thousand trees, âCanieso-Yeo said.
She added that farmers receive P10 after the first year of growing kalingag. It is the same in the second year. But in the third year, farmers only get P5 to top up the agreed price of P50.
Another opportunity to earn Filipino Cinnamon has also presented itself recently. According to the owner and director of Plantsville Health, some Australian donors have asked to plant more kalingag trees to offset carbon emissions in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Canieso-Yeo asked them for 70 P per planted tree. P50 goes to farmers, while P20 goes to Plantsville Health as a fee.
Face challenges along the way
Despite the success of Canieso-Yeo’s advocacy for tree preservation, his journey has not been without challenges. The first challenge she faced was convincing farmers to plant kalingag trees instead of using them for charcoal.
She shared that since this was the first time farmers had met her, they were skeptical of her idea. When meeting with the president of one of Don Salvador Benedicto’s farmer cooperatives, Canieso-Yeo learned that farmers were concerned about the use of the kalingag as it could lead to a decrease in the number of trees in Province.
Canieso-Yeo clarified that the goal is the opposite of farmers’ concerns. Cultivation of Kalingag trees will not only increase their number in the province, but also provide farmers with a source of income.
Another hurdle she faced when the planting initiative started was paying the farmers. But since the LGU is responsible for it, they finally solved the problem, allowing the farmers to reap the rewards of growing the kalingag trees.
âI’m happy that besides the challenges, I was also able to get a lot of support from government and private organizations,â she said.
Through his love for gardening, Canieso-Yeo discovered the truth about cinnamon from the Philippines. And although she is only one person who wants to preserve the endangered native tree, that hasn’t stopped her from teaching farmers the importance of the kalingag, its money-making potential and learn to defend local species. It also allowed consumers to enjoy the cultivation of Kalingag in their home, its flavor and the health benefits of local cinnamon.
For more information visit Home Organic PH – Plantsville Health on Facebook.
Photos from Home Organic PH – Plantsville Health on Facebook.
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