Preparing for Growth

Even social enterprises (SEs) that show great growth potential fail to make the most of existing market opportunities because of their limited capacity to expand. This is particularly true for SEs in the agriculture sector.

Green Life Coconut Products Philippines Inc. started as a sole proprietorship in Quezon Province in 2001, and was incorporated in 2014. It is pursuing an expansion program backstopped by a capacity building program to develop competencies within the organization and among the farmers that it works within villages. By enhancing the skills and knowledge of coconut farmers and virgin coconut oil (VCO) processors, Green Life prepares them to tap the domestic and global markets.

Based in Tayabas, Quezon, Green Life produces an array of coconut-based products, including coco sugar, coco vinegar, VCO soap, coco jam, and other coconut-based specialty products, as well as furniture made from coconut wood. These VCO products have a diverse variety of health, medicinal, and culinary uses. Green Life sources most of its raw VCO from village-level processors in nearby communities. To ensure a constant supply of raw VCO, it partnered with microentrepreneurs to establish a community-based raw VCO processing plant at a low setup cost of P650,000, which includes the housing structure and equipment. The raw VCO processed at this plant becomes a standardized and high-value coconut product.

Green Life is working with the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF) on a project to improve the quality of VCO processing by building the capacity of six village VCO processors as their supply base. These processors directly or indirectly employ about 120 workers from coconut farming communities. The business model recognizes that family incomes will increase with value adding rather than just selling whole coconuts.

Green Life took a loan to help them improve VCO processing, comply with standards, and secure certifications as producers of fair trade and organic goods. Under the program, Green Life will purchase the entire output of VCO village processors that will go through organic certification. With this, coconut farmers are encouraged to upgrade their standards, get hold of a stable market, and command higher prices. This, in turn makes a more vibrant local economy and creates new and better opportunities for the communities involved.

As part of the project, Green Life assists farmers in the management of their farms by setting up a recording system of maps, diaries, seeding and harvests; and pest management. These help identify areas where farmers need sustainable interventions and planting practices to increase coconut harvest yields.

 Indeed, Green Life is true to its vision of being “a leading producer of high value and high quality coconut products in a natural way that will create jobs for the farmers and help the development of the coconut industry.

This article was originally published in “Attempts At Social Enterprise”. This book narrates the foundation’s strategic shift toward building and scaling up social enterprises. To download a copy, click here…