TO revive their livelihood activities hindered by the pandemic and typhoons, Bicol Region's pili farmers and entrepreneurs received support from the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca).

Searca Director Glenn Gregorio said the Socio-Economic Development Program Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SEDP-MPC) engaged 17 barangay (villages) in five municipalities to prepare to launch a pili processing facility in Albay.

The project "Technology Adoption for People-Centered Innovation and Livelihood Integration (PILI)" was funded by Searca's Grants for Research toward Agricultural Innovative Solutions (Grains).

Gregorio said the project was the groundwork for a facility that aims to help 500 farmers and 1,300 women entrepreneurs generate 20 percent added income from pili processing.

Fr. Jovic Lobrigo, SEDP-MPC chairman, said pili is a viable product amid poverty brought about by disasters and vulnerability.

"We have the so-called tree of hope — pili for resiliency, environmental and financial sustainability," Lobrigo said.
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Eighty-five percent or more than 6,000 tons of pili in the country is produced annually in the Bicol Region. The most useful part of the crop is the pili kernel.

The pili pulp is often discarded. However, the SEDP-MPC has trained farmers and entrepreneurs to extract oil and create value-added products such as candy, chips and sauce to maximize the use of pili pulp.

According to Searca, machineries for pulp oil processing, including filtering and pressing, were tested through the PILI project, and by enhancing the machines, production capacity was doubled.

Available now at the SEDP Community Store is 175 liters produced from the pili drupes purchased from 73 farmers in the towns of Manito, Camalig, Daraga, Tabaco, Bacacay and Malilipot in Albay province.

Searca said the pili oil could be a raw material for cosmetics, medicines and food. Training on soap making and massage oil from pili was also conducted. PILI participants were taught to grow their planting materials and manage pests and diseases to ensure the quality of the source.

The center also noted that with the production of pili oil and related products, the project served as a market for the pili farmers' harvest creating employment for production workers, pickers, traders and processors.

Asst. Prof. Glenn Baticados, program head of Searca Emerging Innovation for Growth Department, noted that with Grains, they are pushing for starter technologies and projects that will benefit farming communities.

"By promoting pili-based livelihood, we give farmers and entrepreneurs the opportunity to recover and earn more," Baticados said.

Meanwhile, Santeh Aquaculture Science and Technology Foundation sponsored the construction of the pili processing facility, dubbed SDPC PILI Hub.

Philip Ong, Santeh Foundation president, said their PILI hub is an effort to mitigate the future effects of disruptions with SEDP micro enterprises which Santeh helped in the last seven years. The two years of the Covid-19 pandemic were followed by three consecutive typhoons in Bicol within one month.

"It is time to be more ambitious and build a more sturdy and permanent production and consolidation hub. We chose to do it with PILI. We hope it will help many farmers to sell their products and their pili harvest at the right price," Ong said.

He added that they aim to create pili products that will sell all over the world.

The Rotary International Foundation in partnership with Rotary Club Legazpi West provided the equipment. The PILI project is also supported by Misereor based in Germany, SEDP microfinance, the Department of Science and Technology, Bicol University, and local government units, among others.

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