[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A micro-business in which a group of women from St John’s Mission in Nayon, Philippines, began making a nutritious crisp snack from the taro fruit; has proved to be so successful that the income-generation scheme’s funder has begun buying the snack for use in typhoon disaster relief.
The taro is a root-vegetable that thrives is wet and swampy soils. In the Philippines it is usually used in the pork and beef stew known as Sunigang. Taro is low in saturated fat, salt, and cholesterol and high in fibre, and nutrients including vitamin E, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese.
Dolores Bayucca, chair of the women’s group at St John’s Mission, took advantage of the “Asset-Based Community Development” (ABCD) scheme run by Ecare, a partner of the Australian Board of Mission, to develop the crisp-making business for income generation.
“The ABCD approach encourages communities to look at what resources and skills they already have, and together think of what could be done to produce additional household income,” the ABM said in a statement. “The women in Nayon did just that, and saw that there was plenty of the root vegetable, taro, growing around the place. Normally used as stock feed, this nutritious vegetable was clearly being under-utilised, and the idea of transforming it into a desirable snack grew from there.”
With a loan from Ecare, the women were able to grow, harvest, process and package taro as crisps. The snack proved popular, and their loan was quickly repaid. One of the group’s largest customers was the Ecare group – noting the nutritional value of the taro crisps, the charity brought them as food relief to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, as they were seen as a healthy alternative to many other pre-packaged goods being donated.
“I have been able to buy soap for my family, as I have seven children,” Dolores said when asked about the difference the income has made. “And when St John’s Mission in Nayon started to build a church, our group was able to contribute 10,000 pesos (approximately £148 GBP)!
“I think this project has encouraged other women and families in our community to grow taro to eat, as it grows so well and is good for living,” she said.
The initiative has continued to expand since it began three years ago. Now, up to 12 women are able to work on the processing and packaging of the chips at any one time. Dolores and her group have been provided with a grant from the Philippines’ Department of Science and Technology (Dost) which will allow them to process other foods.
Dost is assisting the group with an automatic chipper, slicer and a commercial oven, which will increase production as well as decrease the intensive work of cutting and slicing taro.
“I have seen a significant improvement in the group’s financial and business skills,” ABM projects coordinator, Lina Magallanes said. “They now display confidence in managing the income and expenses of the project, discussing the details of administration, and an awareness of the importance of marketing strategies to expand their potential profits.”
The ABCD scheme is funded by supporters of the ABM and the Australian government. “In this case, the small investment has led to tangible livelihood improvement for people like Dolores, and is helping to empower communities in determining their own future,” ABM said.