Former DENR Secretary Gina Lopez collaborates with DOST Cebu to empower the fishing and farming community in Kinatarkan Island, Santa Fe, Cebu.

Ms. Gina Lopez leads the finalization of action plan for the immediate interventions to be provided for the the fisherfolks and farmers in Kinatarkan Island.
Ms. Gina Lopez leads the finalization of action plan for the immediate interventions to be provided for the the fisherfolks and farmers in Kinatarkan Island.

Ms. Lopez identified the island of Kinatarkan as recipient of her project “I LOVE” or Investments in Loving Organization for Village Economies which encourages big companies to invest in local tourist sites which people can benefit. Ms. Lopez hopes to build an economy based on the resources that can be found in the island.

DOST is identified by Ms. Lopez to be the strategic project partner through its Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) program.

Ms. Lopez and DOST were in the island last February 6-7, 2018 to study the ongoing development initiatives for the island, identify the gaps and needs and determine necessary interventions that can be carried out by partners and stakeholders.

The island was badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda and was left cut-off and isolated for several days after it was battered. Many of the fishing families lost their fishing boats resulting to food insecurity.

The island is within the municipality of Santa Fe and comprises three barangays: Hagdan, Kinatarkan and Langub. It has a total area of 13.34 square kilometers with 7,208 population as of 2015 census. The locales are mainly engaged in subsistence fishing and farming with an average income per family of less than P5,000 per month.

Kinatarkan lies about 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the west coast of Cebu, 12 kilometers (7 mi) northeast from Bantayan Island, and 10 kilometers (6 mi) from Hilantagaan Island.
Kinatarkan lies about 25 kilometers (16 miles) off the west coast of Cebu, 12 kilometers (7 mi) northeast from Bantayan Island, and 10 kilometers (6 mi) from Hilantagaan Island.

Despite the calamity, the island is still blessed with rich natural resources. Offshore are coral reefs and seagrass beds. It is hilly and along the eastern coastline is a large lagoon. The coast of the island is dominated by numerous towering rock cliffs, which are interrupted by some flat beaches. The vegetation of the island consists of dense tropical vegetation, in the interior there are also large intensive agricultural areas.

Aerial view of Kinatarkan Island
Aerial view of Kinatarkan Island

Karaho is the primary catch of the fisherfolks. It is a shortfin suary, Suarida argentea, species of lizardfish. The maximum recorded length of the shortfin saury as an unsexed male is about 29 centimeters or about 11.4 inches. Usually, the fisherfolks preserved karaho through sun-drying which would take around 3 days due to the thickness of the fish meat. The catch has decreased for the past years due to damage of the coral reefs caused by illegal fishing.Despite the calamity, the island is still blessed with rich natural resources. Offshore are coral reefs and seagrass beds. It is hilly and along the eastern coastline is a large lagoon. The coast of the island is dominated by numerous towering rock cliffs, which are interrupted by some flat beaches. The vegetation of the island consists of dense tropical vegetation, in the interior there are also large intensive agricultural areas.

Karaho, a shortfin suary, Suarida argentea, species of lizardfish.
Karaho, a shortfin suary, Suarida argentea, species of lizardfish.

Another resource from the island is Cualerpa or sea grapes locally known as lato. This is grown abundantly underneath the inlet lagoon (locally known as la-aw) in Barangay Hagdan. Euchema seaweeds or guso are also grown to be sold to carrageenan company based in Metro Cebu. However, there are still surplus seaweeds that can still be consumed or processed.Due to its salt-tolerance, romblon also grows abundantly in the island. The natives mostly women weave the dried romblon leaves into banig or mats. However, they don’t have the skills and machineries to convert these into bags or other high value products.

Ms. Gina Lopez harvests fresh lato from the la-aw lagoon in Brgy. Hagdan, Kinatarkan
Ms. Gina Lopez harvests fresh lato from the la-aw lagoon in Brgy. Hagdan, Kinatarkan

Romblon grows abundantly in Kinatarkan Island
Romblon grows abundantly in Kinatarkan Island

Ms. Gina Lopez checks the mat (banig) made by women weavers in the island. She also presents to them the bags made from woven tikog in Samar to inspire them to make new products from woven romblon such as bags and foamed mats.
Ms. Gina Lopez checks the mat (banig) made by women weavers in the island. She also presents to them the bags made from woven tikog in Samar to inspire them to make new products from woven romblon such as bags and foamed mats.

Cassava is also abundant in the island and is usually consumed by the residents as staples especially during stormy weather when they could not purchase rice from the mainland Cebu.

Malunggay is grown by mostly every household in the island. The Southern Partners and Fair Trade Center (SPFTC) buys moringa leaves from the farmers in the island and process it into moringa tea. SPFTC builds a moringa nursery station in the island where a moringa dehumidifying facility is also built. However, it does not have electrical connection and water supply.

The dehumidifying room designed to dry the moringa leaves. This facility is installed in the moringa nursery established by SPFTC in the island.
The dehumidifying room designed to dry the moringa leaves. This facility is installed in the moringa nursery established by SPFTC in the island.

DOST Cebu recognizes the need to introduce technologies to capacitate the farmers and fisherfolks in the island. Development of new products, design of competitive product packaging and provision of skills training are also essential to empower the community in the island.

The identified technologies to be infused are sewing technology for the production of foamed mats and bags made of romblon leaves, drying technology for the production of cassava flour, cassava kropek, moringa powder and dried karaho and size reduction technology such as grinder, grater or mills for cassava and coconut.

The development of bags, foamed mats and other handicrafts from romblon leaves and training on proper dyeing of romblon leaves are part of the planned interventions of DOST.

Cassava based products such as cassava flour, cassava kropek, cassava crackers in partnership with Cebu Technological University is also to be developed.

Developing lato based products such as brine-salted lato, lato sheets (nori-type), freeze-dried lato in partnership with Central Visayas Food Innovation Center (CV-FIC) at CIT University is also identified as part of the support.

The development of karaho fish based products such as mechanically-dried karaho, karaho dahu or fish floss/ powder, fish tapa, smoked fish, fish surimi is also outlined in the plan.

DOST Cebu Provincial S&T Center (PSTC) had been in initial discussion with Southern Partners and Fair Trade Center (SPFTC) on November 2017 on the potential of the island as CEST beneficiary.

SPFTC is a long-time partner of DOST since this is a beneficiary of DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP). Southern Partners and Fair Trade Center (SPFTC) was established in 1996 by people’s organizations among small producers, farmers, and fisher folks, and NGOs as a development institution undertaking peoples’ trade within the philosophy of fair trade.

Another organization – Santo Niño de Cebu Augustinian Social Development Foundation (SNAF) is the key partner of SPFTC in providing assistance to the farmers and fisher folks of the island. SNAF has an ongoing rebuilding program for the island after it was badly hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

With the thrust to bring science closer to the people, Ms. Gina Lopez reiterates that DOST would play a vital role in developing high value products out of the resources available in the island. I LOVE together with SPFTC and SNAF will take care of social preparations, values formation and community organizing initiatives. The partners would also develop the health and wellness eco-tourism in the island so that market of these value-added products can be assured.

written by: DOST PSTC CEBU