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Abaca to receive ‘sustainability’ boost in the Philippines

abaca drying

Abaca fiber drying. Photo: Experience Catanduanes

Sustainability and improved incomes for upland farmers are among the aims of a project to revitalize abaca production in the Philippines.

An article in the Manila Times outlines how Germany’s international development cooperation arm Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Manila Cordage Co (MANCO) are partnering to promote sustainable production, management and marketing of abaca from Panay Island, one of the country’s major producers of this crop.

The abaca plant (Musa textilis) is a close relative of the banana. A strong fiber is extracted from the sheath around the trunk of the abaca plant and used in specialty paper making, such as for tea bags, Japanese banknotes, cigarette filter papers and high-quality wrapping paper. Abaca is also used for ropes, twines, fishing lines and nets as well as for coarse sacking. There is a niche market for abaca clothing, curtains, screens and furnishings.

The abaca tree is known to aid in erosion control and is used in landscape rehabilitation. Through this new partnership, farmers will be assisted in protecting and rehabilitating degraded forest lands through enrichment planting, assisted natural regeneration and agroforestry. These activities are geared at conserving the area’s rich biodiversity as well as mitigating climate change.

The Philippines is the world’s leading producer of abaca, with around 90,000 smallholder farmers growing the crop. In 2013, the Philippines produced 85 per cent of the world’s abaca fiber and the market for abaca is projected to grow by around 5.7 per cent until 2019.

abaca plantation

Abaca plantation. Photo: Philippines Fiber Industry Development Association

However production of abaca in the Philippines has declined in recent years due to “pests and diseases, lack of high-yielding and virus-resistant planting materials and poor technology adoption of farmers,” says the article.

The partnership between GIZ and MANCO will provide technical and financial assistance to farmers as well as high-quality planting materials.

If you’re wondering where the term ‘manila folder’ comes from, many such envelopes and folders were originally made from abaca fiber.

Read the full story: GIZ, local firm partner to boost PH abaca production

Find out more about abaca from the FAO


Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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