Solar power brightens up IP’s coffee future

MILFACO’S coffee processing facility is now powered by 5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system.

Nestled near the foot of the Kalatungan mountain range in central Bukidnon are farms where one of the best arabica coffee beans in the country grow. Around 150 indigenous farmers from the Milalittra Farmers Agriculture Cooperative (MILFACO) manage the farms in Talakag town. They mostly belong to the Talaandig tribe, one of the major indigenous peoples in the province.

OMF president Jeffrey O. Tarayao (3rd from right) with Agricultural cooperative development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance country manager Melissa Alado (left), Talakag Municipal Administrator Alberto Bigcas (2nd from right), OMF program manager Patrick Famisaran (right) and members of the Milalittra Farmers Agriculture Cooperative during the ceremonial turnover of a solar photovoltaic system that will energize the cooperative’s post-harvest coffee bean processing facility | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF OMF

At the heart of MILFACO’s operation is its humble processing facility where coop members manually sort picked coffee cherries for sun drying and manually pulp them using a mechanical depulper. The lack of electricity in the area only allows the use of such equipment, which limits their processing to 100 grams of cherries per minute.

Last 9 March, MILFACO members received a much-needed boost for their livelihood through One Meralco Foundation (OMF), the social development arm of Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Manila Electric Company. OMF donated and installed a 5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system to energize its post-harvest coffee bean processing facility using solar energy. 

The cooperative, whose members are from the Miarayon-Lapok-Lirongan-Tinaytayan-Talaandig Tribal Association Inc., is now benefiting from the PV system. With the energized facility, they can now depulp coffee cherries at the rate of one kilo per minute, 10 times faster compared to manual pulping. They can also work well into the night if they choose to as they now have a light source.

With efficiencies brought about by the electric processing machine under OMF’s Agriculture and Livelihood Electrification Program, MILFACO increased their income by 43 percent. They can now produce more than 1,200 kilos of coffee beans to be sold to institutional markets monthly, generating a potential P720,000 sales for the cooperative per month. 

“With electricity, our coffee beans will be of high quality so that we can find the right buyers at a right price point. The electrification has helped us give justice to the hard work of our coffee farmers,” according to Joannah Dumaquita, general manager of MILFACO. 

Through OMF’s ALEP, rural cooperatives, and community organizations like MILFACO are given an opportunity to improve their micro-enterprise through solar PV systems.  

“Through our years of implementing community electrification programs, we have discovered and realized that many in these last-mile communities are still left wanting basic services. Lack of electricity continues to be a perennial hurdle to progress which many communities, especially in rural Philippines, deserve. Through our Agriculture and Livelihood Electrification, we have witnessed that solar power is not only a fundamental tool for productivity but also a great equalizer to enable last-mile Filipinos to become productive actors of their community and country,” said OMF president Jeffrey O. Tarayao.  

The installation of the solar PV system was also made possible by the generosity of Meralco employees, who chipped in a combined P560,000 for the energization project. 

The project forms an important part of OMF’s electrification for development portfolio. To date, the foundation has energized 300 schools, four rural health centers, three water access facilities and three agriculture and livelihood facilities.

As a contribution to the universal aspiration of sustainability and inclusive growth, electrification for development aims to bring the benefits of electrification to those who need it the most. 

“One Meralco Foundation’s work is an ever-evolving journey to understand the daily realities of Filipinos in need, address their gap and initiate interventions to better their situation. The community electrification program is a testament that we are ready to support them until they are able to stand on their own and become agents of change for others,” said Pangilinan, Meralco chairman and CEO.