Philippines fruit-growing industry is one of the mainstays of the local economy.

Camelo Daguidor and his wife Lourdes, a couple from Malamba village on the outskirt of Davao in the southern Philippines, tends to about 1,000 banana trees, making banana farming a livelihood of the family.

Davao, located in the Mindanao region, is the third largest city of the country. It is rich in tropical fruits such as bananas, durians, and mangoes. The fruit-growing industry is one of the mainstays of the local economy.

Daguidor, 66, decided to quit his job last year as a security guard in a nearby town, and shifted to growing bananas after enlisting in a cooperative hatched by China and the Philippines that aimed to alleviate villagers in remote areas from poverty.

The project is initiated and supported by the Chinese embassy in cooperation with the government of Davao and third-party merchants.

The cooperative provides banana saplings, fertilizers, pesticides, and instruction from agricultural technicians, all of which are free of charge. After the harvest, the third-party merchants will purchase the bananas at a favorable price and process them into banana chips targeting at Chinese consumers.

Daguidor is among those who first joined the cooperative. He planted 1,000 banana saplings in March last year, and the fruits are expected to be harvested in this August.

Based on the calculation of harvesting 20 kilograms of bananas per tree, the harvest will bring nearly 200,000 pesos (nearly 3,700 U.S. dollars) to the Daguidor family, more than double their annual income as a security guard.

Daguidor now walks around the banana grove almost every day to check the growth of the saplings. Whenever there is a problem, he will first call Joana Flores, an agricultural technician assigned to Malamba village by the agriculture department of Davao city.

As a technical partner of this cooperative, Flores provides guidance for 15 banana growing families in the village. She said in jest that her mobile phone number has become a “hotline” for those growers. “You can expect a call from them at any moment.”

Under the daily care of the growers, the banana trees in Malamba village are now bearing fruits, and a good harvest can be expected if all goes well, said Flores, adding many other villagers have expressed their willingness to join the project.

“More farmers got interested in joining the project when the other farmers saw the project’s initial results,” Flores said. “To get benefits, banana growers only need to contribute their labor with no risks involved.”

The Philippines is the world’s major exporter of bananas. As a connecting point of the hard-working local growers and the booming market, this tropical fruit witnesses the poverty relief story of China-Philippines cooperation benefiting people’s livelihood.

What’s even more exciting is that the local government has approved a budget to rebuild the mountain road leading to Malamba village to make transporting bananas easier.

“When I told the villagers about the plan to build a new farm-to-market road, they jumped in joy,” said Flores. “They are all grateful to the project as bananas have changed their lives.” ■

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