Typhoon Yolanda devastated lives and destroyed livelihoods and businesses. Among those that suffered greatly was the now international “cosmeceutical” company VMV Hypoallergenics.

Almost all VMV cosmeceutical (cosmetics that are supposed to have medicinal properties) products use virgin coconut oil (VCO) as their main ingredient. Prior to Yolanda, the company got almost all of its VCO requirements from Leyte.

When Yolanda destroyed coconut plantations in the province, VMV Hypoallergenics faced many challenges.

The disaster was “a stressful situation” that taught the company a valuable lesson. Chief operations officer Juan Pablo Bertotto said, “It took us a year to recover and it changed the way we source and store our VCO.”

The company has since identified alternative VCO sources and continues to explore other possibilities. Quality is the prime consideration for all VMV Hypoallergenics products, so the company sees to it that it VCO undergoes a unique, proprietary method of extraction and clinical testing. The company requires that its VCO comes only from organically grown and carefully harvested coconuts, stored under strict conditions to preserve the essential qualities of the oil.

Concerned about how its VCO sources cultivate their coconuts, VMV Hypoallergenics goes as far as teaching its partner farmers how to grow, harvest and store coconuts to be supplied to the company.

The company’s desire to get only quality oil became a boon to Typhoon Yolanda survivors. “We look for synergies,” Bertotto said. “We make sure that everybody wins so it is easier to sustain gains.”

Cardo Inso, 50, of Capoocan, Leyte, said, “A lot has changed since VMV came into our lives.” The son of coconut farmers, Inso said that in the past, they would plant coconuts and wait for them to bear fruits. “Then you wait for harvest season and sell the copra if the market is good.”

VMV Hypoallergenics trains its partner farmers how to grow, harvest, and store coconuts to be supplied to the company

“There is a season for harvesting copra,” he said and the farmer has no income before that time “so I have to survive by doing all kinds of work, from cleaning farms to cutting weeds – anything just to earn a little.”

Added 56-year old Celso Pilande, “You can’t rely on just growing coconuts if you want to send your children to college.” Every coconut farmer has to cope with the uncertainty of getting a good harvest and being able to sell at high prices.

VMV Hypoallergenics reduced the uncertainty for coconut farmers, like Pilande. “With VMV, I have a sure market for my coconuts,” he said.

“It took us a year to recover and it changed the way we source and store our VCO. We look for synergies. We make sure that everybody wins so it is easier to sustain gains.”

Pilande added that because VMV buys unprocessed coconuts, he does not have to spend for the picking of coconuts from trees, collecting and husking them and cleaning up byproducts.

Farmer partners also appreciate the training they receive for organic certi cation. Inso said it was the best part of his experience with VMV Hypoallegenics. “I learned a lot from VMV and I got to know many other coconut farmers, who also bene ted from the training,” Inso said.

The interaction among farmer partners is actually part of VMV Hypoallergenics’ strategy. “The activities in the program are very deliberate,” said Bertotto.

“As we grow, we would like to pass on the benefits of our progress to our partners.”

Although strengthening bonds among partners has no direct effect on its business, the enhancement of these bonds through training and learning “is partly our way of giving back to the community,” Bertotto said.

Nearly 20 farmer-leaders have been trained by VMV Hypoallergenics. They will, in turn, teach other farmers, expanding the partner base of VMV, which is planning to extend its reach to Asia and increase its presence in the United States.

“As we grow, we would like to pass on the bene ts of our progress to our partners,” Bertotto said

This story is part of a series of articles written by GO NEGOSYO writers being published by GoodNewsPilipinas.com on Tuesdays as part of our support to Philippine businesses.

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