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Workers on a Philippines Coconut Farm: Born Poor, Staying Poor

Like most of the those working in the coconut groves that fill out the northern lip of the Philippine island of Mindanao, Diego G. Limbaro has never imagined another life. His father pulled himself up the skinny tree trunks of the surrounding plantations, wielding a machete to detach coconuts. So did his father’s father.

Such multigenerational experiences are typical throughout the Misamis Oriental province. Harvesting coconuts — separating the meat from the husk, and processing the bounty into oil and juice — is one of the very few ways to earn sustenance.

People labor six days a week in the tropical swelter, through torrential rains and under the punishing sun. Their pay is determined by the price of coconut oil as influenced by traders around the globe. The typical farmer earns perhaps 60,000 pesos a year — about $1,100.


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