The health pandemic has sparked the creativity of a scientist in Bingawan, Iloilo who produced over 2,000 coconut bonsai plants.

Photo: SMALL BUT INSPIRING. Some of the coconut bonsai plants propagated by Concepcion “Connie” Carillo on her farm in Barangay Cairohan, Bingawan, Iloilo in this undated photo. As a Magsasaka Siyentista, Carillo continues to experiment and innovate to help and inspire other farmers. (Photo courtesy of Connie Carillo)

“We look at the positive side of the pandemic. This is now the opportunity that we can use resources around us,” said Concepcion “Connie” Carillo, also a farmer and owner of the Concepcion Carillo Agricultural Farm (CFARM) in Bingawan’s Barangay Cairohan.

She is also the vice-president of the association of Magsasaka Siyentista in Western Visayas.

Coconut bonsai is considered an ornamental plant. However, it takes long before one can appreciate its beauty.

“Coconut bonsai teaches us how to be patient, how to invest our time and not to rush things and despite this pandemic, we have to survive life,” she said in a phone interview.

Being recognized as “Magsasakang Siyentista of Bingawan in 2017” and as one of the “2018 Outstanding Rural Women Farmers” by the Department of Agriculture prodded her to come up with a project for women, she said.

In 2018, she decided to try the coconut bonsai but was produced only four as she was too preoccupied with other works.

A year after, she realized the unique characteristic of the coconut to “survive” despite its leaves and roots being cut. That year, she was able to make 14 coconut bonsai.

The 2020 pandemic allowed her to stay in Bingawan, explore, and look for farm wastes that could help earn money.

With more of her time already spent at home, she was able to produce more than 2,000 coconut bonsai.

She added that the coconut bonsai can be used as souvenir items, giveaways during special occasions, office decoration, and stress reliever.
The planting material or the seed is priced at PHP500 but those two years old can be sold from PHP2,500 to PHP 4,000 each.

“It brings happiness because every bonsai is unique. I am very positive about this project although I know that it will take time,” she said.

It takes a month before the shoot of the coconut fruit will come out. Another five months for it to grow around 12 inches long.

After eight months, when the roots and leaves are longer, the bonsai is now ready for transfer to a bigger container.

She said she is aware that this project takes time, yet she wanted this to become popular and for Western Visayas to claim that it’s the first to produce coconut bonsai trees.

Carillo expressed optimism that it will be popular in the future, similar to the caladium plant, which used to thrive only in forests but now has become popular among plant growers amid the pandemic.

Her coconut bonsai project has also provided income to her community because she bought from them coconut fruits, including those that are considered as rejects.

Other parts of the coconut fruit are converted into coco peat and coco chips for fertilizer.

“We are zero waste when it comes to coconut and coconut bonsai is our main product,” she said.

Farmers are always encouraged to look around their surroundings and find out if there are things that they can convert into money, Carillo added.

She is willing to train those who are interested to raise their own coconut bonsai.

“We have to force ourselves to appreciate what’s around. Otherwise, if we could not see the positive side of this pandemic, then we will just get depressed,” she said.

She added that raising coconut bonsai takes time and patience for one to produce a beautiful ornamental plant.

Apart from producing bonsai, she also discovered a way to eradicate coconut leaf beetle or Brontispa longissima that is infesting coconut trees.

Since she is always out looking for coconuts to be used for the bonsai, she noticed that some of the coco trees are dying and discovered that it was due to brontispa.

She discovered that rice hull ash mixed with fine sand and herbal oil, which she also produced, can kill the insect.

“It was a great accomplishment for me as Magsasaka Siyentista,” she said.

Last March 4, she discovered that a concoction of garlic, pepper, and ginger boiled in vinegar can kill ants and other pests in just two minutes after spraying.

An 880ml of the concoction mixed with 60ml of herbal oil, being produced on her farm, plus 60ml of dishwashing liquid makes a potent pest annihilator.

Carillo added that as a farmer/scientist, she will continue to do experimental research and innovations to be shared with her fellow farmers.