The Philippines sits in a tropical zone that suffers some of the most extreme weather conditions in the world - super-typhoons, tropical cyclones, annual flooding and severe soil erosion exacerbated by deforestation. Hundreds of lives are lost each year due to land and mudslides that result from flooding.

The country is also one of the world's largest producers of coconut products. Dried coconut meat, or "copra", used to be the only part of the coconut that had recognised economic value - the raw material for vegetable oil, soap, animal feed and industrial processes. Discarded husks are traditionally the largest waste product of coconut-growing regions, and it is estimated that the Philippines produces 12 billion coconut husks a year, with 75 per cent of them thrown away.

In 1995 an agricultural engineer called Justino Arboleda started Juboken Enterprises, with the aim of combatting soil erosion and helping to prevent landslides. The company uses waste coconut husk fibres to make nets that act as surrogate tree roots, by holding loose soil together. Used on sloping land and along riverbanks, the 'coconets' protect against erosion and absorb water, preventing rain from causing soil runoff.

The nets also encourage the growth of vegetation as they are able to hold soil and seeds, protect vegetative shoots, and promote re-greening in erosion-prone land formations or areas with harsh environments. They can also be installed manually, unlike alternatives which often require heavy equipment.

Coconets are now being produced at a rate of 30,000 square metres every month, supplying countries around the world.

Omar Khalifa travels to the Philippines to help make and install the nets with Juboken Enterprises, and finds out how they are helping to prevent the disasters which affect so many Filipinos.

 
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Source: Al Jazeera