Coconut Inspires Entrepreneurship in the DR
The importance of the coconut palm for the Dominican Republic is crucial now more than ever. Over 53% of potential entrepreneurs in the Dominican Republic are set to become financially independent in the next 3 years, according to a report conducted by the Gastronomic Observatory.
For residents of the Dominican Republic, the coconut is one of the most popular and beloved fruits, and those who live in the town of Samaná reap the benefits in a multitude of ways. Jensur de Jesus, a former housekeeper, used to make artisanal coconut ice cream and sell it for 25 Dominican pesos, which is $.46 cents in USD.
“I started in 2019, because my children needed a higher- quality life. I started making beauty products for my family and friends, until I found my audience,” she says, when presenting her shampoo at a local market.
From this, she discovered that in selling these coconut-based products, the supplemental income was more than she could imagine. El Dinero states that this phenomena is happening across the Dominican Republic, in which women are becoming more involved in the entrepreneurial aspects of the coconut industry, through beauty, food and beverage, and more.
Importance of Coconuts to the Economy
The Dominican Republic has been able to capitalize and utilize this agricultural product for export across the globe. In recent times, the percentage of coconuts sent across the globe has increased, as for 2022, total coconut production was 5% of total yields per the Ministry of Agriculture.
With this, the government has taken action with support from President Luis Abinader, on launching the “Tamo en Coco” project, with the plans to deliver over 300,000 coconut seedlings to farmers across the country to support and rehabilitate the plant.
The director of the Special Fund for Agricultural Development Hecimilio Galván states that, “the fundamental objective of the plan is to improve the living conditions of the beneficiary producers.” This project will in turn benefit coconut farmers and the Dominican Republic as a whole.
Sustainability of the Coconut Industry
Within the business, it is also important to note that the coconut is both efficient and sustainable. The fibers are used in fabrics and as ecological fertilizer; pulp and water in the food and cosmetic industry; and bark to produce energy or active carbon for anti-odor templates and air purifiers, according to the General Manager of the Dominican Citrus Consortium. The versatility and accessibility of this fruit is great for all aspects of life and can lead to a more sustainable future, not just for the Dominican Republic, but as well as the global market.
“It also has been discovered that the properties of all coconut products are extraordinary: water, oil and coconut milk have very good nutritional properties and are spoken until they are disease-preventive and curative for humans,” explains Ángel Bautista Cairo, Vice President and General Manager of Goya Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Protecting Coconut Palms for the Future
With the looming effects of climate change and the environment at risk, there is an increasing threat to the continuity of the coconut. Erosion, natural disasters, and other issues make its future increasingly uncertain. However, there have been initiatives from local farmers to combat this. A local farm called BANELINO is engaging in diversification strategies while strengthening the farmers’ resilience to climate change issues.
Maria Genao, a local coconut farmer, describes her experience: “When my farm was flooded, the coconut trees survived. For two successive years, our plantations were devastated by the strong winds and flooding due to the hurricanes that passed over the Dominican Republic. But coconuts have thrown us a lifeline,” she says.
A Local Perspective: Interview with Daniel Becerra of CocoTai
Recently, Latina Republic spoke with Daniel Becerra, Co-Founder of Cocotai, a Dominican business dedicated to crafting the finest coconut food and beverages. In this interview, Becerra shared Cocotai’s entrepreneurial journey. Cocotai offers unique coconut products including the Batida de agua y masa de coco, a coconut dough and water smoothie; Agua de Coco, coconut water, made from all-natural and refreshing coconut water; Helado de coco gelato, coconut gelato ice cream, a creamy and artisanal ice cream served in the coconut gourd itself and Helado de coco vegan, a vegan coconut ice cream based on their original recipe.
The business owner explained that, in actuality, there is not a competitiveness in the coconut business, but rather a sense of support and involvement from everyone in the community.
“I feel that there is not an aggressive type competition or anything like that among the people who make a living out of the coconut industry in the country, rather, since we started our business, what we have felt is a great support for other people to get involved and participate, because it is understood that this is a very important product for the local economy,” explained Becerra.
The Co-founder of Cocotai detailed that the coconut entrepreneurial boom has led the Dominican industry, “one of the most important coconut industries in the region,” to resort to importing coconuts to feed local demands.
“Coconut plantations are very long-lived. In other words, to give their first harvest they can take up to six, seven years, five years. It varies depending on the type of palm tree,” said Becerra, adding that, “Obviously, it is being solved, many programs are being developed, even at the government level, they are planting palms.”
In addition, he also shared his visions for the future of Cocotai. Eventually, they hope to be the flagship coconut brand for the country, expressing that when one buys a coconut or coconut related product, the consumer will think of their brand. Their philosophy for the company is Piensa en Cocotai, which means Think of Cocotai.
Essentially, the goal in this philosophy is to utilize all parts of the coconut. Becerra states, “ I think this is the mission that we have, because we understand that the coconut as a fruit, a palm and as trees, is everything. I mean, it’s super noble and nothing is wasted. That is, you can use each and every part for sustainable purposes.”
My name is Gabby Boyd, and I am a first year master’s candidate at Georgetown University studying Latin American Studies with a concentration in Political Economy and Development. My interest in this region of the world stems from a love of culture and politics, and a innate curiosity to learn more about Latin America through my educational and work experiences. During my time at Latina Republic, I am working as a Latin American Correspondent, with a focus on the Andean Cone countries and Caribbean Islands. I am interested in women’s rights, sustainability and the environment, and promoting the rights of children through advocacy. It is incredibly important that these topics are discussed in the realm of Latin America, as the voices of both women and children are crucial to understanding and improving the region on all levels.