“Wild shrub” tagum gives Negros folks livelihood opportunity

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Folks in Brgy. Ilijan, Bago City, Negros Occidental did not give much thought to this wild shrub which they usually used as fodder for their cattle and carabaos. But during a visit by dye experts from the Department of Science and Technology’s Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI), the Ilijan residents were surprised that this plant could actually help them earn more income.

The wild shrub is called tagum (Indigofera tinctora) which grows abundantly in dry, tropical places at low and middle altitudes such as in Brgy. Ilijan. Because of its abundance and the people’s lack of awareness on its use, the tagum is usually left alone or fed to cattle. Little did they know that tagum has a high commercial value as a natural dye and is highly viable as an alternative livelihood for the community. Ilijan folks were even more amazed to find out that, aside from tagum, numerous trees and plants growing in their area are actually sources of natural dye.

“The country is actually very rich in natural resources that can be used to produce high value products, such as natural dye,” DOST Sec. Mario Montejo said. “These kinds of products have a huge demand nowadays, especially with the back to nature trend.”

Natural dye is obtained by processing the leaves of tagum leaves. The leaves are soaked in water and fermented to convert its natural blue color named glycoside indicant into the blue dye called indigotin. The solution is then mixed with strong base such as lye, then pressed into cakes, dried, then powdered. When mixed with other substances, the powder can produce various blue and purple shades.

Ilijan folks, through DOST-PTRI’s trainings, not only learned how to extract indigo dye from tagum plant, use the steeping liquor for dyeing, and produce indigo cake. They also became skilled on the application of crude indigo extract on abaca and piña. These trainings likewise helped them see and make use of the big livelihood opportunity in this once lowly shrub called tagum.

Since tagum can readily be cultivated as intercrop and requires little tending, the farmers could still focus on their farming activities. Moreover, the potential of earning additional income from indigo helped foster unity in the community, participants said.

In the country, DOST-PTRI leads the research and technology transfer for the production of natural dyes. Indigo, in fact, is the most commonly requested hue by its clients in dyeing services and prototyping. Through DOST-PTRI’s technology transfer program, the potential of tagum in beefing up livelihood opportunities has reached Negros communities.

The technology transfer of natural dye production using tagum is a joint project of DOST-PTRI and the Non-Timber Forest Products – Task Force (NTFP-TF), a collaborative network established to address the emerging livelihood needs of upland forest peoples, particularly those who depend on NTFPs.

Just like Ilijan, there are many communities in the country blessed with abundant natural resources that can serve as raw materials to high value products. When people learn the appropriate technologies to turn these into products, they open opportunities for additional source of income or for full-time business. Such is the aim of DOST’s technology transfer program. Particularly for DOST-PTRI, it conducts trainings all over the country to promote the use of fibrous materials and auxiliaries derived from indigenous materials, which is a boost to the local textile industry.

“At the end of the day, DOST sees its locally developed technologies such as natural dyes helping raise the quality of life of every Filipino,” Sec. Montejo added. (Joy Camille A. Baldo, S&T MediaService)

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