DA-WV’s Cacao Man Wins National CSC Pagasa Award

Posted by: RAFIS DA6 | Posted at: February 26, 2024

Relvin B. Paragua, 40 years old and a dedicated agriculturist, pioneered revitalizing the cacao industry in Western Visayas. Before he decided to join the Department of Agriculture Western Visayas (DA-WV), he was a field technician assisting cacao farmers with USDA and USAID projects. Despite private organizations’ efforts to popularize cacao in the region, farmers still need a more profound adaptation of its technology. Relvin decided to join DA-WV and realized there was no existing cacao expert in the agency, only himself. With his strong desire to respond to the call of farmers to learn, he spent his weekends with them, bringing his kids wherever he went; farmlands became the latter’s playground—shedding both sweat and tears while looking at his kids from afar, thinking soon they are going to understand his sacrifices with the farmers. In 2014, he started capacitating farmers to see the value of cacao, mounting a series of technical training, which led to his organizing farmers’ cooperatives, product development, commercialization, marketing, and exporting to the international arena- the process was never easy. No one believes in him.  

 Asserting leadership, Mr. Paragua and the DA -WV High Valued Crops Development Program Cacao Community developed the project “Bean to Bar,” which anchored on the value-chain approach – developing and promoting commodity potential for food security, health and wellness benefits, and economic inclusion. Relvin was then fondly called ‘The Cacao Man’ of DA-WV.

 Recently, Mr. Paragua is one of the four (4) National Awardees from Region 6 in the 2023 Search for Outstanding Government Workers during the awards rites held at the Malacañang Palace on February 14, 2024.As one of the awardees for Pagasa category, he received a plaque containing the citation and signature of the CSC Chairperson, a gold-gilded medallion, and a cash reward of Two Hundred Thousand Pesos (P200,000.00). The Search for Outstanding Government Workers is an annual undertaking of the CSC to recognize government workers who exemplified outstanding performance and inspired others with their dedication and commitment to providing quality and excellent public service.

Cacao is a fruit that grows on the Theobroma cacao tree, blooming in scattered areas from its trunk and mid branches. The fruit boasts an impressive size and an elongated shape, accompanied by a rough outer shell that necessitates cracking to reveal its hidden treasures. Comes in all sorts of beautiful colors, ranging from yellows to greens and bright reds. Once you break open the pods, you’ll find a wall half an inch thick; on an internal stem, there are about 30 to 60 beans, each covered in a pulpy white fruit.

Moreover, cacao is grown primarily for its beans, which are processed into cocoa powder, cake, and butter. These are used mainly to manufacture chocolates, soaps, cosmetics, shampoo, and other pharmaceutical products. Cacao beans produced by smallholder farmers are mainly processed naturally into ‘tablea’ (a popular native chocolate confection used in a hot and strong chocolate drink).

The Bean to Bar project emphasizes on developing a value chain analysis for cacao production in the region, capacitating farmers, identifying and developing technology adopters to be small and medium-scale cacao product producers, and marketing all products produced from the technology. 

 The project significantly propelled the improvement and stability of the supply and quality of cacao and cacao products in the region. In 2020, the creation of a cacao nursery in Pototan, Iloilo served as a unicorn of hope and kept the farmers for something they believed more than magical: the gold in the mid of the passageway. The establishment of four (4) Bean to Bar processing centers for the Panay Organic Producers Association (POPA) Cooperative, Capiz Cacao Provincial Council, Patnongon Cacao Growers Association, and Dingle Cacao Growers Association was a true game changer in the industry. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) came to join as partners- key players that helped to keep the race achieve the gold. 

 The project mounted 15 technology training and generated technology adopters. As one of the project areas, Dingle, Iloilo is now rising as the ‘Cacao Hub of Western Visayas,’ creating jobs for locals and adding income to farmers. Capiz finally had their chocolate factory, allowing them to put a higher value on the harvest of the 45 cacao farmers in the province. 

  Cacao chocolates, tablea, chocolate syrups, cocoa powder, and many more are now available in major regional malls. Often, the star among the products during KADIWA Trade Fairs. This project created a multi-million-life changer-inclusive industry.

 The mentoring aspect of the project has moved beyond the typical training as farmers’ products became recipients of various promising awards, such as the 2020 Panublion Heritage Fair Best Product of Western Visayas (food Category) and the 2021 Philippine Cocoa Quality Award. Chris Fadriga, a farmer from Negros Occidental, claims a life-changing experience as his cacao chocolate garnered the Salon de Chocolat Competition’s GOLD AWARD, held in Paris, France.  

Relvin, a.k.a. Cacao Man’s professionalism coupled with responsiveness to the public, burning commitment and love in serving the farmers’ sector and the products made by their own hands keeps him in this race until every farmer, entrepreneur, and community see cacao as gold. ###