Sampaguita livelihoods of peri-urban Metro Manila, Philippines: key actors, activities, benefits and constraints

Constancio C. de Guzman1

The sampaguita [Jasminum sambac (L.) Ait] livelihood system in the municipality of San Pedro, Laguna, Philippines, is anchored primarily on the production of flowers and their preparation into garlands. The entire livelihood system involves eight key players: the farmer, the flower picker, the supplier, the vendor, the abaca fiber cleaner, the garland-making contractor, the garland maker and the garland seller. This sampaguita livelihood is an example of a viable peri-urban enterprise that links growers in rural areas to the marketing of garlands in adjacent urban Metro Manila. Aside from providing income and various types of employment to a large number of workers, the sampaguita agribusiness also offers several sociocultural benefits not only to its major actors but also to the community as a whole. Several problems related to production, post-production and socio-economics beset sampaguita livelihood. R&D agenda in support of the sampaguita livelihood system is proposed.


n the Philippines, the sampaguita flower, derived from the shrub Jasminum sambac (L.) Ait, was accorded the honor of being named the country’s national flower in 1934 (Rayoc 1968). The white, dainty flowers with soothing fresh scent are primarily strung together into garlands, which find their way as religious adornments in churches and homes, as decorative ornaments in wedding ceremonies and vigils for the beloved dead, welcome offerings to strangers and visitors, as well as tokens of appreciation and accomplishment for new graduates. The smallness and simplicity of these fragrant flowers actually belie the magnitude of dependence of so many people, mostly from the low-income bracket group, on this ornament as an important source of livelihood. From the sampaguita farmers to the garland makers, to the ubiquitous street children selling sampaguita garlands in Metro Manila, we see the often unrecognized contribution of the sampaguita industry to the economic well-being of its beneficiaries. As a valuable source of agricultural livelihood, very little is known about the sampaguita garland making enterprise. As an agricultural crop, not much research has been done on the sampaguita, reflecting its low priority for funding by research institutions. This paper discusses the results of an assessment of the sampaguita livelihood system in the municipality of San Pedro, Laguna in the Philippines. The collaborative project involved the University of the Philippines Los Baños, UPWARD and the CGIAR Systemwide Initiative on Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture (SIUPA).


Department of Horticulture, University of the Philippines Los Baños, Philippines.
From Cultivators to Consumers: participatory research with various user groups


The trading center for sampaguita and other flower ornaments is located in Nueva. where a thriving cottage industry of sampaguita garland-making exists (Figure1). its location relative to Metro Manila and others provinces in Luzon and bottom. while a number of households involved in garland making could be found in San Vicente and Magsaysay. Only 7 percent is devoted to agriculture. the provincial capital of Laguna. it has a total land area of about 2. It is about 29 km from Manila via the South Luzon Superhighway and 61 km from the town of Sta. San Vicente and Magsaysay. the specific villages surveyed in the study. San Pedro serves as the strategic gateway of Laguna from Metro Manila to the Industrial Estate CALABARZON. Some of the sampaguita farms are located in San Vicente. The study was undertaken last May 2001 primarily to evaluate the sampaguita agro-enterprise in San Pedro. Map of San Pedro. 230 Learning from other agricultural livelihood systems . Cruz.260 ha. PAMPANGA BULACAN BATAAN METRO MANILA RIZAL CAVITE LAGUNA BATANGAS A QUEZON LEGEND Farmer Flower picker Vendor Garland maker Garland seller Garland-making contractor Supplier Fiber cleaner SAN PEDRO Nueva San Vicente Magsaysay Figure 1. 62 percent of which consists of built-up areas. Classified as a first class municipality. Laguna showing at top. Laguna.The main study site is the town of San Pedro. The following villages in San Pedro were the focus areas: Nueva. reflecting the rapid urban development of the municipality.

The sampaguita livelihood system in San Pedro begins with the farmer. b) flower picker. The major actors involved are the a) farmer. The sampaguita enterprise in San Pedro consists of four major livelihood component activities: a) flower production. Michelia xalba DC. 5 flower pickers. ilang-ilang . e) fiber cleaner. f) garlandmaking contractor. The unopened blossoms from the evergreen shrub are strung together into garlands. and h) garland peddler. c) garland making. c) supplier/trader. & Thomson. Each garland is adorned with a pendant from a single blossom of any of the following flowers: ilang-ilang (Cananga odorata Lamk) Hook. In this sense. as well as inputs and services for the livelihood are still derived from adjacent and remote rural economies. Key actors and component activities. Features of the sampaguita livelihood system in San Pedro Product The garland is the major product of the sampaguita enterprise in San Pedro (Figure 2). The entire process of sampaguita garland making depends heavily upon the output of this primary producer. and d) garland selling. The town serves as the point of convergence linking farming activity in rural areas to the marketing of garlands in highly urbanized centers. the sampaguita livelihood can be described as still partially integrated to the urban economic and ecological system referred to as “eco-system” by Mougeot (1999). About 25 percent of sampaguita growers in San Pedro cultivate an area Figure 2. Michelia champaca L. Information on the municipality were obtained from the Offices of the Municipal Planning and Development Council (MPDC) and the Municipal Agriculturist. The sampaguita livelihood system as a peri-urban enterprise The sampaguita livelihood system in San Pedro retains much of its peri-urban agriculture flavor. Sampaguita farmer. On the other hand. f. The string is derived from the fiber of abaca or Manila hemp (Musa textilis Nee). The survey and interviews led to a profile of the sampaguita livelihood system. Part of the material and human resources.Features of the various sampaguita livelihood activities were determined from secondary data. b) trading and selling of loose flowers. the marketing of garlands takes place in adjacent Metro Manila. 6 garlandmaking contractors. Sampaguita garlands with (from left to right) camia . camia ( Hedichyum coronarium Koenig). or the white variety.). or champaca (the golden or orange variety. survey. and actual field visits and interviews with key informants. A total of 56 key players involved in the sampaguita agribusiness were interviewed: 10 farmers. 6 garland makers and 9 garland sellers. white champaca and golden champaca as hanging ornament. 7 dealers/vendors. From Cultivators to Consumers: participatory research with various user groups 231 . d) vendor. 8 suppliers. 5 abaca fiber cleaners. g) garland maker.

Suppliers usually channel their products to one or two vendors or dealers in San Pedro. meticulously separate the fibers into individual strands and bunch them together into one tali or bundle. camia or champaca. the basic raw materials needed for garland making include abaca fibers and any of the following flowers as hanging ornament: ilang-ilang. Supplier/trader. are brought regularly to San Pedro.5 ha. Most of the sampaguita vendors occupy the market store located on Garcia Street in the village of Nueva. Pila. The flowers used for garland making are harvested everyday at the immature unopened stage when they are already whitish in color. Calauan. San Pedro has maintained itself as center for garland making. sampaguita production has shifted to other per-urban and rural communities. and Victoria in Laguna. who is hired by the farmer. with the largest area being 1. respectively. Flower picker. find it more profitable to transport the garlands every Wednesday. the rest produce sampaguita in their backyards. however. They link the farmer from remote provinces to the sampaguita market center in San Pedro. Sta. Basically. with a peak season during the months of March. 232 Learning from other agricultural livelihood systems . with a plastic container tied around the waist for the harvest of the day. Suppliers usually carry sampaguita and one or two of the other raw materials. and Lubao and Floridablanca in Pampanga. Cruz. Delivery is normally done everyday. The flower pickers. In recent years. their job is to cut the abaca fibers into the required garland length.Calamba. however. Garland-making contractor. go to the farm early in the morning. The total land area devoted to sampaguita in San Pedro is estimated at around 7. They also eliminate the hassle for the supplier to deal with several sampaguita buyers. Sampaguita flowers throughout the year. Some. Atimonan and Lucena in Quezon. particularly those near major churches such as Baclaran and Quiapo.5 ha. Fiber cleaner.of 5000 m2 or more. The garland-making contractor (nagpapatuhog) buys all the raw materials needed for making sampaguita garlands and hires garland makers. Majority of suppliers interviewed in the study deliver their produce using public means of transportation. These vendors expedite the entry of the suppliers’ raw materials into the San Pedro market. Carmona in Cavite. Most of the vendors hire abaca fiber cleaners. but they also collect and buy flowers from neighboring farms in their respective municipalities. An important worker in the sampaguita farm is the flower picker. the supplier from Pampanga uses his own vehicle. April. The contractor then delivers the garlands to different parts of Metro Manila. who often cannot pay the suppliers cash upon delivery. usually children. Flowers produced by farmers from the neighboring towns of Cabuyao. Vendor. Wednesdays and Fridays are novena days for the devotees of the Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran Church and the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church. Suppliers generally grow sampaguita. May and June. Aside from sampaguita. Friday and Sunday to take advantage of the big number of churchgoers during this period. Sampaguita buds are not only sourced from San Pedro. locally called tagalinis.

The garland peddler. Laguna.Garland maker. abaca fibers are traded less frequently. serves as the final link of the sampaguita farmer to the consumer. It also appears that camia is the most preferred pendant flower. The fibers come from Oriental Mindoro. has about 100 flowers. Farmers reported hiring from 5 to 25 flower pickers depending upon the season. garland sellers. The plastic bags are subsequently stored in large styrofoam boxes with chunks of ice. Estimated number of key players in the sampaguita livelihood system in San Pedro.800 cans 55. Flowers are usually placed in plastic bags. A bag of ilang-ilang or champaca.8 million sampaguita flowers are traded everyday. while camia is sourced all the way from Pampanga. Volume and type of raw materials traded The estimated volume and type of raw materials traded in San Pedro are shown in Table 2. Number of key players The estimated number of key players in the sampaguita livelihood system based in San Pedro is presented in Table 1. San Vicente and Magsaysay. Garland peddler. The garland makers (tagatuhog) string together the sampaguita buds to form garlands or leis. 2002. Garlands are classified according to the number of floral buds per abaca string: de dos for 2 buds. who distributes them to garland peddlers. de dies for 10. who are found mostly in the villages of Nueva. on the other hand. 2002. On the other hand. Due to their durability. therefore. The largest group consists of the garland makers.000 pcs 1.600 kg/month one-liter motor oil can = 1000 flowers From Cultivators to Consumers: participatory research with various user groups 233 . Data reveal that up to 2. and so on. Bicol and Davao. de cuatro for 4. The fewest participants are the fiber cleaners. Table 1. Most of the supply of ilang-ilang and champaca come from San Pedro. Key Players Farmer Flower picker Supplier Fiber cleaner Vendor Garland-making contractor Garland maker Garland seller Number 20 65 30 5 21 10 > 3000 - Table 2. are believed to number by the thousands. Raw material Sampaguita Ilang-ilang Champaca Camia Abaca fiber a Volume/day a 2. Almost all of the garlands produced in San Pedro are brought to Metro Manila by the contractor.000 pcs 240. Next are the flower pickers.000 pcs 19. Laguna. Each bag of sampaguita contains about 1000 floral buds. who are actually based in Metro Manila. Volume of sampaguita and other raw materials delivered to San Pedro.

August. Net income of the case respondents in the sampaguita livelihood system in SanPedro. November. October. The highest income earners are the garland-making contractor and the sampaguita farmer.200 8. December.710 900 14. each earning more than P230.000 Flower Picker 3. January.000 5. When some of them became widowed at an early age.000 set by the national government for a family of six (Sarmiento 2001). Average Monthly Income During Annual a b Players Income (P) Lean Season (P) Peak Season (P) c Farmer 38. Making the youth productive. they saw the opportunity to feed and provide for the needs of their children through this type of work. September. These activities. including: Employment and income generation Table 3 shows the net annual income derived by the important actors in the sampaguita livelihood in San Pedro.250 166. this has provided them with a feeling of selfTable 3.800 Garland-Making contractor 44.776 27.250-m2 area 3 P50 = US$1 (Approximately) Learning from other agricultural livelihood systems 234 . Women empowerment. The sampaguita livelihood is generally perceived as a way of keeping the lid on juvenile delinquency.040 Vendor/Dealer 25.200 274. February for a 4.510 6. Laguna. no matter how minimal.446 1. The last three wage levels are still above the P12.900 a b c Peak season: March.360 Supplier 30.620 27. April. keep them busy for most of the day. these amounts help the poor meet part of their basic household needs.000 annual income that an average Filipino should earn to meet his or her food and non-food requirements. but are clearly way below the poverty threshold of P72. 2002.040 Fiber Cleaner 1. More importantly.362 90. This is exemplified by several of the women garland-making contractors interviewed.830 238.800 Garland Maker 3. garland making and garland selling are relatively uncomplicated activities that the youth can engage in.991 Garland Seller 12.040 10.700 12. Sampaguita flower picking. Socio-cultural benefits As important as the monetary returns are some social and cultural benefits derived by the household and the community from the sampaguita enterprise.600 1. Still.0003 yearly. aside from providing additional income. The lowest wage earner in the group is the fiber cleaner.Benefits derived from the sampaguita enterprise The various livelihood activities revolving around sampaguita garland making in San Pedro has provided benefits. May June Lean season: July.000 170.

The problems can be generally categorized into three: production. a sampaguita trading store is also in place in Kamachile. and extensive pest damage. post-production and socio-economics. The sampaguita livelihood also brings out a sense of loyalty and mutual trust among its key actors. Indeed. Promotion of loyalty and trust. honesty and trust ultimately provide the oil in the business machinery that makes the whole system move and function smoothly. Another problem Table 4. Loyalty. Problems and constraints in the sampaguita livelihood system Just like any other agribusiness venture. Key Players Problems/Constraints Farmer Extensive insect infestation Wilting of flowers with sudden change of weather Low price of flowers during peak season Old sampaguita plants Flower picker Skin allergy Supplier Price fluctuation Competition with other suppliers Nonpayment of loans by customers Lack better methods of storing flowers Fiber cleaner Hand injury Vendor Nonpayment of loans by customers Lack better methods of storing flowers Garland-making contractor Lack of capital Competition on supply Garland maker Hand injury Skin allergy Garland seller Skin allergy Competition with other sellers From Cultivators to Consumers: participatory research with various user groups 235 . The various constraints specific to the key players of the system are shown in Table 4. the matching of the skills that the garland makers have acquired through the years with the opportunities the sampaguita business continues to offer has made San Pedro famous for this unique system of livelihood. the intangibles make it sustainable. a custom handed down from one generation to another. In fact. 2002. Sense of tradition. the sampaguita livelihood is also beset with several problems. friendship. but suppliers from Pampanga continue to transport the bulk of their produce much farther south to the trading center in San Pedro. This trust has been indubitably forged by sustained years of productive and profitable business dealings. A primary concern is the reduction in the yield of sampaguita. Suppliers said some of the sampaguita dealers in Kamachile had openly cheated traders in payments for their deliveries in the past. Garland making is not only viewed as an individual interest to derive income.confidence to accomplish their simple aspirations in life. This only shows that although profit is the underlying factor that makes an enterprise viable. It is also a community tradition to be pursued. Problems/constraints encountered by the case respondents of the sampaguita livelihood system. This can be attributed to old age of sampaguita plants. rotting of floral buds with sudden changes in weather. Balintawak. A garland-making contractor was taught the rudiments of garland-making by her parents when she was still a child. Quezon City. particularly between the suppliers and vendors of loose flowers. and she has passed on the art and skill to her children and grandchildren whom she now employs as garland makers.

If left unchecked. if not eliminate.identified by the key players is related to the perishability of sampaguita flowers. lack of capital for garlandmaking contractors and non-payment of loans by customers as experienced by suppliers and vendors. Research and development agenda in support of the sampaguita livelihood system The current project brings to light a number of research and development opportunities that can be undertaken to support the sampaguita enterprise in San Pedro (Table 5). Foremost is the development of an integrated pest management (IPM) scheme to reduce. alternative storage techniques to prolong the shelf–life of floral buds should be developed. and garland sellers.442 in 1999 to 323. The potential danger of the chemical pesticides is not only faced by the farmer. flowers last about 3 days. This aspect will need basic information related to 236 Learning from other agricultural livelihood systems . Aggravating this dilemma is the perception that local officials do not appear to be keen in promoting the sampaguita industry. Under current storage techniques. the excessive use of pesticides in sampaguita. At the moment. If the land conversion plan pushes through. sampaguita-growing in San Pedro will be completely lost 10 years from now. farmers use chemical pesticides extensively. In coping. Agricultural areas. Socio-economic factors identified as constraints in the sampaguita enterprise include: price fluctuation. where competition for non-agricultural land use is very keen. the most pressing is the susceptibility of sampaguita to insect attack. will eventually be converted to meet the requirement. the farming component of the livelihood system is the only one that is being slowly eased out by urbanization. and sellers have complained of skin allergies in handling sampaguita floral buds and suspect that this was due to pesticide residues in the flowers. there could be no harvest at all. at about 153 ha at the moment. Determination of the nutrient requirements of sampaguita to enhance yield and quality also needs to be done. Information derived from this type of work can be used for breeding experiments to come up with new varieties that will have flowers of varied colors and that are more resistant to insect pests and diseases. A proposed land reclamation project along the coastal vicinities of San Pedro is proposed to fill the rest. The projected increase in population (from 218. The problem of flower bud deterioration with sudden shifts in weather conditions can probably be addressed through protected cultivation. commercial and industrial land uses which is estimated to be about 1990 ha (CLUP-ZO 2000). Moreover. In post-production. competition with other suppliers. A replanting protocol needs to be established to rejuvenate existing old plantings without drastically reducing farm harvest. sampaguita livelihood in San Pedro is threatened by rapid urbanization in the municipality.700 by 2010) will engender a corresponding demand for residential. There is virtually no local research report on the floral biology of sampaguita in relation to flowering and pollination behavior. The use of organic manure as nutrient source can also be investigated. Among the problems identified. Some flower pickers. garland makers. Loose flower trading and garland making still remain intact within the community.

and would need the help of research and academic institutions to find solutions to most of them. The commercial feasibility of extracting essential oils can be explored. traded and transformed into garlands in the municipality. The sampaguita livelihood system is beset with problems in crop production. Summary and conclusions The study on the sampaguita livelihood system in San Pedro. vendor. supplier. In particular. flower picker. abaca fiber cleaner. Laguna provided the following interesting insights: • Eight major actors were involved in the sampaguita livelihood system: the farmer. the sampaguita livelihood in San Pedro can be promoted as an agro-tourism venture and as a showcase of a thriving peri-urban agricultural venture. to circumvent the possible demise of sampaguita farming in San Pedro in the near future. In marketing. Other uses for sampaguita flowers can also be developed to address the problem of flower wastage during a supply glut. R&D agenda for the sampaguita livelihood system in San Pedro. 2002. It does not only provide employment and income. From Cultivators to Consumers: participatory research with various user groups • • • • 237 . Concerned groups should advocate for the inclusion of agriculture as an important and critical component of urban development. Laguna. local administrators and policy makers should be made aware of the significance and impact of the sampaguita livelihood to its household constituents and to the community as a whole. The garlands are subsequently sold in adjacent Metro Manila. post-production and economics.Table 5. garland-making contractor. Flowers produced in rural farms are brought. but also offers significant non-monetary benefits to a considerable number of people. The garland-making activity in peri-urban San Pedro serves as the focal point linking rural economies to urban centers. Finally. an in-depth analysis of the supply and demand for sampaguita should also be considered. Aspect of the System Production R and D Agenda Formulation of an integrated pest management (IPM) scheme Appropriate rejuvination system Breeding of new varieties Assessment of fertilizer requirement Protected cultivation Alternative post-harvest storage techniques Development of other uses for flowers In-depth supply and demand analysis Post-production Marketing the regulation of the opening and senescence of floral buds. Development of policies relevant to agriculture in urban areas is needed. garland maker and garland peddler. The sampaguita livelihood is a viable peri-urban enterprise. The local government must play an active role in the livelihood system particularly in matters related to judicious land conversion.

A. presence. Philippine Farms and Gardens. 37. A12. J. Laguna. 1999. Rayos. Office of the Municipal Planning and Development Council. San Pedro. 2001. Report 31. pp A1.J. Philippine Daily Inquirer. CFP Report Series. 2001.A. main policy challenges. Jr. Mougeot. 238 Learning from other agricultural livelihood systems . 1968.References Comprehensive Land Use Plan and Zoning Ordinance (CLUP-ZO). Urban agriculture: definition.V. 15 M Filipinos start day with no breakfast. July 26. August issue. potential and risks. Our national flower. 37 pp. J. Sarmiento. Cities Feeding People. p. 2000. L.

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