Celo Coin Empowers Philippine Textile Workers & Opens Global Marketplace To Sell Goods Using Valora and Blockchain Technology
The power of cryptocurrencies lies in the fact of how versatile and quick they can be. The Celo community recently put this to the test in the Philippines. Celo has undergone multiple endeavors like this around the globe in places where making $3 or $4 USD a day is normal. This is the story how the Celo Community makes global impacts.
By Bernard Joseph Guerrero and Angelo Kalaw
The Nagbacalan Loom Weavers Cooperative in the Philippine municipality of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, was established in 1992 to organize the remaining practitioners of inabel weaving, a traditional method of textile production seen only around Paoay Lake. Comprised mostly of women whose single source of income is from weaving, the Cooperative had been a pivotal economic driver in the community.
While the money earned from weaving doesn’t guarantee a way out of poverty, it has provided the weavers with three meals a day and schooling for their children. But when the coronavirus pandemic hit the region in early 2020, it changed everything. Fewer tourists caused retail clients to close shops, and the weavers suffered financially as a result.
Before the pandemic, the weavers earned $3–4 US a day, on average. When the first lockdown was implemented in March 2020, income from weaving was lost. As time went on, so, too, did the lockdown. Textile production came to a grinding halt. Without any daily income, some weavers chose to abandon their craft; others were forced to borrow money from lenders at high interest rates.
The pandemic stifled tourism, cancelled fashion events, trade fairs, and expos, and exposed the vulnerability of the Philippine weaving industry. The weavers were robbed not only of their main source of income but also their identities. Many wondered how they could continue to call themselves weavers when they couldn’t afford the materials to practice their craft. The Cooperative was about to lose hope when word of their plight reached Celo community members in the Philippines.
The Celo community, in cooperation with ImpactMarket, a crowd-funding platform built on the Celo blockchain, approached the Cooperative to pilot an anti-poverty program that uses mobile technology. The weavers agreed, and for the following seven months, select members of the Cooperative received an unconditional weekly income of 10 cUSD (Celo dollars) right to their phones via the Valora mobile wallet app. The cUSD received (equivalent to 490–500 PHP) meant financial security in a time of need.
Because most of the weavers do not own smartphones, they had to borrow phones from their children, and then learn how to use digital currency. The community members helped each other understand and navigate the applications, and trust in the program was quickly forged. The weavers even agreed to designate three people to pool their cUSD to simplify encashment and to reduce the total amount of encashment service fees.
Overall, the impact of weekly income assistance through ImpactMarket was powerful. Watch Woven Lives on Youtube.
ImpactMarket assistance kept the weavers afloat temporarily, but the women wanted to continue to do what they love in the longer term by reaching more customers. While their products are of high export quality, the weavers did not have direct access to international markets or the knowledge to penetrate them. The only way for them to sell their products abroad was through middlemen, who profit significantly by undercutting and short-changing local artisans.
To take more control of their business and profit margins, Cooperative members came up with the idea to use the Valora mobile wallet as a payment platform through which they could accept orders from abroad. They also chose to use Google Docs to catalogue their products. In July 2021, they tested the idea by offering their products to members of the Celo community in Germany, France, and the United States. The pilot was a success, with the weavers receiving cUSD equivalent to $955 US in their Valora wallet from buyers of their products.
The easy-to-use Valora mobile app opened new markets to the weaver community, leading them to explore another decentralized application (dapp) built on Celo, PayChant. PayChant empowers merchants of all sizes to take advantage of cryptocurrency for fast, low-cost payments. The weavers opened a store through PayChant, which increased their visibility and helped them become even more independent.
Celo technology not only enables the Nagbacalan Loom Weavers Cooperative and small businesses like it to weather challenges, create more value, and sell their products globally, but also inspires developers around the world to help grow the Celo ecosystem by building decentralized applications for artisans and entrepreneurs on the Celo blockchain.
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