Like their lowland counterparts, they were called upland squatters because they had no land of their own. Going down to the cities was obviously not an option for them as they were not equipped to do anything but to farm. So, they stayed, and cleared small patches of the forest and grew cash crops to feed their families. Because of this rude agricultural technology they practiced, they were called “slash-and-burn” farmers or in local term, “kaingineros”.
Until the new concept in forest management that would harness upland communities in rehabilitating degraded areas evolved – the so-called social forestry.
“Social forestry came around in 1982, with the issuance of Letter of Instruction No. 1260. It was a novel idea at that time, drastically changing the concept of forest management as it made people living in the uplands at the center of development. Thus, the catchphrase “People first and sustainable forestry will follow,” explains Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje.
Through the years, however, it became apparent that there was a need to build communities out of the upland families issued with Certificates of Stewardship Contracts (CSCs) under the Social Forestry Program. This prompted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to improve on the program, maximizing community strength in upland development.
“The idea of community-based forest management (CBFM) is built on the principle of social forestry – a people-centered development program. Only now the people are seen as a community of development partners of the government to achieve sustainable forestry, while promoting their socio-economic welfare,” adds Paje.
So, by virtue of Executive Order No. 263, the CBFM became the national strategy in the sustainable development of the country’s forestlands. Latest DENR records indicate that a total of 1,790 upland communities have been awarded by the government with CBFM agreements that entitle them to make productive the land they till for 25 years, and renewable for the same period of time.
On Feb. 16, 2012 at the Fontana Convention Center in Pampanga, some 500 upland farmer leaders of CBFM communities are meeting with their development partners from the local government units, academe, private sector, other government agencies and non-government organizations, also numbering around 500, to chart not only the economic growth of their communities but also the vegetative growth of the country’s upland areas in consonance with the National Greening Program (NGP).
Launched last year by virtue of Executive Order No. 26, the NGP aims to reforest 1.5 million hectares of rural and urban areas up to 2016, through the CBFM strategy and national convergence initiatives.
Thus, says Paje, the CBFM Practitioners Congress 2012, with theme: CBFM: Kaagapay sa Tagumpay ng NGP, serves not only as a venue for sharing and learning the good practices and experiences of various CBFM projects that can be replicated by the participants, but also to improve the network base of NGP.
“We would like to see a strategic plan for CBFM vis-à-vis NGP that is mapped out by the CBFM farmers themselves, with some help of course from their partners. This way we are assured of their continuing support, as well as the sustainability of the programs,” Paje stressed.
The congress will also be highlighted by the launching of the “Revised Guidebook on ENR Community Enterprise Development and Management”, a compilation of lessons generated from the implementation of eight project sites covered by the project, Enhancing Natural Resources Management through Enterprise Development.
Started in 2008 by the Forest Management Bureau with support from the New Zealand government through the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the enterprise development project sought to transform CBFM beneficiaries, often referred to as people’s organizations, into competitive entrepreneurs by engaging them in natural resources-based enterprises.
Says Paje: “The project shows that there is a big window of opportunity for forest dwellers to be economically-independent. By enabling them to manage enterprises, we help them improve their lives, develop their resilience to climate change, while ensuring the availability of our natural resources for the generations to come.”
To give color to the event, four upland leaders are up for recognition during the gathering. One is Nely P. Alzula, who was recently cited by the UN-FAO in Beijing, China last year as one of two “Champions of Asia Pacific Forests” in recognition of her exemplary contributions to forests and forestry as president of the Regional CBFM-PO Federation in Southern Tagalog and as head of the Kapit-Bisig Farmers’ Association in Quezon.
The other honorees during the event are three people’s organizations who actively participated in another FMB project, Advancing the Application of Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR) for Effective Low-cost Forest Restoration.” These PO-awardees are the Alangan Farmers Producers Association in Limay, Bataan, the San Miguel Association Resources Team in Tanao, Bohol, and the Balagunan Integrated Social Forestry Farmers Association in Sto. Tomas, Davao del Norte.
Aside from the usual plaque of recognition, the PO-awardees will be given P75,000 each as their share from the US$12,500 cash prize given to the forestry bureau as winner of the Edouard Saouma Award for Excellence given by the FAO in 2011.
Aside from Secretary Paje, also expected to grace the occasion are key officials of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, DENR Undersecretary Manuel Gerochi, DENR Assistant Secretary Marlo Mendoza, who will present updates on the NGP, FMB Director Neria Andin, who will discuss the CBFM-NGP Roadmap, and Forester Rene de Rueda, president of the Society of Filipino Foresters.
® Public Affairs Office