Paus Javier is a rural farmer on the Philippine island of Luzon, a father of seven who used to make a living from kaingin (slash-and-burn agriculture) and charcoal production. Now, through a local reforestation initiative, he is paid to plant native seedlings and fruit trees on land previously cleared for agriculture and fuelwood. Through these reforestation activities, Javier's income has tripled, and he now can afford to send most of his children to school.
Javier's family is just one of hundreds benefitting from the Philippine Peñablanca Sustainable Reforestation Project – a joint initiative of Conservation International (CI), the Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan, the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the local government of Peñablanca.
IN DEPTH: Learn more about reforestation and agroforestry in the Philippines.
This week at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, world leaders are trying to decide where, when and how to best conserve our global biodiversity. More than a thousand miles away, Peñablanca is a shining example of how biodiversity conservation can easily be integrated with community development goals – creating a "win-win" for people and nature.
IN DEPTH: Indigenous rights and forest protection in the Philippines
The expansion of forest cover through the Philippine Peñablanca Sustainable Reforestation Project has already led to signs of recovery within the landscape. Recent assessments have shown a decrease in soil erosion, an increase in water storage capacity, and a resurgence of bird and other species populations on reforested lands.
Peñablanca's Hidden Treasures
In Cagayan province on northern Luzon – the largest of the Philippines' more than 7,000 islands – the old-growth forests of Peñablanca protect a rich ecological and cultural history. An intricate system of more than 200 underground caves is hidden by the forests above, which house ancient archaeological remains and some 280 species of plants and 178 species of animals, including the Isabela oriole (Oriolus isabellae) and the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the country's national bird. Both of these species are classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.
The Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape is one of the country's Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), a territory whose protection is critical in order to ensure the survival of many of the Philippines' most unique and treasured species. This forest is equally important for the health and livelihoods of local people. The Pinacanauan River gushes down from the Sierra Madre Mountains, supplying drinking water for nearby Tuguegarao City and providing crop irrigation for farmers. However, illegal deforestation threatens the preservation of these valuable forests; the clearing of land has already decimated other vibrant forest ecosystems across much of the country.
The Philippine eagle is one of the largest and rarest birds of prey in the world.Money Grows on Trees
Begun in 2007, the Philippine Peñablanca Sustainable Reforestation Project is working to curb deforestation and restore ecosystems by providing positive incentives for local communities. The project pays farmers to raise seedlings in nurseries and plant native trees in degraded areas.
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In order to reduce unregulated tree cutting in forests, certain plantations are being established by farmers and communities exclusively for harvesting fast-growing native fuelwood trees. Additionally, by interspersing fruit trees like mango, cacao, coffee, mandarin and rambutan with their existing crops, farmers can secure an additional long-term source of income. The project also distributes vegetable seeds which can help farmers supplement their income until the fruit trees are mature enough to bear fruit.
So far, more than 1,772 hectares (4,380 acres) have been reforested – more than 1.36 million trees. Besides payment for their work, the project also provides farmers with training on sustainable agricultural skills, such as the use of organic fertilizer.
Replanting a Forest
The expansion of forest cover in the project area has already led to signs of recovery within the landscape. Recent assessments have shown a decrease in soil erosion, an increase in water storage capacity, and a resurgence of bird and other species populations on reforested lands.
The project also has an additional benefit: more trees absorb more carbon from the atmosphere and play an important role in curbing global climate change. In December 2009, Peñablanca was awarded the "Gold" rating under the Climate, Community and Biodiversity (CCB) Standards, a set of measurements that evaluates forest-based carbon mitigation projects to foster the integration of multiple benefits, from biodiversity conservation to community development.
PRESS RELEASE: Toyota and Conservation International's Philippines Forestry Project Gets the Gold Seal of Approval
Last month, the project launched its second phase, which will reforest an additional 728 hectares (1,800 acres) over the next three years. As part of Toyota's corporate social responsibility initiative, local company employees are helping the communities to plant trees. The second phase of the project will also embark on another method to curb deforestation: the distribution of cookstoves that use rice hulls as an alternative source of fuel, as well as more efficient firewood cookstoves .
LEARN MORE: Creating Conservation Through Cookstoves and Small Changes, Better Lives.
Perhaps the most important goal of the project is securing long-term financing that will allow community residents to continue their reforestation activities once the initial funding runs out. Ten percent of the income from the farmers' fruit sales goes toward a fund they collectively manage that aims to sustain and expand future reforestation efforts. If this pattern continues, the incentives for local people to keep their forests standing should continue to grow with the trees.
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