Home' Partners : Partners: The Philippines – the power of multi-disciplinary research Contents PARTNERS ISSUE THREE 2017
dozens of researchers at multiple field sites looked
at environmental, socio-economic and policy
factors associated with successful reforestation.
Alongside the wealth of data and journal articles
they produced, the project found that community
engagement is critical to reforestation.
"Our work is about how reforestation can
benefit people and how people are fundamental
to the success of reforestation," Professor Herbohn
says. "The two go hand-in-hand. Reforestation
is about more than growing trees. It needs to
be part of broader community development,
satisfying the requirements of the people on
whose land it is being implemented."
These requirements include a biodiversity or
conservation element, a production component
for timber or seedlings, and a livelihood
component including crops. Professor Herbohn's
research team tested systems incorporating all
three: "For reforestation to be successful they have
to be able to co-exist," he says.
The Philippines has been deforested over decades
through logging, land clearing and deliberate or
accidental burning causing severe environmental
degradation and resulting in tracts of unproductive
land. It is an issue that the Philippines Government is
addressing through the National Greening Program
that aims to reforest seven million hectares over the
next 12 years. The history of reforestation programs
in the Philippines is chequered, however, with some
successes but also failures.
Professor Herbohn says sometimes local people
were not invested in reforestation: "Communities
have been engaged to plant trees, but they've been
treated more as contractors rather than stakeholders,"
he says. "And because they have no real ownership
of those trees, survival rates have been low due to
the lack of plantation maintenance, especially when
reforestation funds are exhausted."
THE BILIRAN SOLUTION
Professor Herbohn's project embedded itself
within the upland community of Barangay
Kawayanon in Biliran Province---home to four
past failed reforestation attempts. The community
was engaged at every stage to implement a pilot
rehabilitation program. Drawing on more than
15 years of research, the project team identified
the key factors for successful community-based
reforestation. First on the agenda was to establish
a People's Organisation (PO), comprising about
30 families, to define the community's needs and
help implement and run the research.
"The team worked with the PO for about a year
before we even thought about planting a tree,"
Professor Herbohn explains. "PO members were
taught skills in record-keeping, running meetings
and accounting to ensure the organisation was
With new knowledge in plantation
establishment and post-planting silviculture best
practice, the PO worked with the researchers
to decide what to grow and where to use a
"landscape approach", where different species are
used in certain environments.
Some areas were planted with trees for
conservation and rehabilitation, while others were
earmarked for timber production. Cash crops
such as pineapple, cassava and sweet potato were
planted for agricultural production in designated
community farms and around forested areas.
Professor Herbohn explains that crops around
forest margins act as a buffer against fire and also
encourage community fire prevention. "They want
to protect areas producing food so if a fire does
come along, people are highly motivated to deal
with it," he says.
To increase their livelihoods, the PO learnt
about high-quality seedling production and
established a nursery program, growing seedlings
to supply not only the community's reforestation,
but broader rehabilitation across the Philippines.
The real-life setting has provided new insights
into the practicalities of successful rehabilitation,
which relies on community engagement and
opportunities for financial returns at different
stages of growth. "It's been very much an action-
learning process on a journey with the local
community," Professor Herbohn says. "And we have
been really pleased with the way it has worked."
Today, as the project is being finalised, the
researchers are reporting impressive results. Not only
are there environmental benefits, but the community
is also thriving. Income is being generated through
multiple channels, including agricultural crops and
nursery seedlings. As the trees mature, opportunities
will develop for timber products, including firewood
from early harvest through to high-quality building
materials in future years.
"Multiple products at different times during
various production cycles provide a mix of short-
term and long-term economic benefits for the
community," he says.
Lessons from the Biliran pilot will now be taught
more broadly, with the site to be used as a
national example of successful reforestation. "It's
effectively a learning laboratory where people can
see what best practices are and how they can be
implemented," Professor Herbohn says.
An understanding of the key socio-economic
drivers for reforestation and the importance of
building capacity and relationships between
different groups will also be incorporated into
recommendations to government.
The Philippines' undersecretary for field
operations, Mr Marlo Mendoza, says the Biliran pilot
provides a valuable source of data for rehabilitation
across the country. "The learning from that action
research project is really very important in refining
our National Greening Program," he says.
For Professor Herbohn, these words indicate
the research has had the impact he hoped for. "It
sends a strong message that what we are doing
is relevant," he says. "Our work is very much about
producing evidence-based policy and it's been
really fulfilling to have that research translated into
policy that then has impact on the ground."
This impact is possible thanks not only to the
meticulous work of Professor Herbohn and his
USC colleagues---Dr Nestor Gregorio, Associate
Professor Jack Baynes and Professor Steve
Harrison---but also through the relationships
they have built over many years with Filipino
researchers including Dr Ed Mangaoang and Dr
Art Pasa from the Visayas State University, who
have been the Philippines project coordinators
on several projects, as well as the Philippines
Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR), and other levels of government.
The project is also testament to ACIAR's
willingness to provide long-term support,
Professor Herbohn says. "It's very difficult to have a
project that runs for three years and immediately
have impact. It's from that sustained engagement
that the impacts really come."
PHOTO: NESTOR GREGORIO
One of the
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