Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Planting Trees

Posted by butalidnl on 18 March 2012

President Aquino issued on 4 March 2011 Executive Order 26 – the National Greening Program (NGP), an initiative to plant 1.5 billion trees by the end of his term in 2016. This would serve to absorb carbon dioxide. Many people have declared that this target is unachievable. Perhaps. But I think it would be good to at least try.

Valuable Trees
Previous tree planting schemes have indeed succeeded in planting trees; only to have the trees cut down by the same farmers who planted them. This is because they had been paid only to plant the trees. After planting, the trees themselves meant nothing to them; they were more valuable cut than left standing.

The key to a succesful tree planting, or forest preservation, program will be making sure that the trees are more valuable to the farmers when they are left standing that when they are cut.

Forest Wardens. One method would be to hire the farmers as forest wardens tasked to guard the forest. Better still, the whole community is given money to maintain the forest, as well as the right to exploit its resources (e.g. gathering etc). This does not include cutting the trees, of course.
This method is effective especially in cases where there is an existing forest. The wardens will guard against people who cut the trees there.

Commercial Trees. Planting trees with commercial value to the farmer e.g. rubber and fruit trees, is another way of reforestation. When these trees are planted, the farmer gets a continuous benefit from them. They will not only NOT cut down these trees, they will defend them with their lives (figurately, we hope).

Partnership with NGOs, Social Enterprises
The government could not plant a billion trees all on its own. Despite its resources, there are limits to government’s ability to mobilize grassroots groups and adapt to the local situation in so many places. Government will need to cooperate with civil society organizations. These organizations would be in a better position to relate with and mobilize communities to participate in the program.

Pasali, an NGO in Region 12, cooperates with the government (at all levels) as well as with grassroots cooperatives and IP tribes. It will mobilize all these to participate in a tree planting program. It plans to plant a million or more trees in the coming nine years, or till 2020 (and, if it receives foreign support, it will plant much more than that). Similar organizations in other regions will greatly speed up the implementation of the government’s ‘billion tree planting program’.

Indigenous Peoples
A big proportion of the areas where the trees could be planted are occupied by Indigenous People (IP) tribes. The government should improve the status of IP ownership of this land, specifically in their applications for CADT (Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title). If the IPs are ‘sovereign’ over their lands, they will be in a position to take better care of them.

Food security and the use of proper technology are also important. In Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, Pasali provided a Manobo tribe with a portable corn miller, as well as improved their technology for planting corn (SCI – System for Corn Intensification). As a result, this tribe is now self-reliant in food. They also now have a policy against the commercial cutting of trees.

A million trees is not much compared to a target of 1.5 billion trees, but at least it is a concrete target that helps achieve it.


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