Good practices and innovations:
The CBFM program consisted of mobilizing and organizing communities actually and/or dependent to forestland for their livelihood and to establish agroforestry farms and tree plantations and prevent the entry of groups intending to exploit the resources in the forests. Under the CBFM agreement, the POs assumed an active role in patrolling the forest perimeters, and in monitoring and safeguarding the utilization of the forest resources. To help POs to successfully perform these functions, they are capacitated with the knowledge and application of sustainable agroforestry technologies in addition to the knowledge in setting up and maintaining seedling nurseries and tree plantations. As well, to remove the pressure on forest resources, the POs embarked on community-based enterprises. This involved the development and marketing of agroforestry-based products and engagement in trading activities.
In all cases, community organizing was identified as most critical in ensuring a functioning and empowered PO. It was the shared sense of mission and purpose that has driven most successful initiatives, owing to a common understanding of the implications of environmental destruction, and to a collective appreciation of the importance of sustainable resource management and protection. It was important in most cases that the benefits of collective actions were shared not only among the PO members, but also with the rest of the community. A significant number of cases mentioned the ability of a POs’ leadership to address conflicts among its members as very important in sustaining the good intentions and the outcomes achieved. It was important to regularly conduct meetings, to constantly share and update information, and to distribute tasks through committee work. It was also important that the POs were equipped to manage the financial and administrative aspects of their work, and to institute mechanisms for transparency and accountability within the organizations and communities.
Another critical best practice was the ability to draw and converge the various support from other groups and institutions. Support from own neighbors and neigboring community was particularly critical in patrolling the forests, as the experiences of successful POs showed. DENR, other national and local government agencies, and NGOs helped in providing common service facilities (such as farm-to-market roads, warehouses, water systems) which most of the POs used as leverage to also access technical and financial assistance from donors, academic institutions, and the private sectors. Such linkaging and networking activities were useful not only for generating financial and technical resources, but also in establishing the needed policies to ensure effective work. Especially in terms of drawing support from the LGUs, most of the POs were able to pursue local ordinances that helped set a favourable policy environment for forest conservation and protection.
Capability building that involved not only training seminars but actual practice, coaching and mentoring also characterized the activities of the successful POs. Many cited how the knowledge in agroforestry helped to significantly diversify income sources, thus, lessening the pressure on forests to provide for the people. In addition to the additional knowledge in planting techniques, was the capability-building for enterprise development that increased the income for many. This included training seminars and assistance in product development and packaging, market study, small business management. Finally, the technical knowledge in seedling production and managing tree plantations constituted the core competencies of all of the POs cited in this compilation. Their experience and track record in re-greening the forests constituted a major strength that enabled many POs to be awarded with more funds and contracts. A number of POs were given local and international awards for their outstanding performance in this area.
Socio- economic and environmental impact:
PO members used to be illegal loggers, kaingineros, and charcoal makers. The CBFM program shifted their orientation and developed in them a deeper appreciation for the environment. Today, their main preoccupations include reforestation, collection of wildlings, and the planting of indigenous tree species. With the forests and its fauna now richer and more diverse, there is a greater buffer for weather disturbances such as extremely heavy rains and heat. For mangrove areas, increased mangrove forest cover brought about an increase in fish catch which enabled fishing households to get sustenance not only for their food needs but also from the sale of their extra catch. Increased mangrove and forest cover also aided in the development of physical barriers against storms and typhoons, while creating a haven of breeding grounds for diverse marine and mangrove resources to flourish. It also reduced pollution through carbon-sink, reduced erosion in coastline and uplands, and brought about a more stabilized forest- and coast-line.
The members feel they belong to a truly empowered people’s organization, one that is able to make sound and informed decisions and operationalize plans and programs. For almost all of the POs in this compilation, the sense of unity, cooperation, enthusiasm and camaraderie among their members have grown steadily through the years. They grabbed every opportunity for self- and organizational development by attending all invitations for seminars and training. It helped that the benefits of the organization were distributed directly and fairly among members of the organization. It also helped that the POs’ projects, especially common service facilities, benefitted not only their members but also the entire community. The POs‘ confidence also grew from the fact that their organization increasingly gained support not only from DENR but also from the LGUs, NGOs,and donors.
The success in their alternative enterprises helped to significantly lessen the pressure and destructive impact of kaingin in the forests. It also helped to improve the living standards of family members as manifested in better housing conditions, more employment, more consistent enrolment and attendance of children in school as increases in income were generated from forest trees, agroforestry products, ecotourism, livestock and poultry, and sale of fish catch from the fish ponds.
For most POs, the early years had been difficult as the challenge of community organizing combined with the task of setting up agroforestry farms and tree plantations. This put a heavy workload on the organization. Social preparation had also been difficult. Expectedly, in the early stages of organization, people were solely concerned with money so they were more after the output rather than the quality of their work. Only later, after much persistence and perseverance by the PO, would they realize the value of the program on their own personal lives, on the community, and on the environment. The POs who successfully survived this difficult phase look back to their early years for lessons and inspiration. They continue to believe that persistence, commitment, and hard work will go a long way in convincing community members and other institutions and agencies that their organization is truly worthy of support. They believe that others will be more willing to help those organizations that know how to help themselve.
Climate change has also started to significantly impinge on the CBFM areas. Many POs have observed the occurrence of more frequent rains in recent times, in addition to the lengthening periods of drought, extreme heat, and occasionally, floods. The POs believe that continuing extensive reforestation is still the way to counter and prepare for the harsh impacts of climate change. More trees in the uplands and mangrove areas translate to greater absorption capacity of the soil during the rainy seasons, and better cooling effect during summer. In addition, most of the PO members have adapted by shifting their planting and harvesting schedules and by planting more resilient indigenous tree species. Still a number of them have expressed an intention to seek capability-building assistance from support groups, in the area of climate change adaptation and mitigation and disaster preparedness.
A continuing challenge for POs is the forcible intrusion of outsiders into the CBFM area. Every now and then, strangers would slip past their community security mechanisms. Such incidents had been immediately reported to DENR. The POs have asked for assistance from the agency and from LGUs in putting up buffer for additional security, and in subsidizing allowances for forest patrols. They also recruited more and more community members to join their organization to expand the human fence.
The unpredictability of market and the difficulty of access to market have also been an area of difficulty. There have been cases when prices in the market suddenly dropped, causing the PO members to incur losses. In some areas, farm-to-market and access roads have been recently destroyed by typhoons and flooding. The POs have expressed a need for more focused assistance in this aspect. Some POs have worked doubly to improve product quality in order to become more competitive in the market. Currently, they try to cope by “working harder” and by never giving up.
A number of POs have expressed continuing difficulties in relaying and disseminating the program’s objectives to others. It helped that they have been oriented to the ways of community organizing, so that many members have taken ownership of the project and have been helping the PO leaders to explain to others. Many of the POs feel there is a continuing need to sustain capacity-building, and to link with partners and networks. It is necessary to have continuous monitoring of the projects alongside the conduct of information and education campaign and documentation of learning experiences. A few of them have also related about plans to document indigenous/traditional practices in natural resources management and protection.