Agroforestry in the Philippines has been crucial in reversing the harmful effects of deforestation and forest degradation, generating sustainable economic and environmental benefits for upland and coastal communities and indigenous people’s groups.
The Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP) was launched in 2013 to address unsustainable forest management practices in several river basins in the Philippines. INREMP aims to restore the functions of the basins as providers of ecosystem services, which include wood, water, food and medicine.
INREMP aims to achieve its restoration goals by implementing various commercial forestry investment sub-projects and different modes of natural resource management. The sub-projects being implemented are conservation farming, commercial tree plantations, and agroforestry.
ICRAF is providing technical assistance to the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the implementing partner for INREMP, which is funded by the Asian Development Bank.
Agroforestry is defined as the science and application of producing agricultural and wooden products on the same piece of land, integrating farmers, livestock, trees, and forests at various scales. As of December 2019, INREMP had established agroforestry sub-projects in 99% of its target areas, covering a total of 14,307 hectares.
In these sub-projects, a variety of forest trees, fruit trees and crops are being planted, all of which have been providing diversified livelihoods’ opportunities for farmers in the four project sites: Chico Upper River Basin, Bukidnon Upper River Basin, Lake Lanao River Basin, and Wahig-Inabanga River Basin.
The evidence and success stories from these agroforestry-related initiatives must now be showcased as the world celebrates the International Day of Forests. This year, the Day has the theme, Forests and Biodiversity, with one key message emphasizing the role of forests in providing food, shelter, energy, and income.
Agroforestry can ensure that forests continue to serve this role for the people.
Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable sectors
Rodel Lasco, Team Leader of ICRAF’s component of the INREMP project and country coordinator of World Agroforestry (ICRAF) Philippines, explained the potential of agroforestry in addressing not only forest degradation, but also food security issues in the country.
‘Agroforestry has massive potential to meet the dietary and food needs of the most vulnerable sectors of society,’ he said. ‘At the same time, agroforestry systems help enhance the ecosystem services of landscapes, such as their water flows and carbon-storage potential.’
Agustin Mercado Jr, ICRAF’s conservation farming and agroforestry specialist, said that agroforestry, specifically multi-strata agroforestry systems, have multiple benefits for natural resource management and in the food and nutrition security of river basins. These benefits include preventing soil erosion and flooding, recharging groundwater, and supporting biodiversity by providing habitat and corridors between fragmented ecosystems.
At the community level, the Balungagan Farmers’ Association in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, generates high incomes for its members through agroforestry and tree farming. The majority of its members own around 3 hectares each, growing corn, banana, rubber, fruit trees, and vegetables. The Association also consolidates the harvested Acacia falcata of its members, from which they enjoy revenues of more than PHP 700,000 (≈ USD 13,750) per hectare.
Such stories compose ICRAF Philippines’ rich portfolio, which includes farming systems, forest and landscape restoration, biodiversity conservation, and payments for ecosystems services. This portfolio places ICRAF in a strategic position to widen the reach of the benefits that forests bring to the people and, in the long run, generate impacts that transcend the environmental, economic and social scales.