It has been known that the Philippines have vast forestry, or at least the country used to have. But because of excessive slash-and-burn farming and too much charcoal-making activities the rich, green forests are inch by inch crashing and burning into a dark and barren fate.
However, for every challenge there are always people and organizations who take initiatives to cause that great shift towards sustainability. Some companies have now acknowledged the irrefutable fact that they have social responsibilities. While the government pauses and ponders about the much talked mining concerns, a program to bring the countries forests back to their healthy life is in the works. Therefore, the environment is slightly hovering on the line that divides its crash and burn fate and being somehow revived.
Reforestation is viewed as a small but definitely a key solution to broader societal problems. Companies are now fostering empty lands and cultivating them by planting trees and seasonal crops as replacement for trees lost by slash-and-burn farming. The idea is for farmers to invest their efforts in agro-forestry other than the environmentally threatening activity.
A good example of this project is in Sablayan Penal Colony in Occidental Mindoro. Some minimum-security inmates were trained under a plant propagation program. They planted two rows of rubber trees separated by two rows of coffee and banana in a 17-hectare demonstration farm. The idea is to come up with a three canopy, agro-forestry plantation. It takes two years to grow bananas while it takes four years to grow rubber trees. The farmers can then plant bush crops such as cassava, sweet potato etc in between.Â
Same program can be put into practice by the group of locals living through slash-and-burn and charcoal making in Mt. Baloy in Antique. Mt. Baloy is one of the highest peaks in Panay and is vital to the towns living on its foot. The then towering and imposing mountain has turned into a giant bulk of dark brown land. It is a home to hundreds of locals. And sadly, the sustainability of their livelihood is in danger, mostly because of the lack of education and awareness.Â
If this livelihood through agro-forestry program will be implemented in all the provinces that has rampant slash-and-burn farming and charcoal production, in Panay or in whole the Philippines, it will greatly contribute to the conservation of our forests and in the end will contribute to the overall mitigation of Climate Change. It is almost like stoking a metaphorical fire, the passion to save the environment to keep the burning flame of love for Earth and the life in it, a blaze.*