Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page


21. Forests for poverty alleviation: the response of academic institutions in the Philippines
Eleno O. Peralta
[30]


ABSTRACT

Deforestation has taken on alarming proportions in the Philippines during the post Second World War decades, and it is now among the six countries that account for three-quarters of recent deforestation in the region. The Philippine government has formulated the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2001- 2004 of which a key component is the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM), a national strategy in managing the forestlands resources and seeks to address the interlinked problem of forest destruction and upland poverty. While forestry research in the Philippines is handled principally by government research agencies, there are also non-governmental organizations (NGO) and academe-based research institutions that conduct various related researches. The Forestry Development Center (FDC) based at the College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR) of the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, was established to conduct basic policy researches in forestry and develop, or help develop, an effective machinery for forestry policy formulation and implementation. In view of changing demands for research on poverty reduction, especially in the uplands, the research thrusts of FDC have shifted to focus on areas such as improvement of the socio-economic well-being of the upland farmers and harnessing forests for poverty eradication.

THE PHILIPPINE FORESTRY SECTOR

The Philippines has a total land area of slightly less than 30 million ha. From a high of 21 million ha in 1900 (70 percent of land area), the country's forest cover was reduced to 5.5 million ha in 1999 (18.3 percent). Deforestation has taken on alarming proportions in the Philippines during the post Second World War decades. The scenario for 2010 has been described as "nothing short of disastrous" with the country's forest cover reaching a low of 6.6 percent of the total land area.

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development through the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) identified the following causes: poverty, lack of secure land tenure patterns, inadequate recognition of the rights and needs of forest-dependent indigenous and local communities within national laws and jurisdiction, inadequate cross-sectoral policies, lack of participation, lack of good governance, absence of supportive economic climate that supports sustainable forest management, lack of capacity, among other factors. These are the same factors contributing to the massive destruction of the forests during the past two decades: the tremendous pressure from an increasing population in search of land; ever increasing demand of fuelwood; the over-exploitation of timber resources; and inadequate forest development, management and conservation efforts. Consequently, soil degradation due to massive conversion of forestlands and grasslands to urban use and increased cultivation in upland areas remains a big problem. It was estimated that 45 percent of the country's total land area suffers from moderate to severe soil erosion, most of which is still unabated (MTPDP 2001- 2004).

Meanwhile, poor rural households have increased with the poverty incidence at a high 28.4 percent in 2000. This means that more than one-third of the country's population is living below the poverty line (MTPDP 2001-2004). Aggravating the problem is the observation that rural income distribution has worsened with nearly 50 percent of rural income being accounted for by the upper one-fifth of rural households in 1997 (MIPDP 2001-2004).

To remedy the above situation, the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2001- 2004 intends to promote sustainable management and use of its natural resources. To achieve this goal, the government will use four key strategies: (a) environmental sustainability; (b) broader participation of stakeholders in the management and protection of natural resources and environment; (c) equitable access to productive resources and services; and (d) technology-based production in the forestry and natural resources sectors.

A key component of the MTPDP is the Community-Based Forest Management (CBFM), which is the national strategy in managing the forest resources and seeks to address the interlinked problem of forest destruction and upland poverty. Based on current estimates, there are about 20 million Filipinos living in the uplands most of which had been characterized to be of low forest cover. This is based on the concept of "people first and sustainable forestry will follow" wherein upland communities are empowered to directly manage and benefit from the forest resources entrusted to them. The hypothesis is that when the issues of poverty and inequitable access to resources in the uplands are addressed, local community itself will join hands in protecting and managing the forest because it has an important stake on the resources.

The CBFM programme has the following objectives:

The DENR is the primary government agency responsible in the sustainable development of the country's natural resources and ecosystems. In implementing the CBFM programme, the DENR is guided by the following essential features:

These very recent developments bring into focus the role of research and development institutions in the Asia-Pacific region in supplying the relevant information and research results for a clear understanding of the sustainable forest resource management-poverty reduction nexus. This is very important particularly for low forest cover but high upland population countries like the Philippines where the challenge of the natural resources governance has always been to uplift the socio-economic well-being of the upland people and at the same time maintain the health of its environment and natural resources systems.

FORESTRY RESEARCH IN THE PHILIPPINES

At present, state-sponsored forestry research in the Philippines is handled principally by DENR through its Ecosystem Research and Development Bureau (ERDB), and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through the research consortia being coordinated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD).

At the same time, there are non-governmental organizations (NGO) and academe-based research institutions that conduct various researches in support of their respected mandate. One of these academe-based research institutions is the Forestry Development Center (FDC), which is based at the College of Forestry and Natural Resources (CFNR), University of the Philippines, Los Baños, College, Laguna. The FDC was established under Presidential Decree No. 1559 issued in 1978 to conduct basic policy researches in forestry and develop, or help develop, an effective machinery for forestry policy formulation and implementation. Its objectives include:

It employs three main approaches, namely:

In view of the changing demands for relevant research on poverty reduction programmes and strategies anchored on the natural endowments of the country, specifically in the uplands, research thrusts of the FDC and other academe-based research institutions will now have to focus on the following:

CONCLUSION

In its policy brief entitled "How forests can reduce poverty", the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presented an agenda for action composed of four major components on how trees, forests and forestry can contribute towards increasing food security and reducing poverty:

This four-point agenda for action presents a very good opportunity for academe-based research institutions to give a significant contribution to the global programme of poverty eradication using forest resources. Each of the strategies identified in this four-point agenda for action is a critical research area wherein academe-based institutions could innovate and seek their changed roles. As stressed in the World Development Report 2003, of the many interrelated drivers of socio-economic change and transformation, scientific and technological innovation is the first. Logically therefore, research institutions should be at the forefront in finding ways and means of combating poverty in the uplands.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anonymous. 1978. Presidential Decree No.1559 dated 11 June.

Anonymous. 1995. Executive Order 263: adopting Community-Based Forest Management as the national strategy to ensure the sustainable development of the country's forest lands resources.

Anonymous. 2001. Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2001-2004.

FAO. 2001. How forest can reduce poverty. Rome.

World Bank. 2003. World development report 2003. Washington, DC.


[30] Forestry Development Center, Department of Social Forestry and Governance, UPLB CFNR, Laguna, Philippines; E-mail: llreb@laguna.com

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page