The exact reasons for the increasing interest in, and expansion of, forest plantations in the southern Philippines are unclear. Undoubtedly, however, a contributing factor was the extensive forestry education and training program conducted by various organizations.
During the 1980s, FAO, with assistance from Finland, carried out an "International Survey of Forest Harvesting Training Needs" in 29 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia (including the Philippines). Finland also collaborated with the Government of the Philippines in developing the country's Forestry Master Plan. The Master Plan called for major changes in the orientation and focus of forestry in the Philippines.
The new forest management strategy for the Philippines was strongly influenced by up-to-date information on the status of the country's forests. By 1990, when the new inventory data became available, it was very clear that the future demand for raw materials for the wood industry in the Philippines would have to be supplied by plantation forests. The country's natural forests had shrunk to only five million ha, with a mere 800,000 ha of "virgin" forest remaining. The inventory showed that nearly all previous efforts to protect the forest had failed. The Forestry Master Plan recommended that large portions of the government's remaining natural forest should be handed over to local communities.
New forestry legislation followed soon after the release of the Forestry Master Plan, supporting the proposed reorientation of forestry. Heavy equipment and high-lead cable technologies were banned in an effort to reduce the negative impacts on remaining forests. Most Timber License Agreements previously awarded to large private logging companies were canceled or drastically curtailed. Low-impact harvesting technologies, such as those developed for Philippine conditions under the old ILO projects were mandated. Serious consideration was given by the Philippine Senate to banning the use of chainsaws altogether.
These changes in policy and re-orientation of forestry in the Philippines pointed toward the need for a massive forestry education and training program. In 1991, supported by the results of the FAO/Finland survey of forest harvesting training needs, a new training program was launched. It was aimed at educating government and private sector forestry officials, field workers, and farmers in tree growing and harvesting practices. It was recognized that farmers living in upland forest areas, who by the early 1980s numbered more than 8 million, would have to play a key role in conserving the remaining natural dipterocarp forests.
On the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, the education and training program focused on tree growing and harvesting technologies. Finland's Forestry Training Programme (FTP), in collaboration with the Forest Harvesting and Transport Branch of FAO, took on the task of implementing a five-year training program in Mindanao. Government foresters, wood industries, local government units (LGUs), NGOs, and people's organizations (e.g., cooperatives, women's organizations) actively participated in the program.
In the early 1980s, as dramatically illustrated following the 1981 typhoon, no appropriate technologies for harvesting small-sized timber or plantation-grown timber existed in the southern Philippines. Ten years later, the situation was little improved. Although technologies had been developed, they were largely unaccepted by local people. The basic knowledge was available, but few people knew how to apply it or constructively use the technologies. The forest training program sought to change this situation using the "training-of-trainers" approach. Instructors were taught to demonstrate as well as teach labor-intensive techniques. The training of harvesting instructors was divided into three separate sectors of specialization, and the responsibility was shared among many parties within the international community. In the southern Philippines, with its large plantation forests, three organizations played major training roles: FTP/Finland, FAO, and USAID. Their areas of specialization were as follows:
FAO: development of lightweight cableways, and training in their use for environmentally sound forest harvesting.
FTP: development of manual- and animal-based harvesting technologies, including the manufacturing and testing of tools and implements; development and application of the pedagogical tools and materials for labor-intensive plantation forestry operations.
USAID: development of appropriate training facilities for instructors and farmer training.
New central-European light cableway technologies (adapted and introduced by FAO) proved to be very efficient in areas of up-hill yarding where the application of man- and animal-based technologies were inadequate. In the southern Philippines, 15-25 percent of the terrain requires up-hill yarding; the rest can be handled by labor-intensive man- and animal-based methods. For up-hill yarding, lightweight cable equipment with 80-150 horsepower engines, proved to be an environmentally sound solution. The biggest disadvantage of these systems is the relatively high cost of transporting wood, which is 2-3 times higher than the cost of man- and animal-based systems. Considerable training is also required to develop cable system operators capable of effectively rigging and operating the systems.
One aspect of the FTP training program involved sending key personnel to Finland for a five-month teachers' training course on harvesting and sawmilling technologies. Each course was attended by 14 teachers from around the world. By the end of the course, participants were well versed in the harvesting technologies applied in Scandinavia, where 80 percent of all wood is harvested by machines. They also learned to appreciate the extremely high capital requirements for infrastructure, training and salaries demanded by the Scandinavian and central European technologies. By the time the Filipinos returned home, they were convinced that manual- and animal-based harvesting methods were more viable and practical than capital-intensive systems under the socio-economic conditions in the southern Philippines.
In the early 1990s, the efforts of the previous 17 years to develop, test and apply labor-intensive, environmentally-benign harvesting technologies finally began to bear fruit. Earlier efforts were given a necessary combined push by increased concern that the country's forests were severely over-exploited, policy and legislative reorientation in favor of plantation forests and community forestry, and intensified international donor support for training and education.
Training Tree Farmers in Directional Felling