The Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism

Good governance propels FLR in Carood Watershed in Bohol, Philippines

Year published: 26/03/2018

Forests are integral to providing environmental, social and economic services to the people in the Philippines. Alarmingly, forest cover declined from 16.9 million hectares in 1934 to 8.04 million hectares in 2015. To address this problem, FAO through its Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism (FLRM) is supporting the government of the Philippines in FLR activities to achieve its national forest targets and address local demands. Following is an inspiring example of how the residents of the island province of Bohol have worked together to improve the flow of forest ecosystem services at the watershed-level with FAO support.

Efforts to combat deforestation in the Philippines
The country has a long history of forest restoration, which started in the early part of the nineteenth century to address the impacts of deforestation and forest degradation driven by agricultural expansion, illegal timber extraction, encroachment and other significant factors. Over time, several forest restoration strategies were adopted with concerted efforts by government at different levels as well as stakeholders including civil society and the private sector. In 2016, an increase of 284,089 ha in forest cover was attributed to the National Greening Program (NGP), the government’s central approach to restore unproductive, denuded and degraded forest lands estimated at 7.1 million ha.

Recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has endorsed the Philippines National Action Plan on Forest and Landscape Restoration, designed to consolidate and promote landscape approaches in implementation of forest restoration activities. FAO has supported the development of this Action Plan and is helping implement selected activities under the Action Plan through its Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project “Promoting FLR in Selected Southeast Asian Countries” (TCP/RAS/3512) and through direct funding by FLRM.

The proactive approach of the Carood Watershed Management Council
On 7 and 8 December 2017, an FAO team visited the Carood Watershed in Bohol Province to provide technical guidance to the FLR activities being implemented through FAO support. The watershed, with an area of 21 714 ha in the southeast part of Bohol Province, comprises the municipalities of Alicia, Candijay, Guindulman, Mabini, Pilar, and Ubay.  Adjacent municipality Anda later joined the group, impressed by its work and results. The Carood Watershed Model Forest Management Council (CWMFMC) has, since 2003, helped to facilitate a partnership among the seven municipalities and involves the local university, NGOs, youth organizations and national agencies. Barangays (the basic unit of government in the Philippines) and its captains are also involved in the programs as custodians or focal persons in their respective areas.

CWMFMC members expressed enthusiasm for continuing FLR activities as municipal mayors said that co-management of the watershed has forged stronger cooperation among local governments and stakeholders. “There are no conflicts because we are focused on one vision for the watershed”, one mayor quipped.

Prioritizing land rehabilitation and livelihood provision
Unlike conventional restoration approaches, FLR aims to integrate forest restoration into broader environmental and socio-economic objectives within a landscape. Active participation of stakeholders at different levels is necessary to address competing land use interests in order to achieve both social and ecological objectives.

Addressing local people’s needs is at the core of CWMFMC’s initiatives. Rehabilitation of degraded lands from upstream to downstream ecosystems is a key priority of the council, which has exceeded its restoration targets through assisted natural regeneration (ANR) in 50 ha of degraded forestlands. Around 20 ha of fire lines have been established to help supress forest fires. As well, Agave sisalana, which can generate income through fibre production, is planted along the firebreaks.

The Council is also active in enterprise development through fruit wine production and assistance to communities in raising native poultry and swine. Restoration activities are strategically linked to the NGP and coffee planting has started in some areas. Communities and families are incentivized, through the cultivation of crops in the firebreaks and contracts to conduct ANR activities by locating new seedlings and pressing Imperata cylindrica grass to favour their growth.

Moving forward
FAO has been working closely together with the DENR and NGOs to advance FLR in the Philippines and that work has promoted FLR as an approach to restoring and rehabilitating degraded forest lands in the country. Christophe Besacier, FAO Forestry Officer, said he appreciated the watershed management council’s work as it “supports local initiatives, builds on local needs and the ownership is here”.

For more information, please contact the FLRM team at [email protected].

Maria Paula Sarigumba - Kenichi Shono