Upland farmers use cost-efficient technology to reforest grassland area in Zambales


A group of upland farmers has helped the government in bringing back trees in a portion of grassland ecosystem in Zambales using cost-efficient way and by enhancing the establishment of second-growth forest, environment officials here revealed. 

Arthur Salazar, deputy director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional office, said the Malatapi Community Livelihood Center, Incorporated (MCLCI) in Candelaria, Zambales, a people’s organization (PO) and beneficiary of the DENR’s community-based forest management program (CBFMP) has managed to reforest a total of 60-hectare grassland portion of their CBFMP area without planting any seedlings or additional cost from the DENR but through assisted natural regeneration (ANR). 

“What these upland farmers did is to find surviving tree species or seedlings including wildlings in the grassland area, then, they uprooted the grass around the tree, combined with grass pressing by foot to clear the surrounding of the tree species from weeds. This method of forest restoration is technically called as ANR,” he explained. 

He said ANR is a cost-efficient technology of rehabilitating degraded forest land and shrub vegetation by taking advantage of trees already growing in the area, and by protecting and nurturing it. 

“They have protected the tree species from grass fire and grazing by establishing fire lines or fire breaks to make sure its survival. They have also constructed look-out tower for regular monitoring against any forest disturbance,” he said. 

According to Minerva Martinez, chief of the conservation and development division (CDD) of DENR, the MCLCI have already replaced cogon (Imperata cylindrical) and talahib (Saccharum spontaneum) vegetation in their area with surviving indigenous forest tree species.

She said some of the tree species that have been released from grass and are now vigorously thriving in their area are alingogon (Cratoxylum formussom), tagpo (Ardisia squamulosa), salagong liitan Wikstroemia indica), kahoy dalaga (Mussaenda anisophylla), puso puso (Litsea sp.), molaveng aso or alagao bundok (Premna integrifolia), bitaoy bakil (Callophyllum pentapetalum), batno (Alstonia macrophylla), kahoy dalaga (mussaenda anisophylla), molave (Vitex parviflora) and pandakaking gubat (Tabernae-montana sp.).

Paquito Moreno, Jr., executive director of DENR Central Luzon said ANR is a technology being promoted by the Association of South East Asian Nation- Republic of Korea (ASEAN- ROK) Forest Cooperation Organization or AFoCO to fast-track the restoration of degraded forest lands and watershed with less cost to the government.

“This AFoCO project in Zambales is only one of the demonstrations of ANR technology. It is also being applied in Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Singapore to improve the ASEAN region’s forest,” he said. 

He said the four-year project, which was started in 2016, has provided MCLCI with various skills training on ANR application, forest development, landscape restoration, and vulnerability assessment.

Recently, 16 international delegates from Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Korea have visited the ANR area of MCLCI in Zambales to observe the successful implementation of the technology, exchanged best practices and experiences in forest restoration, Salazar added. 

MCLCI is composed of 35 members and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since 1997, and a CBFM program beneficiary of DENR, managing more than 1,400 hectares of forestland.

AFoCO was first proposed by the Republic of Korea in June 2009 and was formally established in November 2011 with Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam as member countries.