The Philippines is considered to be one of the world’s biologically diverse countries. It contributes more than fifty (50%) of the world’s flora and fauna and its marine waters support the richest coral reef communities on the planet, supporting a wealth of natural resources and an array of species diversity. It is one of the megadiversity countries and one of the global conservation hotspots, actually compromising a Conservation International Hotspot. This makes the Philippines one of the planet’s highest conservation priorities. Moreover, the country is home to a vast assemblage of species that can be found nowhere else in the world. Current taxonomic estimates show that the Philippines has the most level of endemism in the Indo-Malayan Realm on a per unit-area basis and the highest concentration of biodiversity on earth.
The government’s primary response to protect this important biodiversity was the establishment of the National Integrated Protected Areas System (NIPAS). However, the system currently excludes areas outside of the PA which are critical connective habitat and globally significant for conservation. The result is a high fragmented landscape, as affected by unsustainable agriculture and natural resources production systems and incompatible land uses. These are more evident at the level of local government units (LGUs) who are responsible for integrated management of lands under their jurisdiction.
The Biodiversity Partnerships Project (BPP) is one of the responses made to ensure that activities in the surrounding landscape conserve species assemblages and maintain ecosystem functions as well as arrest fragmentation major capacity constraints. BPP address conservation barriers through an integrated approach aimed at strengthening policies at the national level; enhancing capacities of the LGUs, and demonstration in selected pilot sites. These will be achieved through partnerships with key national government agencies, LGUs and national and local conservation NGOs, to muster their resources and expertise. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (DENR-PAWB) acts as the executing entity or Implementing Partner of BPP, closely collaborating with the UNDP.
Lake Mainit, as we all know, is the fourth largest lake in the country. It has a total area of about 17,060 hectares and its lakeshore has total length of 62.10 kilometers. The lake is actually divided almost equally between the provinces of Agusan and Surigao del Norte. It is most known for its rich fish resources. Barangay San Isidro in Santiago, Agusan del Norte is chosen as a pilot site for the development of a biodiversity-friendly enterprise through BPP because of the outstanding performance of SIUFMULCO, one of its People’s Organizations (PO).
The San Isidro Upland Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative (SIUFMULCO) is a beneficiary of DENR’S Integrated Social Forestry Program (ISFP), particularly the sitios of Bayababas, Mabuhay, and Calasonahan. The initiative started as a simple response of the community to support ecologically sound projects that address coastal resource management and the preservation of the Lake Mainit Ecosystem to help alleviate poverty.
From the Start to date
Its humble beginnings started in 1984 when the Mamanwa and Dumagat occupants from Sitio Sarog, San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte applied to the Bureau of Forest Development, Cabadbaran District to avail the ISF program. The DENR surveyed the site and issued Certificate of Stewardship Contract (CSC) to 25 occupants as tenants of the 95.20 hectares of land area. The action encouraged more occupants to apply for the program in the 1989. A survey was conducted at Mabuhay, Bayabas, and Calasunahan. An additional of 80 occupants were surveyed and issued with CSC with a total aggregate area of 234.71 hectares. At present, the total number of CSC with issued is 168 with a total area of 508.21 hectares. Later, the ISF participants were organized on November 4,1989 with Mr. Norberto P. Bartolabac as the first elected president. They named their group as San Isidro Upland Farmers Organization (SIUFO).
From CY 1989-1992, series of trainings were conducted to strengthen the Upland Farmers in managing their individual farm lots and the group as a whole. Sloping Agricultural Land Technologies were established in their farm lots. Tree planting activities were also undertaken.
On January 28, 1993, a DENR Administration Order No. 5 series of 1993, adopting selected ISF Model Sites and other Community –Based Project as Center for People’s Empowerment in the Upland (CPEU) and San Isidro ISF Model Sites was selected as one of the model sites in the Province of Agusan del Norte under DENR, Region 10. The ISFP was later devolved to the local government unit (LGU) under –R13, Caraga Region. The purpose of the CPEU is to encourage active participation of the SIUFO in upland development thru people’s empowerment and capacity building for the rehabilitation and conservation of denuded forest lands and convert them into viable economic and sustainable production units.
Like many POs, SIUFO also experienced failure in their management. Aside from the livelihood provided thru the program, the organization put up their consumer store as their first income generating project (IGP) to augment their earning. Its capital was taken from members’ contribution. The organization continued its project implementation but its growth has been minimal owing to lack of collective effort exerted by the members. SIUFO also ventured into money lending but was not that successful and eventually stopped its operation.
In 1998, the organization was transformed into a cooperative and was registered with CDA under CARA-0395 and named it San Isidro Upland Farmers Multi-purpose Cooperative (SIUFMULCO). The initial capital build-up was only P3,200.00 and as of December 1998 raised to more than Php17,000.00. On January 2, 1999 was the first declaration of dividend and Patronage Refund to the 37 cooperators.
Although the pace of organizational and financial development was slow, the small dole out project specially by DENR kept the members hope alive. The big opportunity for the organization occurred in 2001-2002 when the CBRMP-SUDP individual grant-loan-equity scheme was implemented. Equity for the members’ labor resulted to stronger project ownership. The enabling mechanisms and participatory processes in the organizational, financial and technical seminar-trainings resulted to increased members active participation in different cooperative activities.
Strategies and Approaches
DENR started implementing projects by organizing the Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) beneficiaries into an organization called San Isidro Upland Farmers Organization (SIUFO). It has a set of officers, organizational structure, policies and by laws. The organization had a monthly meeting. To encourage the members, DENR arranged tours and area visits to expose the members to other community-based initiatives. The DENR Project Manager and staff were perseverant in supervising and monitoring the organization’s program implementation. The PO received grants. The DENR’s Project Management Officer (PMO) kept of fanning slowly just to keep a spark on the organization’s smoldering member.Coordination and feedbacking was practiced to continually update everyone on program progress.
CBRMP-SUDP’s Community Organizer (CO) conducted home visits. The CO mobilized some contacts especially during the coop monthly meetings to invite members and non-members to social preparation seminars. Topics shared in gatherings include Awareness on the Economic and Environmental Situation, Ladder of Needs, Man as Steward, Government Responses (DENR-CBRMP-SUDP), Importance of Trees, and the National Development Goals and Vision-Mission-Goal (VMG) formulation. All these were given before the start of the project implementation. Coop strengthening seminars were also conducted. Usual inputs focus on Participatory Leadership Skills, Communication Skills, Facilitating Skills, Team Building, Values Clarification, Community Detailed Implementation Planning (CDIP) and Gender and Development (GAD) trainings. Community Monitoring and Evaluation, Bantay Bukid/Kalinawan deputization seminars were also provided. Moreover, Financial Management, Bookkeeping and Auditing Systems were also laid.
To support livelihood, seminars like Native Chicken and Ampalaya Production, Poultry House Establishment, Care and Maintenance, Entrepreneurial Skills Development, Business Planning and Natural Farming Technology System were undertaken. Agro-forestry had also its share of financial and time allotment. This was supported through trainings on Soil Fertility Conservation, Water Management, Contour Hedges Establishment using A- frame, Natural Pests and Diseases Control, Nursery Establishment & Care and Maintenance.
Billboards were installed for public awareness on the activities and programs undertaken by the cooperative. Education drives were also undertaken during the general assemblies, Barangay Council Sessions, Barangay Assemblies, Elementary School Classes and Coops programs.
The coop members were not required of any financial contribution before the project implementation to encourage participation. Their expenses were taken from their profit in the catering services during the social preparation seminars. Transparency was observed through financial statement monthly reporting.
Members’ participation is greatly encouraged in the process of decision making. VMG Formulation, Community Detailed Implementation Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Sustainability Planning, Savings Mobilization and Credit Management trainings were among the enabling mechanisms.
Seminars and trainings usually end with a practicum. Recording and bookkeeping trainings were re-echoed several times to refresh knowledge and hone transferred skills. Coaching by LGU, Regional-CBRMP, Central-CBRMP and frequent World Bank (WB) Supervision Mission had a Herculean force to enable the cooperative.
· There is no shortcut in people empowerment.
· Dole-outs are only good as starters. There must always be sustainability plans.
· Good organizational and financial management are necessary to attain empowerment.
· Good management needs openness to new knowledge, honesty, transparency and hard work.
· Never get tired even to ordinary meetings, assemblies, inventories, audits, monitoring and evaluation & re-planning. Motivate people.
Its role in local development
The Sloping Agricultural Land Technology (SALT) was implemented which aimed at preventing soil erosion did not prosper in some areas because of lack of maintenance. A total of thirty-six (36) members were able to benefit from cattle dispersal, where they butchered two (2) heads while thirty (30) heads which were sold and the sales were added to the income of the cooperative.
In three years implementation the program is expected to achieve the objectives on membership, capital build-up, sustainable agro-forestry, job generation, business expansion and increased income. Monitoring and evaluation of program success is also implemented, recording the following achievements:
1. Investment of P1.2M for the first year of implementation, P800,000.00 for the 2nd year
2. Additional income for the Project Implementing Team amounting to P192,000.00 for year I. 67% increase in sales volume from 2006-2007
3. Employment generation of 90 for 2006 and another 90 for 2007
As a continuing support to the commitment of the members to its organization, more funds were allocated to its programs. As mentioned earlier, the BPP in partnership with UP-ISSI and DTI assist LGUs and communities in pilot sites in developing and promoting biodiversity-friendly enterprises. This is to support the Philippines in mainstreaming biodiversity management into economic sector.
The LMDA acts as the Responsible Partner in the implementation of BPP in Lake Mainit. One of its deliverables is documentation of the identified and characterized existing and potential bio-diversity-friendly business and enterprises within and around Protected Areas or Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) of the project site. LMDA will also assist in the development of incentive systems and innovative financing programs to reduce destructive activities by PA/KBA dependent communities.
For this project, the DTI was able to secure P5 million funding and support from UNDP-GEF. BPP particularly targets to support the Abaca Fiber production of SIUFMULCO. This livelihood was initiated through the Philippine-Australia Community Assistance Program (PACAP) with additional funding and logistics support from LGU-Santiago through the Own Town, Own Product (OTOP) Program.