Special Interview — Breathing New Life into Forests

Rainforest Restoration Project in the Philippines

Philippines Reforestation Project Overview

Since 2007, the Department of Environment and Resources of the Philippines, local government of Penablanca, the NGO Conservation International, and Toyota Motor Corporation have conducted the reforestation project in the town of Penablanca, Cagayan Province / Northern Luzon. The goal is to establish and localize a model of sustainable reforestation based on results we obtained in China. For phase 1 (2007-2010), we conducted 1,772ha reforestation. Since August 2010 we have implemented additional 728ha reforestation (total 2,500ha) and establishment of the model as phase 2 activities (2010-2013). In 2009, the project obtained a gold rating under the CCB (The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Project Design Standards).

Problems Tropical Rainforests Face

The Philippines was well known for commercial logging, for woods such as lauan, but it is actually not a common practice today. At the project site, however, we heard there was severe forest degradation. We went to talk to the local residents to search the cause. At that time, we found out that the cause of this degradation came from local residents using firewood to cook dishes outside on the ground and making charcoal to sell. The local residents are very dependent upon the surrounding forests.

While it was clearly important for their everyday life, the forest would continue to deteriorate if wood collection didn't get minimized. We discussed with our partner what we could do to prevent this from happening and decided to plant fast-growing species of trees specifically for firewood. Also, we looked for an Alternative fuel source. Then we found out that the local government was already working on turning rice hulls and the core of corn as fuel sources. We immediately thought "This is it!". We consulted with the local government and a stove manufacturer to introduce stoves that are specifically made for rice hulls. At the same time, we also wanted to provide a stable source of income other than collecting and selling wood from the forest. Local residents were eager to increase their revenue for the education of their children. As a result, we proceeded to plant mangoes, as it was requested most often.

Collection of firewood by local residents

Trees grown for firewood

Stove using rice hulls as a fuel resource

Haruka Kai

Assistant Manager
Forest Conservation Group
Greening Technology Development Department
Biotechnology & Afforestation Business Division

Yoshiaki Ishii

Forest Conservation Group
Greening Technology Development Department
Biotechnology & Afforestation Business Division
Doctor of Agriculture

Utilizing Experience from Reforestation Activities in China

We learned a lot from our desertification prevention project in China. With that expertise, we are aiming to reach our goals within 6 years in the Philippines. With our local partner, we discussed how we wanted the tree planting to be and what we wanted to achieve as an end result. We did this even before the project started using our chart of the previously established sustainable reforestation model. In addition, we calculated how many square meters would be needed for an area of forest dedicated to firewood for the locals, in order to prevent continued forest degradation. To replace the residents' firewood revenue of 12,000 pesos with mango cultivation, we discussed how many crops would need to be planted and for how much they would need to be sold. We listened to opinions of what they thought about maintaining and enlarging the plantation with part of their sales from gathered mangoes. Since there are other examples of similar initiatives in the microfinance field, we said "Why not try it?" and accepted their proposal. Any time we encountered any problems, we tried to be conscious of the big picture and would always go back and check again what the goal was.

Model of sustainable reforestation

Discussion with local residents (2nd person from right in back is Toyota personnel)

However, this project is quite different from the one in China. Who is the main constituent: the government or an NGO?. In China, the government was the main constituent. They could keep going with local initiatives even after the support of Toyota ended. But in the Philippines, an NGO is the main constituent. As with China, there will come a day that Toyota's support ends, so the current challenge is how we will settle these activities with the locals for the long term during the project.

Current Structure of the Project

Keeping the Project on Track

Planting of the trees for reforestation, the first step of the project, is almost complete. Countermeasures against forest degradation measures were also implemented by distributing stoves and planting trees dedicated for firewood. We also finished planting mangoes within the first 3 years. Now the residents are managing it themselves. Harvest will finally begin in earnest from next year, along with the distribution. We are brainstorming and coming up with applicable ideas to find out which method to sell at a stable quantity and price with the partners and local residents. This is related to the important part of the activities we are carrying out at the moment: establishing distribution channels and handing them down to maintain a mechanism of profit for the local residents.

In addition, reforestation fund management is in the days ahead; but cooperatives have already begun, which consists of gathering representatives recruited by local residents. I'm sure it's tough for them since they are not experts, without much experience in these matters, some of whom are housewives in everyday life. In addition to sharing goals and ideas, we believe that having passion while respecting their opinions would lead to step by step progress.

Members of the cooperative

Looking Forward to the Harvest

Mangoes take about five years from the time of their planting to harvest. Therefore, in order to earn money in the short term, seedlings of vegetables (such as eggplant and okra) were also distributed. 40,000 mango trees have been cultivated, at an average of 100 trees at approximately 400 farms in the entire region. They are steadily growing with local residents giving them lots of attention. We visit the farms to confirm the growing conditions, and everyone welcomes us with big smiles (laughs). Harvest starts next year, but some trees have already bore big mangoes. I look forward to seeing next year's results.

Mango and the local resident

Philippines Only Approach

There is a new initiative for us to increase the survival rate of seedlings. The associated NGO proactively decides the compartment, selects the residents in charge, plants seedlings and manages the project. We adopted the policy to have administrative costs paid in relation to the survival of the seedlings. That way, the local residents would have a strong reason to get attached to managing the situation personally.

However, the weather was more severe than expected. Sometimes as much as half of the year is a dry season, so we discussed steps to compensate this with the partners. What we learned from our experiences with the reforestation efforts in the desertificated areas of China also proved helpful in the Philippines. Toyota proposed measures, discussed them with the partners and then came up with mutually agreeable conclusions. Some of these discussions were so involved that we often found ourselves talking late into the night. We knew then that when we encounter partners with such passion, we commit ourselves to absolutely succeed with the project — all of us together.

Cultivation of seedlings

Discussion on site (Toyota personnel is on the left)

The model case for our efforts in the Philippines were derived from the Prevention of Desertification Project in China.
Find out more

Desertification Prevention Project in China

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