The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has linked forest communities in Lake Lanao with abaca exporter Newtech Pulp Inc., bringing hope of sustained livelihood while conserving the watershed that is the largest hydroelectric source in Mindanao.
Three people’s organizations (PO) are now partners of Newtech Pulp in the supply of abaca fiber. Newtech Pulp has an abaca pulp manufacturing plant in Maria Cristina Balo, Lanao del Norte
The POs are Sunrise Producer Association, Wato Balindong Farmers Cooperative and Sania Farmers Association. These POs operate in Piagapo, Balindong, and Maguing all in the Province of Lanao del Sur.
Newtech Pulp is sourcing abaca fiber from an estimated 200 hectares of abaca plantation that are under DENR’s Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP).
“These people’s organizations used to harvest (rice and other crops like abaca, and banana) just once a year. Their production in abaca is being sustained because they are now supplying directly to Newtech Pulp Inc.,” said Samsodin Taha, operations manager at INREMP’s Lake Lanao River Basin (LLRB).
The LLRB within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim MIndanao (BARMM) is the largest lake in Mindanao. It is also known to be one of 15 ancient lakes of the world.
Lake Lanao’s hydroelectric facilities provide 65% of Mindanao’s power demand.
However, Lake Lanao’s watersheds have been confronted with deforestation, unsustainable farming, limited economic opportunities, and limited development projects. All of these further worsen natural resources degradation and poverty.
INREMP has integrated a Maranao Ethnic Development Plan in its natural resources program in LLRB. The Maranaos have kept their own culture in keeping with the environment under the Al Khalifa Islamic concept of people as stewards of nature.
However, due to pervasive poverty, some residents have resorted to illegal resource extraction and conversion of forests into farm lands.
This is why DENR has carried out extensive natural resourcemanagement or NRM in LLRB.
As of the end of May, NRM includes a reforestation area of 145 hectares and agroforestry area of 1,300 hectares.
Commercial tree plantation covers 527 hectares; and conservation farming, 110 hectares.
Forest trees planted under CTP are the following: Falcata and Mahogany.
For conservation farming, the trees include fruit trees such as Durian, Rambutan, Lanzones, forest trees such as Falcata and Mahogany, together with cash crops and root crops.
Agroforestry areas are planted with rice, corn, banana, and palapa or white dallion (a root crop used as an appetizer) and fruit trees and forest trees.
Reforestation areas are planted with Narra and Lauan.
The NRM at Lake Lanao has a total of P78 million budget.
DENR is looking further in partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR-LDS), Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (MENRE-LDS), and Department of Agriculture (DA) for a future expansion of the abaca plantation.
If these three agencies will infuse investment into the abaca project, the LLRB abaca area can expand by three times more in the future, Taha said.
INREMP covers rehabilitation of six subwatersheds in LLRB These are the subwatersheds of Marawi-Saguiaran, Ramain, Malaig, West, Taraka, and Gata.
INREMP is jointly funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Philippine government.
INREMP’s livelihood enhancement includes provision of a turmeric processing machine for the Mapantao-Saguiaran People’s Organization and its mini warehouse.
A solar drying pavement has been put up for Dimapatoy Farmers Association.
An abaca stripping machine has been provided for the Harith Tree Planting Farmers Association.
There are six rural infrastructure projects in the LLRB site and 29 Livelihood Enhancement Support projects. Beneficiaries are a total of 41 people’s organizations involved in NRM.
Rural infrastructure has a total of P97 million budget.
An ADB project profile indicated that the rural Infrastructure projects include access roads, farm-to-market access facilities, and potable water supply.
INREMP provides small irrigation systems in forest lands that do not have access to the National Irrigation System and Communal Irrigation System.