Trading off solar power for forest conservation

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By Danny B. Dangcalan

A Walk in the Park

Saturday, May 17, 2014


SOLAR power in exchange for reforestation.

Two environment groups have forged a deal with the farmers of an upland barangay of Camalanda-an in Cauayan town to creatively preserve their forest.

Their homes will be lit up with solar energy, and in exchange, they will establish a 1.5-hectare bio-fence in the rainforest farm covering nine forest patches in Camalanda-an.

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The Ecological and Agricultural Development Foundation, Inc. (EADFI) and the Foundation for Philippine Environment (FPE) have signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the members of Camalanda-an Agro-Forest Association, Inc. (CAFA) for their Solar Home System project.

Signing the MOA were the farmer-recipients and FPE chief executive Nestor Carbonera, FPE executive director Godofredo Villapando Jr., and EADFI executive director Aladino Moraca representing EADFI head Ramon Uy Jr.

Witnessing the MOA signing were CAFA president Jemuel Dulla, barangay captain Ceasar Pena, and representatives of partner-agencies, namely, Ascencion Santocildes of DENR/CENRO-Kabankalan, Ronald Gareza of the Department of Agrarian Reform-Negros Occidental, and Gemma dela Paz of the Provincial Environment Management Office.

The CAFA members are also selected members of Bantay Lasang, a local forest conservation group.

Under the MOA, each family that is connected to the solar project will establish a 1.5-hectare rainforest farm bio-fencing. The agreement also provides that CAFA must implement a scheme for forest patrolling, bio-fencing, and corridor establishment in the nine forest patches they cover, work closely with its members to ensure that the agreement is complied with and to resolve issues and concerns related to the project among its members.

The signing was held during the ceremonial lights-on of Solar Home System at the Camalanda-an National High School last Tuesday. Immediately, 24 homes in the said barangay have access to solar energy.

The homes have each been installed with a 120-watt solar panel that could light a bulb, charge a cellphone, and power appliances, like television and radio. Each panel costs P28,000, Moraca said.

“This formula will be beneficial not just (for) the continued protection of the forest reserve but also (for) the community that helps preserved it,” Moraca said of the trade off.

Dulla, for his part, said that the Solar Home System will improve their means of communication, especially in reporting to the Cauayan municipal government.

“I am glad that we now have our own source of electricity. Before we spent almost a gallon of kerosene a week just to light our house,” beneficiary Casimero Nabalitan said.

Carbonera said they hope to install more solar panels in the community in June “to help not only the people but also in preserving nature.”

The switch-on also signaled the start of the Phase 2 of the EADFI-supported Southern Negros Cauayan Forest Reserve Biodiversity Conservation Project.

The switch-on of solar homes project in Barangay Calamanda-an came just two days of the inauguration of the 22-megawatt solar power farm of the San Carlos Solar (SaCaSol) Energy project in San Carlos City.

The P1.9-billion power project, inaugurated by President Aquino last Thursday, made history as the country’s first large-scale commercially financed and commissioned solar power plant.

The following day, SaCaSol led the groundbreaking of yet another solar power project in La Carlota City. It will be an 18-megawatt solar farm worth P1.8 billion.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 17, 2014.

Lifestyle

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