THE Bureau of Fire Protection and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) may not take kindly to this suggestion. But let us farm what remains of our forests if we must save them.
So many tree planting activities done throughout the decades and years but left alone, the forest has been continuously burned down annually and encroached, its size trimmed, slowly gone and converted to all kinds of uses.
The fast forest decline could possibly be hindered. Will communities be encouraged to protect and care what remains of the forest through agroforestry which comes across to me as “farming the forest.”
That is how the concept and modern practice of agroforestry play out with me after a visit to the Benguet State University (BSU) Institute of Highland Farming Systems and Agroforestry (IHFSA) in Bektey, Puguis, La Trinidad, Benguet.
The IHFSA was established several decades ago. It inspires an agroforestry practice of growing coffee under the pine stands without clean cutting the trees, burning them down, and plundering or abusing the pine forest as is done when you cut the forest down for sun-farming.
Visit the IHFSA and you get out knowing how the pine forest can be farmed while taking good care of its trees too. The practice allows you to preserve the integrity of the forest as a living creature that sustains us all. It is co-existence and conservation, not a termination of the forest that is essential to the pursuit of agriculture over the long term.
An older version to the BSU IHFSA agroforestry practice (coffee under pine trees) is the “Imong” in upper Kalinga.
The “imong” could originally be a dense or sparse natural forest, grassland or other land use but improved through assisted natural regeneration or planting of selected natural forest trees, industrial and fruit trees together, and other agricultural crops.
The BSU model and “Imong” farming are critical in understanding and promoting agroforestry in the highlands, not just the planting of fruit and industrial trees in open lands. It is the pursuit of agriculture and forestry combined in a piece of land.
Many of our forest lands today are in dire need of regeneration.
Let us plant fruit and industrial trees while conserving what remains of our natural forest trees. Grasslands, open lands, private lands, any land can be farmed if necessary through agroforestry.
A major problem in the pursuit of reforestation and agroforestry for that matter is the lack of planting materials.
This is why nursery establishment is important to both pursuits.
The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) here in Guisad, Baguio City, may have done a great service to the continuing quest of agroforestry and reforestation by maintaining a coffee nursery in the compound since the 1990s for the propagation and dispersal of Arabica Coffee seedlings and other fruit trees.
Mr. Leo Balagot, farm worker l, and a comely gentleman along with contracted personnel operate the Arabica coffee nursery.
I have been working with the BPI since 1988, moving from one project of the agency to another including the potato and banana rehabilitation projects. I was assigned to handle the coffee nursery in 2007 until now, he told me.
Throughout the years that he handled the nursery, the highest number of seedlings they produced and dispersed in a year was 10,000. This year, that number is down to a target of 5,000 seedlings.
I have noted some matured Typica Arabica inside the nursery.
We do not produce seedlings from those trees anymore, he said.
“The seedlings we produce are from our National Seed Industry Council registered trees. These are the Red Bourbon, Yellow Bourbon, and Caturra Arabica coffee varieties,” he added.
I feature the BPI coffee nursery seeing how several agencies, including LGUs and people’s organizations promoting agroforestry and reforestation, have abandoned the establishment and maintenance of nurseries.
Without nurseries, they could not possibly sustain their efforts.
All living creatures, especially humankind, have a stake in the state of the Earth’s forests.
The quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the sustainability of our food are all linked to the conservation and preservation of our forests.
All thinking and sensible human beings recognize the critical roles that the forest plays in sustaining and ensuring our wellbeing now and far into the future.
That is why the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012.
“The Day celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests.”
This 2019, the International Day of Forests (IDF) was celebrated with the theme, ‘Forests and Education,’ to raise awareness “on how sustainably managed forests provide a wide array of contributions” to nature and human survival.
On each International Day of Forests, countries are enjoined and “encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns.”
In the Cordillera, let us promote agroforestry – the utilization of the forest for food production but not exterminating it or compromising its integrity as a living and kindly green giant in our midst.
To ensure the availability of planting materials, our local government units, and peoples organizations engaged in agroforestry must establish their nurseries. They can do it by planting and maintaining at least 25 quality foundation trees as sources of planting materials. They can ask help from BPI on how they could it.