SMI partnering with communities on forest management, one tree at a time

When it comes to program implementation, most countries would attest that success is not guaranteed just because a program is institutionalized or government-mandated. Most have learned through experience that success comes from a simple, old-fashioned, yet very effective approach – through partnership with communities.
This has been true in the field of forest management across the globe.
As countries around the world have seen their forest covers diminished out of their own doing, they turn to their communities offering their hands as partners and collaborators to address the problem. Brazil realized they have lost a large portion of the Amazon forest cover due to farming and their government quickly partnered with communities and their private sector to launch a massive reforestation initiative.
In Costa Rica, there is a huge conservation push to bring back its forest blanket - a push coming from both the government and the private sector. In Indonesia, government and private business have joined ranks to stop logging and to plant more trees.
Back here at home, at the Tampakan Project area, SMI has been working in partnership with communities in carrying-out community partnership-based reforestation projects. SMI has been carrying out this partnership with communities’ model through the Community Based Forest Management Agreement (CBFMA) program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
In a paper by Domingo T. Bacalla of the Forest Management Bureau – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (FMB-DENR), the CBFMA is defined “as a strategy refers to all efforts of the government to work with local communities in and adjacent to public forestlands…[and] underscores the principles of social equity, sustainability and community participation in forest management and biodiversity conservation.”
In the Tampakan Project area, SMI is actively involved in several CBFMA initiatives. These years and years of close partnership between SMI and its host communities have resulted to a very successful and sustainable forest management initiative in Southern Mindanao.
One of the CBFMA projects that SMI is working on in partnership with its host communities is the Balasiao Integrated Social Forestry Association (BALISFA) in Barangay Balasiao, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur. 
SMI and BALISFA co-manage an 82-hectare reforestation area designed for agro-forestry, production, and soil protection. Some 46,074 seedlings of Rubber, Mahogany, Narra, Lumbang, Tuai, White Lauan, Molave, and Taluto were planted and a total of 15,071 seedlings have survived, registering an 32.71% survival rate.
Another CBFMA project that SMI co-manages is the one with the Buto Upland Sustainable Farmers Association (BUSFA), based in Barangay Buto, Tampakan, South Cotabato. In this 50-hectare CBFMA area, some 26,992 seedlings were planted, with 22,765 seedlings surviving, resulting to a survival rate of 84.50%.
Another successful CBFMA project in terms of seedling survival rate is a 50-hectare CBFMA area in Barangay Palo 19, Tampakan, South Cotabato, co-managed by SMI with the Palo 19 Upland Farmers Association (PUFA). Some 22,621 seedlings were planted in this area, with 21,718 seedlings surviving, or a survival rate of 96%.
Forest Conservation - business and stakeholders working together
SMI considers the seedlings that the company donates as gifts of live for its partner communities. These trees will not just grow and live but will also sustain families by providing livelihood opportunities while helping preserve the environment and maintain a biodiversity that could sustain healthy living. Last January 2016, SMI has produced 2,555 seedlings of various trees in its plant nursery in Liberty, Tampakan where SMI’s core storage farm is located, and in a nursery at the company’s office compound in General Santos City. These two plant nurseries opened in February and March 2015 and the two plant nurseries have now produced a total of 33,391 seedlings. Some 19,069 seedlings have already been donated to various stakeholders in a number of reforestation sites across Regions XI and XII.
Forest conservation efforts around the world are driven by demands from stakeholders who care about sustainable practices and, thus, support companies who practice such. Regulations help a lot, but private business and stakeholders must pitch in their support for conservation efforts to work, as shown in Brazil, Costa Rica, Indonesia, and in other parts of the world.
The technology is available and science can help in reforestation efforts. What we need are serious efforts of collaboration between government, business, and stakeholders.
It has happened in Brazil, Costa Rica, and Indonesia - it can happen here too if we put our hearts and minds into it.
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