Combining forestry and agriculture

Communities are learning how to combine forestry and agriculture © Dr F. Charito Imperial-Sebastian

A new project in the Philippines aims to empower communities by helping them use forest resources to build sustainable livelihoods.

In some areas of the Philippines, local people are granted ownership or stewardship of areas of forest by the government, the idea being that they will use and manage the various resources effectively, and thrive as a community. Unfortunately, these kinds of schemes often fail, particularly when the communities involved are incipient – meaning the people who have been brought together have no shared history or culture, and no existing stream of benefits from an established livelihood.

Education and training about how to manage land and other resources are necessary for such communities to succeed. Now, Dr F. Charito Sebastian of the University of the Philippines Diliman has launched a project to develop an education and training programme that can enable incipient forest communities to carry out livelihood activities that will become their main source of

The dual training system (DTS) is being trialled with a community in Zambales on the island of Luzon. This community is made up of people from many different cultural backgrounds – all of whom were displaced from their original homes after the catastrophic eruption of nearby Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

The educational programs featured are delivered in collaboration with local schools and a state university. The dual training system (DTS), a joint school and workplace apprenticeship, is applied in agro-forestry in this project in a manner that modifies the rigid requirement of the country’s DTS law. The modification in the law’s application is made as an experimental research in the light of the conditions in poor rural communities (for example, the pilot community in Zambales) where training providers are small farmers applying technologies that improve farm yields and income. Members of the community are being taught how to create and manage agro-forestry systems, a practice which combines key elements of both agriculture and forestry. This will enable farmers to grow food crops while simultaneously managing the forest. Community leaders are also being trained in dairy farming, which is expected to bring several benefits to the region, including improved infant health and nutrition, as well as a decreasing reliance on expensive imports.

It is hoped that the project will fill the gaps in the government’s attempts to boost development among these communities. Should the project be an overall success, there are plans to set up similar projects elsewhere in Luzon, and the rest of the Philippines.

For further information contact:

Dr F. Charito Imperial-Sebastian
University of the Philippines Diliman