Reaping the Benefits of Social Fencing in Samar

Through the project called "Creating A Model on Social Fencing for the Samar Island Natural Park (SINP) through Establishment of Organized Production and Marketing System for Abaca and Other CBFM Produce" of the Eastern Visayas Partnerships for Rural Development, Inc. (EVPRD), a grantee partner of the GEF Small Grants Programme, the people's organization of Brgy. Cablangan, Mondragon, Northern Samar, was able to expand their micro-lending project to other non-members in other communities. The project also helped improve their homes and finance their children's education.

The micro-lending activity was operationalized through the quarterly contributions of 10% of the 201 members' income from the products of the PO's farmlots that the individual members are maintaining. The 10% contribution averages PhP 500.00 (approximately US$10). This is aside from their monthly dues of PhP 10.00 (about US$0.20).

About 184 families have availed of the micro-lending project of the PO. Of these 184 families, 112 are members and 72 are non-members. From an initial mobilization fund of PhP 10,000.00 (about US$218) in 2010, the PO was able to raise PhP 600,000.00 (about US$13,040) as seed capital for micro-lending that started in 2015. This was expanded in 2016 with an additional PhP75,000.00 (US$1,630) which they earned from the SGP5 Project. Currently, the loan portfolio of the PO is PhP 1.01M (about US$21,860) which they use for micro-financing activities.

As a result of this, the PO members were able to repair and improve their houses. Some were able to procure farm implements and carabaos while others were able to buy motor vehicles (motorcycles), appliances and sustain their children's schooling/education.

The PO targeted Abaca, one of the most important crops and main sources of livelihood of the beneficiaries. This helped ensure the active participation of the PO officers and members who are mostly upland farmers, and has contributed to the project's success.

The desire of the beneficiaries to have livelihood activities to support their basic needs and improve their quality of life also helped in carrying out the project activities. The beneficiaries formed clusters/groups to oversee abaca production and consolidate harvesting and eventual marketing in the last quarter of this year. The hectares covered for the abaca production expanded from 10 hectares to about 30 hectares today. These contribute/total to 40 hectares protected/managed by the community.

The participation and knowledge of the members were also enhanced through several capacity-building activities, including training on abaca production in the upland area using biodiversity-enhancing technologies such as SALT and intercropping of abaca with upland rice and rootcrops to minimize soil erosion and diversify their farms. These contributed towards the establishment of abaca production sites that are managed by the clusters.

Faced with the challenge of attaining sustainability even with the risks of natural disasters, the PO resolved to use indigenous climate-resilient abaca varieties that can be easily sourced out in the locality. This was complemented by the resilient replanting activities done by the beneficiaries.

Increased awareness is also an important contributor to the success of the PO, particularly in the way the beneficiaries understand biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihood. Before, the beneficiaries thought that conserving biodiversity was limited to reforestation activities, specifically treeplanting. There was no concern if the tree species were suitable in specific areas within their Community-based Forest Management (CBFM) areas nor if those were invasive species as long as they planted trees and were paid. They did not fully understand why they were planting agroforestry species, i.e., coffee and jackfruit, as recommended by the National Greening Program (NGP), without clear market outlets or how they will process the harvest as long as they are paid.

In fact, they (PO) only saw themselves as "laborers" or "contractors" for NGP, and not as partners in biodiversity conservation efforts. With the SGP project, the beneficiaries are able to appreciate biodiversity conservation in a more experiential level, demonstrated by their use and preservation of indigenous forest species which they themselves recognize as climate-resilient, sturdy, pest-resistant and locally available. Today, they not only understand but also appreciate that planting agroforestry species such as abaca provides them sustainable sources of income, as long as they employ an organized production and marketing system with a clear market objective based on a value chain assessment.

Other contributors to the success of the project include the refinement of the CRMF, management/financial system of the PO (CEFA), and the orientation of CBFM principles as part of capacity-building. The linkages made with FiDA and the Provincial Government of Northern Samar also provide a wider network and more opportunities for sharing and learning for the members of the POs.

Development of 10-hectare abaca demonstration site

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