TO sustain the livelihood of abaca farmers in forest communities in Laka Lanao, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) linked them to an abaca exporter which will directly buy their produce.
The DENR, on behalf of three people’s organizations, has partnered with Newtech Pulp Inc., which has an abaca pulp manufacturing plant in Maria Cristina Balo, Lanao del Norte.
The partnership will not only provide sustained livelihood to the POs identified as Sunrise Producer Association, Wato Balindong Farmers Cooperative and Sania Farmers Association, but it also aims to conserve the watershed that is the largest hydroelectric source in Mindanao. These POs operate in Piagapo, Balindong, and Maguing all in the Province of Lanao del Sur.
Newtech Pulp is sourcing abaca fiber from an estimated 200 hectares of abaca plantation that are under DENR’s Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP).
“These people’s organization used to harvest (rice and other crops like abaca, and banana) just once a year. Their production in abaca is being sustained because they are now supplying directly to Newtech Pulp Inc.,” said Samsodin Taha, operations manager at INREMP’s Lake Lanao River Basin (LLRB).
The LLRB within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is the largest lake in Mindanao. It is also known to be one of 15 ancient lakes of the world.
Lake Lanao’s hydroelectric facilities provide 65% of Mindanao’s power demand.
However, the Lake Lanao’s watersheds have been confronted with deforestation, unsustainable farming, limited economic opportunities, and limited development projects. All of these further worsen natural resources degradation and poverty.
Taha disclosed that thr INREMP has integrated a Maranao Ethnic Development Plan in its natural resources program in LLRB. The Maranaos have kept their own culture in keeping with the environment under the Al Khalifa Islamic concept of people as stewards of nature.
However, due to pervasive poverty, some residents have resorted to illegal resource extraction and conversion of forests into farm lands, which prompted the DENR to carry out an extensive natural resource management or NRM in LLRB.
As of the end of May, NRM includes reforestation area of 145 hectares and agroforestry area of 1,300 hectares Commercial tree plantation covers 527 hectares; and conservation farming, 110 hectares.