The Philippines is home to more than 20,000 endemic species of plants and animals. However a staggering 95% percent of the country's forests have already been cut down, mainly for the establishment of high value crops such as sugar cane.
BZS is working with local people to establish a value in conserving the species and the habitats they live in.
The ‘flagship species’ for our work are the bleeding heart doves. There are five species of bleeding heart doves in the Philippines and out of the five, three are critically endangered (Negros, Sulu and Mindoro). We have elected to work initially in the Mantiquil forest area where the Negros bleeding heart dove is found.
It is estimated that there are fewer than 300 pairs of Negros bleeding heart doves left in the wild.
In the 1800s, the land of Negros was found to be perfect for growing sugar cane, creating a significant amount of wealth for those who started up new sugar cane plantations. Negros became known internationally as ‘sugar island’ (‘isla de dulce’).
The result is that today there are less than 5% of the original forest left on Negros, with only a few patches remaining.
Many of the households in the mantiquil Barangay area are living in poverty so we are developing an intervention around providing benefits to local people in return for forest protection, reforestation and a control on hunting.
One of our crucial targets for the area has already been met; the local Municipality have declared the Mantiquil forest a ‘critical watershed and critical wildlife habitat area’ – the first of its kind on Negros. The acknowledgment that the forests are vital sources of clean water, as well as biodiversity, gives a value to local people, and one we can build on.
Strategy 1 – Establishment of critical watershed and critical habitat for wildlife
We have been lobbying for official legal protection status for the Mantiquil forest area and for official ‘watershed status’ – to provide clean water for the immediate community – and to get the forest habitat for critically endangered species legally defined. This will enable the framework for establishing ‘management contracts’ with local people, giving employment and other benefits for rural poor people.
Strategy 2 - Habitat restoration through rainforestation
Rainforestation will facilitate biodiversity conservation. We aim to utilise 50 species of native trees - grown from hand-collected seeds and propagated in a regional nursery - to re-join isolated patches of forest and restore degraded habitat for the largely endemic flora and fauna population.
This project will provide a wide array of different resources to local communities, spanning from technical training in agroforestry, employment and, ultimately, the creation of community owned nurseries.
Strategy 3 - Community-based conservation education campaigns
We are working to establish the value of biodiversity protection for communities: financial and ecosystem services.
Local Government Units (LGU) are leading the initiative to increase formalised biodiversity conservation and forestry protection education to schools.
Strategy 4 - Community-based biodiversity monitoring and evaluation
We are ensuring that locals are trained and employed to form an official biodiversity monitoring team. Farmers are also becoming effective agents in habitat protection and management through adoption of rainforestation techniques.
Strategy 5 – Identification, dissemination and roll out of participatory model for forest conservation on Negros
We are working hard to ascertain key success factors for establishing sustainable development, livelihood improvement, biodiversity and forest conservation.
Read more about our work in the Phillipines in our blogs from the field.
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