MIL-OSI Economics: Restoring Nature for Livelihoods and Climate Resilience in the Philippines

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Source: Asia Development Bank


Healthy ecosystems provide buffers against extreme weather conditions and disasters.

They also bring multiple benefits to communities in the form of food, water, clean air, income, and recreation. 

Strengthening the ‘ecological infrastructure’ of a landscape by restoring forest cover and reintroducing biodiverse vegetation and cropping plays a vital role in building resilience to climate change, increasing biodiversity, and enhancing local livelihoods. 

In Mindanao—the Philippines’ second largest island, many upland farming communities face food insecurity due to soil erosion and soil nutrient depletion, which lead to low crop yields.

Soil loss is further aggravated by the decline in forest area caused by logging and agricultural expansion. 

Irrigation reservoirs are suffering from significant sedimentation.

In the absence of forest cover and with frequent heavy typhoon rainfall, the incidence of soil erosion, flash flooding, and landslides are increasing and threatening many vulnerable communities and infrastructure. 

To help address these challenges, the Asian Development Bank, with support from the Government of Japan through the Japan Fund for Prosperous and Resilient Asia and the Pacific, is working with the Government of the Philippines’ Department of Environment and Natural Resources through the River Basin Control Office, to strengthen local capacity in implementing innovative climate change adaptation measures through agroecological landscape restoration and restoring and managing climate-resilient landscapes for food security. 

In collaboration with the International Centre for Environmental Management, World Agroforestry, Landcare Foundation of the Philippines, and local farmers, five demonstration sites were set up in the Manupali watershed in the headwaters of the Mindanao River Basin to restore forests and encourage the adoption of ecological farming techniques. 

One demonstration site lies within the Mt. Kitanglad Range National Park, a globally important biodiversity area, which hosts over 600 rare and endemic species.

Another site is within the park’s buffer zone while the three remaining sites are within agricultural areas. 

They all share degraded drainage corridors and land. 

Forest and landscape restoration plans were developed through participatory detailed mapping and consultations with national and local governments, private sector, and farmers’ organizations anchored on a vision of what farmers wished to achieve for their lands.

Local native plant nurseries were established with planting materials and seedlings transported to the demonstration plots. 

Farmers were provided technical support in preparing and planting diverse tree species and crops. 

Over 2,300 native seedlings were planted in the five demonstration plots, particularly along their boundaries and drainage corridors.   

Shella May Sampit, Community Member, Sitio Mapawa

As farmers, we tend to cut down trees to plant our crops. 

We value our [vegetable] gardens more than the forest because it is where we get our daily needs. 

But I realized that it is better if we plant trees. 

If we plant trees, it will help not only us, but also our children and their children in the future. 

Policy and institutional support at the national and local government level is crucial for co-investment and co-management.

Nelson Gorospe, Deputy Executive Director, DENR-RBCO

Plans, programs, and policies of national government agencies including local government units must be synchronized, harmonized, and integrated.  

Efforts are underway for the formal creation of the Manupali Watershed Management Committee, a multistakeholder body that will oversee the protection and sustainable use of the Manupali Watershed and increased demands on biodiversity, water, productive lands, and food. 

MIL OSI Economics