Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI), a non-profit organization that focuses on upholding the dignity of man by working with communities to elevate their social, physical, and economic well-being in the Philippines, officially announced its partnership with ICTSI Foundation, an active environmental protection advocate, in expanding its One To Tree (OTT) program in Luzon.
RAFI and ICTSI Foundation marked this project milestone with a ceremonial tree planting activity in the municipality of Balayan, Batangas Province. The project aims to grow 45,000 timber and fruit trees in a 56-hectare area in the next 3 years, which is aligned with the national government’s Expanded National Greening Program, aimed at planting 2 million hectares’ worth of trees in vulnerable areas by 2028.
RAFI and ICTSI Foundation’s implementing community partners consist of people’s organizations (POs) such as the Samahan ng mga Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries of Brgy. Lucban, Balayan; Calan Farmers Association of Barangay Calan, Balayan; and Samahan ng mga Magsasaka at Kababaihan of Brgy. Dao, Tuy, Batangas, in coordination with the Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (CARRD).
“One development pillar of ICTSI Foundation is Environment Protection and we are happy to partner with RAFI, a known and credible foundation with its 20-year tree-growing advocacy,” ICTSI Foundation Executive Director Filipina Laurena said. “This project is different in a sense that it addresses various concerns simultaneously – revival of nature, community development, livelihood generation as well as beefing up food supply in the community.”
Grassroots community engagement
Over 50 farmer-members of these POs have committed to participate in seedling production, site preparation, planting, monitoring, and maintenance activities for native tree growing.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was also signed with the MLGUs of Balayan and Tuy to formalize the collaboration between and among partners, including the provision of capacity-building assistance for the farmer-members of the peoples’ organizations.
Cacao, rambutan, avocado, coffee, guyabano, pomelo, lanzones, and kalamansi are some of the native trees to be planted and nurtured at the vacant, rolling, and idle agricultural lands in sugarcane farms in the area.
In his speech during the ceremonial tree planting activity, Mario Aplon, President of Samahan ng Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries from Brgy. Lucban, Balayan, said the farmers are being taken care of–from tree planting to monitoring–and the benefits out of this project will go for generations to come.
“This is the reason why we readily accepted and grabbed this project opportunity from the RAFI and ICTSI Foundation,” he added.
Enhancing biodiversity and socioeconomic well-being
“Over the last 20 years, our approach in RAFI has always been holistic. Aside from taking care of the environment, we make sure that the people who take care of the trees are also being taken care of,” shared Amaya Aboitiz, President and CEO of RAFI.
“We recognize that this is a community effort; we cannot just stop at taking part in tree planting activities. We also need to nurture it for it to grow, and, most of all, we need to take care of the communities who take care of our trees.”
RAFI OTT aims to increase the country’s forest cover, enhance biodiversity, and support bio-sequestration to help mitigate the impact of climate change in the Philippines. For the last 2 decades, it has planted 8,327,846 native trees and 1,275,500 mangrove seedlings in 10,410 hectares of land.
In 2021 alone, RAFI planted a total of 641,311 native trees through OTT programs and partners in Visayas and Mindanao. Through its community-based approach, the tree-growing project will continue to expand the program in the coming years to ensure the survival of native trees in the long-term, and uplift farmers through socio-economic development programs and assistance.
According to the national government, only half of the Philippines’ forest land area is covered with trees. Covering the rest of the country’s forest land area can also help mitigate flood and impacts of tropical storms.
Organizations can further aid this cause by visiting the RAFI OTT website: https://onetotree.org/#donatesec