A tiger grass-based agroforestry system development project that increases livelihood opportunities for upland farmers to sustain the ecological value in Calatrava, San Andres, and San Agustin (CALSANAG) in Romblon was recently spearheaded by the regional Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
DOST-MIMAROPA is working on it in collaboration with the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), the Local Government Unit of San Andres (LGU- San Andres), and Romblon State University (RSU).
CALSANAG is found in Tablas Island in Romblon, which is estimated to have around 400 hectares of land planted with tiger grass for its economic potential.
Tiger grass is being propagated by about 500 families of upland farmers and harvested to be used as raw materials for soft broom production. In Mari Norte, San Andres alone, there are 199 farmers, with little or no land holdings who consider production, trading, and processing of tiger grass, and selling of soft brooms as their only major source of income. Farmers claim that income is insufficient to provide for their families since tiger grass is harvested only once a year.
In addition, tiger grass farming in Romblon resulted to extensive deforestation and diminished productivity in several land areas as farmers, who based their means on little knowledge on cultural practices, use slash and burn method.
The slash-and-burn farming method destroys trees to give way to the production of tiger grass. Farmers repeat this practice from one land area to another reducing forest covers and limiting the production of food and cash crops.
Recognizing the adverse impacts of traditional tiger grass farming method to the economic, social, and environmental systems in CALSANAG, DOST-MIMAROPA through its Provincial S&T Center in Romblon initiated a project that integrates an agroforestry model to their current farming practices.
The tiger grass-based agroforestry model highlights the contribution of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to the livelihood of the communities through a gradual domestication of NTFPs in the tiger grass-planted areas.
The model integrates short-term agricultural crops including pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), calamansi (Citrofortunella microcarpa) and yam (Dioscorea sp.) and woody perennials such as pili with tiger grass to enhance productivity and ecological stability. Pigeon Pea, aside from being a food source, also helps in maintaining the soil fertility by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. Pili (Canarium ovatum) was planted along farm boundaries to serve as windbreak and provide additional source of income in the long run. Tiger grass remains to be the dominant species in the agroforestry model.
Aside from crops and trees, the agroforestry model also showcased soil and water conservation measures. Hedgerows were established to trap sediments and help minimize soil erosion and surface run off while check dams counteract erosions by reducing water flow velocity. Cuttings of kakawate (Gliricida sepium) were also added along the contours to help restore soil fertility.
The established model promoted sustainable natural resource management for conservation of the CALSANAG Watershed.
The diversified farming system applied in San Andres increased land productivity which in turn provided farmers additional income and food source. Harvests from the integrated crop species increased their income by 15%.
Farmers also underwent technology trainings to improve capabilities and awareness on environment preservation. Project stakeholders from RSU, DENR, and LGU-San Andres were taught Agroforestry Land Capability Mapping Scheme (ALCAMS) and the methodologies on replicating UPLB- developed technologies on Agroforestry. Other tiger grass farmers were encouraged to adopt agroforestry to their farming systems to increase productivity while conserving the environment.