Around 44,000 durian seedlings were recently distributed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported Protect Wildlife Project to dwellers of upland communities in five southern Palawan municipalities as part of an agroforestry program that is seen to protect biodiversity and promote the conservation of the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL).
Lawrence San Diego, communications manager of USAID’s Protect Wildlife Project, said the distribution of the durian seedlings were carried out earlier this month to assist upland communities, indigenous peoples (IPs), and occupants of adjoining forestlands in the municipalities of Bataraza, Brookes, Sofronio Española, Quezon, and Rizal.
“It’s an agroforestry program to not only help in forest restoration but in livelihood development for communities as well,” San Diego said.
“This month, we distributed 44,000 seedlings of durian from Davao to 700 farmers in southern Palawan,” he said.
San Diego said with its completion, and consistent with the zoning management of Mount Mantalingahan, “investing in forest restoration can now be pursued through assisted natural regeneration, fuelwood lot and agroforestry development to meet the increasing need for food, fiber, and timber”.
San Diego said to kick off the forest restoration process, Protect Wildlife is piloting conservation agriculture and agroforestry practices within the multiple-use zones in Mount Mantalingahan.
“Protect Wildlife had an agroforestry specialist who surveyed the types of soil and climate in southern Palawan that are appropriate for certain seedlings. The farmers themselves requested for durian, and it’s proven that it can be grown in southern Palawan,” he said.
He said they also plan to distribute seedlings of rambutan, lanzones, mangosteen, calamansi, pomelo, avocado, jackfruit, guyabano, marang, guava, cacao, coffee, dragon fruit, and banana, which are programmed until next year.
San Diego said Protect Wildlife is doing this because it believes that when communities situated in forestlands and watersheds can make their lands more productive through farming, there will be less reason for them to rely heavily on kaingin, illegal logging, and wildlife poaching.
In July and August, to ensure the quality of the seedlings to be procured, distributed and planted, Protect Wildlife conducted a training workshop on seedling acceptance sampling, attended by key persons from the local government units (LGUs), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSDS), and the project’s procurement team.
This was followed by a trainer’s orientation and training course on conservation-based agroforestry, mixed and diversified perennial cropping systems, and agriculture, where focal staff from the DENR, PCSDS, municipal LGUs, and selected barangay officials were trained on appropriate techniques for site preparation, planting, management, and maintenance of major agroforestry species, fruit trees, and cash crops.