Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wasteful DENR Reforestations

When I was still working at the House of Representatives (HOR) from 1991 to 1999, I would attend many Committee hearings and among those that I followed in the early 90s was the implementation of various large-scale government (DENR, LGUs, etc.) reforestation of denuded uplands in the country funded by the ADB, OECF (Japan government), World Bank and other foreign aid bodies. The impression I got then was that there was huge money involved, there were lots of  reforestation projects with little or even zero monitoring if the seedlings indeed became trees, or the planting was only for photo-ops, submit reports and get the money.

Year in and year out, decades upon decades, the cycle is repeated. Most or majority of DENR-implemented reforestation projects are wasteful. One example is the annual reforestation of degraded uplands adjacent to our farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan. Every year, no exception, there are tree planting there, for many years and decades since the 80s or even the 70s. And every year, the scene is the same -- degraded upland with more cogon and other tall grasses than trees. Most of the trees that survive are naturally-growing species and not planted.

Below are the "left-over" seedlings that may no longer be planted in the uplands. The DENR and its contracted cooperative or planters deposited these seedlings in our farm, to be transported and planted in the uplands. I took these photos last Friday, October 18, 2014. It is no longer advisable to do tree planting at this time of the year because the rainy season will end soon. The contracted workers who should carry these potted seedlings up to the hills and mountain simply pulled the black plastic along with the soil in it. They only carried the uprooted seedlings, so they will be lighter to carry. This practice immediately injures the roots of the seedlings and would endanger their survival in the harsh environment in the uplands.


The uprooted seedlings were either planted, or they may have been thrown away, no one knows except the contracted and paid workers. These were mostly acacia auri and kakawate or madre de cacao.


There are several hundreds, possibly a few thousands, of unplanted seedlings there. They will never be planted and even if these will be planted in the uplands, their chance of survival will be very low. The best months to plant would be in June-July as there are plenty of rains, allowing the seedlings to establish stronger roots and body. Assuming of course that the crawling and choking vines and tall grasses around them are cleared regularly.


I do not know how much money was spent by the DENR, or by some foreign aid agencies that give grants or lend money to the PH government to be implemented by the DENR and LGUs, for this project alone.


Really inefficient and wasteful way to spend taxpayers' money.
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See also:
From Forestland to Grassland, September 21, 2012 
Natural Regeneration of Trees, February 21, 2013
New Upland Dwellers and the DENR, August 21, 2013

Selective Logging in the Farm. February 03, 2014
DENR Nursery in the Farm, April 17, 2014
Tree Planting vs. Tree Growing, June 08, 2014

Terraces, Part 11

I went back to the farm in Bugallon, Pangasinan, last Friday, October 18. As usual, I do what I like doing most -- raising or extending an existing terrace, or build a new one. Last week, we raised the height of this terrace, this is in front of the rice field, not far from my treehouse. Before and after; Danny shown here. We raised it by almost one foot higher.


Nong Endring shown here. It's nice to see cleared terraces. The unwanted small mahogany trees (they grow too close to each other), grasses and vines were cut and piled as filling materials behind these big stones. Smaller stones support the bigger ones of course, behind them.


Now the medium and big mahogany trees can have more space, more sunlight after the unwanted trees have been removed. The area is also cleared of mosquitoes. These pests like dark places where sunlight can hardly penetrate.


In many parts of the farm, the trees just emerge and grow naturally, not planted by us humans. Trees are like grasses, they will resurface and regrow on their own, even in heavily denuded mountains. There is a need to regularly clear and cut those that are growing too close to one another. Lower photo, an acacia auri that was knocked down by the past typhoon about three weeks ago.


See also:
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 8, June 03, 2014
Terraces, Part 9, July 07, 30, 2014 2014 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Terraces, Part 10

I went back to the farm last weekend, August 26-27. As usual, I pursued my hobby -- building new terraces, or expanding existing ones. New and dried leaves, branches behind these stones, they later decompose and become natural fertilizers to the trees.


It's an agro-forest farm and we realize lately that we can earn more from tree farming than mango or banana farming. The "kurikong manga" or cecid fly has wiped out mango harvests the past 3 years. This year, no mango spraying again, hence no mango harvest and income for four years straight now, as the pests are still around.


Selling lumber + uling/charcoal from the pruned branches gives us monthly revenues that pay for the monthly salary of our two caretakers there, plus some extra. This part used to have high or dense number of young trees, sunlight can hardly penetrate. As a result, they hardly grow big' plus there are many mosquitoes. Our caretakers removed many of the small trees, now sunlight can penetrate somehow.


The small and medium-size trees easily grow bigger and taller once the big and mature trees beside them are harvested. They have more sunlight, more soil minerals. It is now a perennial forest with selective logging as sustainable revenue source.

Here is an example of before-after the stones terraced, upper and lower photos respectively. Some exposed roots will soon be covered by rich topsoil.


The terraces are soil + water conservation measures combined. I notice that if the terrace is high and strong, it controls or even stops flash flooding. Instead of the rainwater coming down fast, it is stopped temporarily and impounded by the organic matter and soft soil at the back of those stones. As the rains stop, impounded water slowly goes out of the stones, creating a temporary water spring.


Trees there are mostly mahogany. We started planting trees there in 1992, about 300 seedlings lang, then more were planted in succeeding years. About a decade ago, we stopped planting, too many naturally-growing seedlings already. They're like grasses, we started uprooting many of them.

This part of the farm is near a creek where there are many stones. I pay for extra labor who manually carries those big stones. The smaller stones that stabilize the big stones at the back are collected around the area where the terraces are built.
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See also:
Stone Terraces, Part 6, February 23, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 8, June 03, 2014
Terraces, Part 9, July 07, 2014

Monday, July 07, 2014

Stone Terraces, Part 9

I went to the farm last Sunday. Here's the erosion control structure that we built early last month.


Last two weeks, some strong flash flood came and washed away, destroyed it. Nonetheless, nearly one foot of mud and eroded soil was trapped and controlled by the structure at the back.


I repaired it as Danny and Nong Endring were doing something else. The new structure. This time, more stones were put in the middle of a two-feet thick structure. It was cloudy when I took this photo.


This stone barrier was able to withstand the last flash flood. Lots of stones on the base, also deposited organic matter at the back.


The "long wall", left side.


Also three layers so far. Controlling topsoil erosion.


Even a deluge, Ondoy type of flooding will not be able to destroy this structure. Lots of big stones beneath, plus organic matter which have become soil already. Water from the flash flood will only pass at the top. The three layers slow down the flow and force of rampaging water. A big portion of the flash flood is actually trapped at the back, slowly sinks in after the rains have stopped.


This depression will soon become flat. The trees in this area grow faster. They have lots of organic fertilizers there.


Among the original stone terraces near the treehouse. Built in 2005 and still existing until now.


Stone stairs.


Our modest contribution at reducing soil erosion and flash flood.
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See also:
Stone terraces, Part 5, May 02, 2013
Stone Terraces, Part 6, February 23, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 8, June 03, 2014

Our Dog Gives Her Milk to Kittens

We see photos of dogs and cat playing or sleeping together, not fighting as often stereotyped. Well, one of our dogs in the caretaker's house whose puppies we separated from her to be the new guard dogs in the farm, would allow kittens to get milk from her.


Her name is "Jenny white" or Elle Marie would call her as "Requel" when the dog was still young. J.white has another sibling, also a female dog, black, we called her "Jenny black", who was guarding the farm. Jenny black died of a particular disease several months ago.


Danny, our part time caretaker, got two kittens, newly separated from their mother and are still sucking milk. Jenny white would give them her milk.


The two puppies stayed in our house in Makati for about two months. Their mother, Jenny, was a hunter dog in the farm.  When she was alive, she would hunt and catch different birds, monitor lizards ("bayawak"), wild turtles in the creek, small snakes.

The two puppies were getting noisy in our house, I brought them to the farm. Danny got the white, Nong Endring got the black.


When the puppies were just about 5-6 weeks old, I brought them from the farm to our house in Makati. Elle  Marie was very happy with her new puppies. Photos taken May 02, 2013. 

Until now, Elle would ask me to give her new puppies. I am hesitant because we did not have any house helper for the past nine months. There's a new helper but may not stay long too.

I explain to Elle that the puppies might get dirty and the house will also get dirty, if there is no one to clean them regularly.

Anyway, Jenny white is a kind and gentle pet to share her milk even to cats. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweden Seminar 3: Field Trips, 2003

Feeling nostalgic again of the Sustainable Agriculture seminar that I attended in Sweden nearly 11 years ago, posting these photos which I scanned a few weeks ago. In this photo, from left, standing: An (Vietnam), Orasa (Thailand), Emile (Burundi), Ani (Indonesia), Inger Ahman, seminar director (Sweden), Dorothy (Uganda), from Sri Lanka (forgot her name), Josie (also from the Philippines), Hugo (Venezuela), Nahid (Morocco), Gunasinghe (Sri Lanka). Also sitting was Jhansi (India).


Two friends and fellow participants from North Korea, 2nd and 5th from left. Choi and... forgot his name too. 2nd from right was Sokhan (Cambodia), and not facing the camera, Tony (Ghana).


These photos taken on our trip from Lund/Svalov (south Sweden) to Stockholm and Uppsala (central Sweden).


I think this is Marie Hardfors' (to my right) house. Marie was assisting Inger.


One of the beautiful gardens that we visited.


By the way, please disregard the date in the pictures. I don't know whose camera was used in these photos.



At our modest hotel in Lund, there is a bar with live band on certain days of the week.


This band was singing "Let's get drunk". their own original composition. The band leader was cool and friendly.

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See also: 


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Tree Planting vs. Tree Growing

I started planting trees in a private farm owned by the family of a deceased friend in UP, Mil Millora, in 1992. It was limited planting, something like 300 seedlings I think, various species of mahogany, acacia auri, acacia mangium, eucalyptus deglupta, and agoho/Benguet pine. I liked the experience of tree planting in a private farm, not in a public land that is owned by everyone and no one in particular, through the government. The farm is in Brgy. Laguit Padilla, Bugallon, Pangasinan. The town is 198 kms. from Manila and the farm is about 7 kms from the town center. At that time it was all dirt road.

The caretaker of the farm, Nong Endring Paragas and his two sons, helped me in the various tree planting every year. By 1993-1995, we were planting thousands of seedlings, we bought from nearby private nurseries, or we uproot naturally-growing seedlings of mahogany that were too close to each other and plant them elsewhere.


By 2002, we started limited harvesting of trees, those that grew fast from the seedlings we planted a decade before that, or trees that naturally grew on their own. I built my first treehouse that year. Two years after, early 2004, we demolished that small treehouse and built a bigger, two-storey, all wood treehouse.More trees were harvested from the farm.


We started selling a few trees for lumber early this decade as we have lots of big trees then. The small revenues were used to pay the monthly salary of the farm caretaker. Commercial harvesting was made in January this year.

Even after the selective logging, many trees, from small to medium size to big but crooked trunks were still standing. From February up to this month, we were selling lumber to local buyers, mostly barangay residents who were repairing their old house, or building a new one. Since we got official permit to cut from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) provincial office, there was no intrigue or harassment in the cutting of trees. The revenues were enough to pay the monthly salary of the caretaker and his son, Danny, who works part time in the farm to help his ageing father.


It is a perpetual forest with perpetual revenues, though not substantial.

Stealing and illegal cutting of trees in the public forest land is common there, and even in private farms if these are not guarded. Well, in many parts and provinces of the country actually. The thieves would cut trees for firewood, charcoal, or lumber for their house, or they sell the trees to other people. The daily presence of our caretaker in the farm turns away those thieves.

I tell some friends who are involved in various tree planting activities that they better do it in private lands and farms, not in government lands. Public forest land suffers from the "tragedy of the commons", where the land and the trees in it are owned by everyone and no one in particular, well owned by the government in the name of the public.  Survival rate of seedlings to become big trees someday is almost zero. One or more weeks after the tree planting, nature takes its course -- vines choking the new seedlings, cogon and grasses that grow much faster than the seedlings; wild animals or cattle that step on newly planted seedlings; flash flood in rainy season that erode the topsoil; grass fire and forest fire during the dry season. If the seedlings survive all of these and they manage to grow tall to arms- or limbs-size, people who cut and steal trees as discussed above come in.

Thus, in most tree planting activities in public lands, it is 99 percent tree planting, 1 percent monitoring, if ever. Good for picture taking then posting in facebook. Tree planting, not tree growing.

In private lands where the owners or managers have private stake, it is the reverse; 1 percent tree planting and 99 percent monitoring; when some of those seedlings die for whatever reason/s, they are replaced. Until the seedlings become small trees, become big trees. Whether to harvest them later or retain them to grow even bigger and taller is another story.

The various reforestation programs of the government in public forest land is generally wasteful. I remember when I was working at the House of Representatives from 1991-1999, I was attending various Committee hearings and accounting for the millions of hectares supposedly reforested from hundreds of millions of dollars of loans from the ADB, WB, OECF/Japan and other foreign aid. Loans contracted in the late 80s, and the result were largely lousy. Lots of spending and government borrowings, yes. Lots of new forest, no.

And it did not stop there. New environmental and forestry loans were contracted in the 90s, in the 2000s until this decade, by the Philippine government from the same foreign aid bodies, and very little new forests are visible.

In the public forest land adjacent to our farm in Bugallon, there are tree planting activities there, yearly. And yearly, public funds are used, and no new forest can be seen from the public land. Either the reforestation money is wasted or stolen, or no efficient monitoring is done. Government reforestation is largely wasteful and inefficient, if not a milking cow for various implementers, from the government to the contracted parties, usually NGOs and farmers' cooperatives.

Ok, I may be harsh in my assessment above, but that is what I have observed for more than two decades now.

On another note, there is an International Free Market Environmentalism conference to be held in Georgia this coming July 23-26, 2014. Venue is Hotel Vera Palace, Bakuriani, Mountain Resort, Georgia. Bakuriani is about 2 1/2 hours by car from the capital, Tbilisi.

The conference organizer is the New Economic School (NES). The President of NES–Georgia, Paata Sheshelidze, is a friend way back in 2004, when we attended the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia conference in Hong Kong, sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF). 


The conference co-sponsores are  FNF Southern Caucasus, Germany, and the Center for Energy and Environment of Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), USA. Interested participants can write to: office@nesgeorgia.org. 
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See also:
Selective Logging in the Farm. February 03, 2014
DENR Nursery in the Farm, April 17, 2014
Treehouse, Versions 2002 vs. 2014, April 23, 2014
Presentation at WASWAC Seminar at BSWM, DA, May 13, 2014


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Stone Terraces, Part 8

I went to the farm last May 24, 2014. A new project -- blocking the lower portion of this bigger waterway that becomes a creek during the rainy season. Lots of eroded organic materials and rich topsoil pass here every year. This year, we intend to minimize this erosion. Below, front view.


Top view. How thick is it, well about more than two (2) feet at the base; medium size stones at the back, big stones, even small rocks, in the front. Then soil and small stones in the middle. At the top, about 1 1/2 feet.

Back/rear view. Danny standing at the front, height should be slightly higher than two feet.


On another side, a bit far from the treehouse, we added stones at this "blockade". Front view.


How high is it now, about 2 1/2 feet.


Back/rear view. This will soon be covered by soil and dried leaves brought down by flash flood.


We slowly demolished this old structure, from our old organic piggery project. Used the small stones to strengthen the above structure.


An old terrace. It's now flat, has trapped a considerable amount of topsoil and organic matter. Either we will raise it higher, or transfer the stones to the above blockade so that more and bigger area of topsoil entrapment can be established.


A terrace we expanded about a month ago.


See also:
Stone terraces, Part 4, April 10, 2011
Stone terraces, Part 5, May 02, 2013
Stone Terraces, Part 6, February 23, 2014
Stone Terraces, Part 7, March 30, 2014