From Growth Publishing for ERDB

A local government unit (LGU)-initiated reforestation has planted 1,297 hectares of uplands in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur with Falcata trees that have important economic value in the construction sector amid the Philippines’ forest product imports of US$ 682.481 million as of 2011.

A total of 472 forest workers have benefited from the Agusan del Sur project under the Upland Sustainable Agri-forestry Development Program (USAD). It is a source of employment that will not only be sustainable but also beneficial to local ecology.

A stand of giant bamboo.

The Falcata reforestation project in Patin-ay, Prosperidad has been awarded as one of Top 30 Technology Adopters of the Ecosystems Research & Development Bureau (ERDB), being a successful model of the country’s efforts to help boost forest goods production. The plantation is also a model of success because of its smallholder nature, benefiting the poorest of the poor in upland areas that are traditionally lacking economic resources.

“This is a validation of how ERDB technologies help improve lives of communities while protecting the environment. It is also a showcase of ERDB’s achievements in the last three decades since 1987,” said ERDB Executive Director Dr. Henry A. Adornado.

The forest workers attended ERDB’s training sessions on the selection of seed sources, planting stock production, and establishment of plantations for productivity and profitability. The Patin-ay plantation originally obtained 77 kilos of improved Falcata seeds from ERDB’s Mindanao Tree Seed Center.

As of 2006, Falcata yield in the region was at a low of only 77.3 cubic meters (cu. m.) per hectare (ha). However, a Falcata forest has the yield potential of three times higher, up to 220 cu. m./ha. Falcata is the farmers’choice of species to plant due to its fast growth, high yield, and usefulness for lumber and peeler log (a material for veneer for plywood).

According to an Ecosystems & Development Journal (E&DJ) study led by Antonio P. Carandang, a separate forest land in Agusan del Sur yielded an average of 220 cu. m. over a 10 year rotation. “This business gives a net income of US$ 4,545 – US$ 5,681 to farmers. The outlook for tree plantations is bright, (with) government restrictions (on) harvesting from natural forests. These create timber scarcity (and boosts) confidence in establishing tree (plantations) in private lands,” said the E&DJ team.

In the future, farmers are foreseen to do the wood processing, tapping log wastes for pulp and paper production, and for wood manufactured articles. Such wastes take up 25-40% of the produced log. However, the government has to come in to provide financing and incentives for investments in processing such as tree price stability, tax reduction on land and harvested products, and improved farm-to-market roads.

Antonio Dominao, former ERDB laborer, now bamboo seedling entrepreneur.

Forest tree plantation projects will have a huge role in the economy as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported that the country’s total forest products import totaled US$ 682.241 million (M) as of 2011. These consisted of paper, articles of paper, and paper board (US$ 495 M); pulp and paper waste (US$ 48.4 M); lumber (US$ 43.4 M); plywood and plywood veneer panels (US$ 27.66 M); forest-based furniture (US$ 23.967 M); wood-based manufactured articles (US$ 8,290 M); particleboard (US$ 8.783 M); fiberboard (US$ 8.541 M); veneer and other woodworked items (US$ 5.03 M); and nontimber forest products (US$ 115,000).

The E&DJ study noted the lucrative nature of tree farming for employment. “Tree farming employs a lot of people. For every cubic meter of logs harvested (Falcata), an equivalent of 5.02 man-days are required. Possessing skills suited to forest plantation is a great advantage,” reported E&DJ. The DENR even projected an increase in the country’s wood demand up to 2025 by a yearly 5%.

Falcata is the choice species as the internal rate of return is at a satisfactory 48.2%, second to durian, which has an IRR of 50.1%, also in Caraga.

The Patin-ay plantation is situated in the country’s wood production capital, Caraga (the Butuan, Agusan, and Surigao provinces), which is the source of a majority (60-70%) of the country’s wood production. Small farmers account for 96.94% of the total area for plantations in Caraga.

The timber sector in the Philippines used to flourish in the 1960s to the 1970s. For logs, the country then was a net exporter, with 75% of logs being exported, according to the E&DJ report.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s February 2018 issue.