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Sorsogon vice gov recommends forest farming vs climate change

CASTILLA, Sorsogon, Jan. 25 – The vice governor of Sorsogon province where the vast forest areas are confronted with rapid deterioration due to natural and man-made destruction is pushing forest farming as an effective measure to avert the negative impacts of climate change in the locality.

“Through forest farming, we would be able to have economic gains from the forest we nourish while contributing to the global effort of solving the problem on global warming,” Vice Governor Renato Laurinaria told the Philippines News Agency at his mini-forest farm here over the weekend.

“The signs of global warming that indicate we are now in the midst of it are already ominous as we feel the immediate effects of global warming through the climatic changes that make our summers hotter while the typhoons during the rainy season are increasingly getting to be fewer, but more furious,” he said.

The prospects for global warming are quite perilous. These include: a general increase in global temperatures leading to mass extinction of wildlife and plant species; melting of the polar ice caps resulting in permanent flooding of low lying areas; extreme weather conditions causing huge crop losses, death and loss of property; proliferation of hazardous disease such as skin cancers, eye cataracts and various respiratory ailments.

“In retrospect, we cannot truly eliminate the release of greenhouse gases since they are byproducts which are ingrained into the source of power of appliances, vehicles and machines we use everyday. To reverse the trend, a proactive measure should also be undertaken to extract the overwhelming numbers of greenhouse gases already present in our atmosphere,” Laurinaria said.

For gases that have already been released into the atmosphere, there are only very limited options and one of the only feasible ways to sequester existing greenhouse gases already released into our atmosphere for now, is to plant many trees, he explained.

Trees absorb greenhouse gases and release oxygen for humans to breathe and the moisture they release also creates clouds which reflect the harmful rays from the sun. At the same time, they help control soil erosion and enrich the topsoil with the decomposing leaves and branches that trees produce regularly, he further said.

The Department of Natural Resources (DENR) as well as several non-government organizations (NGOs) had been busy with their reforestation campaigns and while their efforts are truly commendable, “we have to help them because of the enormity of the task at hand. Everyone should be involved for the efforts to be effective,” the vice governor, who is a staunch advocate of environmental protection, said.

For sufficient impact, not only millions of trees, but billions of them should be grown to maximize carbon sequestration ability on a per hectare basis. “To marshal the necessary resources, we need to reintegrate forestry into our lifestyle and job. The forests we plant also have to be profitable to create financial resources and to sustain the enthusiasm of everyone,” he stressed.

In order to sustain forest planting activities, the forests should, in turn, be able to nourish and sustain the population by using abundant sources of food and raw materials.

Laurinaria said, “Global warming is a very real threat to mankind. We cannot afford to be complacent because it is a global war we cannot afford to lose. We only have one planet. We need to change our lifestyle and adopt means of livelihoods which are harmonious to nature.”

Forest farming is a solution to global warming and a means to increase the sustainability of farms and livelihoods. It takes only 30 trees to offset the greenhouse gases produced by an urban family and more can be planted.

This is a form of three-storey farming which integrates our present knowledge in forestry and agriculture. It is not new. The tribal minorities have been into it for centuries. The DENR calls it “rainforestation”.

In forest farming, Laurinaria said multi-purpose trees and plants are selected and planted. Like natural forest stands, they are designed to grow into three stories of crops.

The first to be planted are the canopy tree crops. These trees which grow at least 20 meters when matured, shall form the upper storey for the forest farm and would thrive under direct sunlight.

While most of these climax trees should be forest trees, multi-functioning trees can also be included. Some examples of pioneering, fast growing exotic forest trees are Gmelina (Gmelina arborea), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta), rain tree Acacia (Albizia saman), and Falcatta (Parathensis falcataria). Indigenous trees like Red Lauan (Shorea negrosensis), and Apitong (Dipterocarpus grandifloris) can also be planted.

While the exotic species are deemed fast growing, indigenous species, on the other hand, he said are more typhoon-resistant and adaptable to local conditions.

Both can be planted to achieve the best synergies from these species while creeping palms, like rattan can also be cultivated symbiotically with these canopy trees as an additional source of income, Laurinaria said.

Underneath the canopy would be the second storey crops that are either juvenile forest trees awaiting their turn to grow into the canopy or tree crops which thrive in partial shade.

Examples of shade-tolerant fruit tree crops, Laurinaria said are durian, cacao, coffee, some varieties smaller, shade-tolerant plants can also be cultivated on the tree trunks of these second storey trees. Examples of such are aerial ubi and orchids.

He said, the ground level of the forest farm can still be farmed despite the lower level of sunlight on the forest floor. Crops that be farmed on the forest floor are gabi, anthurium and ginger. Mushrooms like the highly medicinal Ganoderma lucidum, the tasty banana mushrooms (Tjolvariella volvaciae) and various oyster mushroom species can also be cultivated to make use of the enormous amounts of decomposing litter on the forest floor.

Fred Araya, the DENR spokesman for Bicol said that studies proved three-layered forest farming is very efficient because sunlight for photosynthesis is filtered and maximized.

Several plants growing symbiotically in diversity generate a higher cumulative yield and ensure a balanced, profitable cash flow for farmers compared to a single or dual cropping as presently practiced, Araya explained.

With this form of crop diversity, soil nutrients are also recycled more efficiently and pests cannot proliferate rapidly. Hence, the cost pesticides and fertilizer is minimized because the trees, especially nitrogen fixers, create their own fertilizer in the form of decomposing forest litter, he said.

Moreover, the soil’s capability to retain water is enhanced. Soil erosion will also be avoided as the extensive root system generated by the trees can hold the soil together even during strong downpours, Araya added.

Department of Agriculture (DA) regional executive director Jose Dayao agreed, saying three-storey multi-cropping ensures a more stable and continuous cash flow.

The farmer could use the income from the yield of his short-term crops for his immediate needs, while the medium term crops for his long-term needs. “What he would earn from climax, forest trees, on the other hand, could be his investment for the college education of his children and for his retirement,” Dayao said.

Above all, this type of forest farming is eco-friendly. Each hectare of this multi-storey farming system sequesters eight to 12 times more greenhouse gases than a rice crop, he said.

For farmers with growing coconut, palm oil or rubber tree crops, a modified form of forest farming can be applied. Fertilizer trees, such as rain tree acacia, Acacia mangium, Eucalyptus deglupta, Falcatta, Narra or Apitong can be planted in between coconut trees.

These intercropped trees, Dayao said, are nitrogen fixers which will help the coconut trees absorb nitrogen from the air. Fertilizer trees will also help enhance soil fertility through the forest debris it sheds.

Multiple crops also mean multiple incomes, creating a symbiotic win-win situation for the crops and for the farmer. More importantly, intercropping with forest trees will increase the farm’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases, he said.

At the very least, these fertilizer trees or fruit trees should be planted in borders and areas in the farm which are not suitable to agriculture. Crops, such as sugarcane, rice and corn can also be planted in between rows of fertilizer trees and this is called the Taungya system.

There are also lots of farms whose topsoil is already depleted and unsuitable for most crops. Forest farming can resurrect and rejuvenate them into highly profitable farms.

Livestock farmers can also plant fodder-producing trees or fruit trees in between their livestock buildings as Dayao said these trees will serve as coolants to their farm animals and the cooling effect that each tree produces is equivalent to the cooling effect that 25 air-conditioning units produce.

As an additional benefit, the DA regional chief said the trees can directly recycle the voluminous animal manure into a major source of income. Livestock farms produce not only greenhouse gases, but also methane, a gas that is three to four times more detrimental to the environment than carbon dioxide.

By planting trees and other crops, the livestock farms would offset the greenhouse gases the farm animals produce, he added. (PNA) LAP/LQ/DOC/cbd/

By: Danny O. Calleja

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