Smart-Tree Invest revitalizes ecosystem-services group in Bukidnon
The newly-revitalized Payments for Ecosystem Services Working Group of the Manupali watershed in Bukidnon, Philippines and the Smart-Tree Invest project are working hand-in-hand to implement a ecosystem rewards scheme in the province.
A healthy watershed that sustainably provides ecosystem services, managed through cooperation, which is mutually beneficial to providers and beneficiaries, was the vision identified by the PWG in Bukidnon during their outcome mapping in July 2015. This will guide them in their activities towards their goal of implementing a PES scheme in the province, a goal that is already within their reach.
As early as 2006, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), with government and non-government partners, has been advocating the use of PES to manage and protect the Bukidnon watersheds, specifically the Manupali watershed. Through the research project Collaborative Initiative to Develop a Mechanism for Rewarding the Upland Communities of the Manupali Watershed for the Environmental Services They Provide, an informal PWG was initially formed, comprising active representatives from the Bukidnon Environment and Natural Resources Office, Bukidnon Watershed Protection and Development Council, National Irrigation Administration, the National Power Corporation (NPC), Landcare Foundation of the Philippines, and Mayor Godofredo Balansag and key officers of the municipality of Lantapan, which hosts the pilot site of the project. This research was supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The PWG recognized the need for an assembly of relevant institutions and local leaders to champion PES. They acknowledged that the land-use decisions of Lantapan farmers will impact the overall health of the Manupali watershed and the associated environmental services, especially water provision. Downstream water users, such as agri-businesses, irrigation associations and hydro-electric power plants, were to be involved as well in rewarding upland communities for the watershed management services they provided.
From 2009 until 2012, during the second phase of another IFAD-funded project, Rewards for, Use of, and Shared Investment in Pro-poor Environmental Services (RUPES), in Lantapan, the membership of the informal PWG grew. Additional members included representatives from the provincial government, the regional offices of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, National Economic Development Authority, and partners from academe, such as the Central Mindanao University and the Misamis Oriental State College of Agriculture and Technology.
Their efforts led to the development and implementation of the Sustainable Farming System Incentive-Based Policy-Program in Lantapan that rewards farmers who adopt sustainable farming practices. The PWG also assisted in crafting the Sustainable Family Approach, a PES mechanism financially rewarding farming households who adopted agroforestry. The NPC, which operates the Pulangui Hydro-electric plant downstream of the Manupali River, presently implements this scheme. By the end of the RUPES project, the PWG members remained in close communication but were not as active.
Almost 10 years from when they began, the members of the PWG were called upon to fulfill the vision they shared in the beginning, this time as part of the project, Climate-smart, Tree-based, Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart-Tree Invest). A preliminary meeting was held on 19 May 2015 in Bukidnon, where some of the original members and several new members from organizations that are stakeholders in the Manupali Watershed pledged their support and willingness to be a part of the revived working group. While the original PWG mostly comprised potential PES intermediaries, the revitalized group includes potential buyers of ecosystem services, like representatives from Mt Kitanglad Agriventures Inc. and DOLE Skyland Philippines, and sellers represented by leaders of an indigenous tribe, farmers’ organizations and village leaders in Lantapan.
Although the PWG is now a bigger group with more than 30 institutional members with different functions, the members still share the same goals of enhancing ecosystem services in the watershed and promoting climate-smart, tree-based adaptation practices to smallholders through the development and implementation of a co-investment scheme. The goals and strategies of the PWG were fleshed out during an outcome-mapping workshop, as well as their roles as intermediaries, buyers and sellers in a co-investment or PES scheme. They also mapped the rest of their activities for the year, as they aim to develop a co-investment business case before the year ends. Just this August, the PWG sub-group of sellers represented by the village leaders and some municipal officials of Lantapan met to develop specific recruitment strategies for smallholders, the target beneficiaries of the co-investment scheme.
The next step for the PWG is a training-workshop on PES business case development to be facilitated by the Smart-Tree Invest project team. While ICRAF will continue to support and serve as the PWG secretariat for the duration of the project, the ultimate goal is to build the capacity of the PWG in promoting and pursuing PES opportunities, not just in the Manupali Watershed but throughout Bukidnon and other areas, after the project ends.
This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry