From knowing to reaping benefits from trees in the Philippines

Capacity-building programs are recommended for enhancing farmers’ awareness of the ecosystem services trees provide in the Molawin-Dampalit Watershed, Philippines. A heightened awareness would then influence the farmers to integrate trees in their farms.


A team of researchers from the University of the Philippines Los Baños Institute of Agroforestry and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Philippines found that farmers in the Molawin-Dampalit Watershed in the province of Laguna recognize the ecological and economic value of integrating trees into their production systems. However, the researchers also recommended capacity-building programs to enhance the benefits farmers and others get from trees.

The study was conducted as a part of the ICRAF-led project, Documenting Adaptation Strategies and Coping Responses of Smallholder Farmers and the Role of Trees in Enhancing Resilience at Selected Watersheds in the Philippines, with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees, and Agroforestry. Focus-group discussions and semi-structured interviews were used to identify the socio-demographic characteristics of the farmers and their knowledge of ecosystem services.

A capacity-building workshop for the smallholding farmers in the southern Philippines as part of a 'ridge to reef' project led by ICRAF Philippines. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

A capacity-building workshop for the smallholding farmers in the southern Philippines as part of a ‘ridge to reef’ project led by ICRAF Philippines. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Out of the 104 farmer respondents from six ‘barangays’ or communities representing the upland, lowland and coastal ecosystems of the watershed, 59% were aged 51 years-old and above. Most of the farms (75%) were located on public land, with of 90% of these sized 3 hectares or less. Farmers from the lowland areas usually grew annual crops while upland farms had more trees, with only a few annual crops on their farms.

In the discussion groups, the farmers identified ecosystem services they received from the trees planted on- and off-farm. They identified provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services, as categorized by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The research team then classified the provisioning services (such as sources of food and firewood) as the economic role of trees. The regulating (for example, providing shade and oxygen, and regulating microclimates) and supporting services (for example, controlling soil erosion) made up the ecological role of trees.

To enhance the ecosystem services that the farmers recognized through their experience with trees, research, extension and development programs that strengthened the capabilities of the farmers could be carried out.

The researchers also validated that the more the farmers interacted with a certain tree species, the more services they were able to enumerate for such trees. Another way for farmers to know more about ecosystem services was through interacting with other farmers who used trees.

Raising farmers’ level of knowledge of the ecosystem services trees provide was important because farmers’ knowledge was one of the factors that influenced the choices they made regarding their production systems. It was suggested that the more the farmers knew about the ecosystem services trees provided, the more likely they would be to integrate trees into their farms. However, integration of trees on farms would need careful consideration of the characteristics of the trees and how these would affect the other crops and resources. Knowing more would also help the farmers decide which tree species to plant and how to maximise the ecosystem services and benefits from them.

Another component of the project looked at the appreciation of farmers in Bohol, Philippines of trees. The results of this specific study can be read here: Why aren’t farmers growing more trees?


Read the article

Paelmo R, Visco R, Landicho L, Cabahug R, Baliton R, Espaldon ML, Lasco R. 2015. Analysis of farmers’ knowledge of the ecosystem services of trees in the Molawin-Dampalit Watershed, Making Forest Reserve, Philippines. Asia Life Sciences 24(1):169–186.



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This work is linked to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry'

Amy Cruz

Amy Cruz is the communications officer for the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines. She is developing an integrated communications strategy for the Philippine program, scripting and editing videos and promoting projects through various media. Her other interests include social media, writing and photography. She has a Bachelor of Science in Development Communication, major in Science Communication.

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