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The barangay- based Bantay Watershed Task Force (BWTF) organized by the Upper Agno River Watershed Area Team (UARWAT) undergone a Seminar on Forest Policies and Forest Fire Prevention and Suppression in Tublay, Atok, and Buguias for the months of February and March 2019.

UARWAT sought the help of the community members to assist in protecting and preserving the remaining forest covers in their respective barangays as they know best in managing the forest resources in their indigenous way.

Themed “Save Trees, Save Water, and Save Lives”, the
Seminar- Lecture Series served as a multi-agency and multi- stakeholders Information, Education, and Campaign (IEC).

UARWAT partnered with Department of Environmental and Natural Resources- Community Environmental and Natural Resources Offices- Buguias and Baguio, Municipal Environmental and Natural Resources Office, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Philippine National Police.

UARWAT SWMS Guazon H. Garcia briefed the audience on NPC’s Vision, Mission, Goals, and Objectives (VGMO), watershed management strategies including the mandates Barangay Local Government Unit (BLGU), while Section Chief Mendel S. Garcia encouraged the volunteers to do better in managing their forestlands by leaving them the 4 As: Awareness, Appreciate, Action, and Advocate.

Other than Forest and Environmental laws, around 250 BWTF volunteer members were educated of the importance of trees, and the watershed as whole. BWTF CRO introduced and reintroduced the Bantay Watershed Task Force Program. The DENR- CENROs were tapped as resource speakers sharing the PD 705, Chainsaw Act, and the mandates of DENR. BFP discussed on the basics of forest fire; while the PNP shared on enforcement of forest laws.

The two- day activity includes an action planning write shop/workshop where the BWTF members determined interventions to the present status or situation of their areas.

The last BWTF municipal-wide seminar will be at Kabayan, Benguet on March 27-28, 2019. A Forest Congress or Fire Prevention Summit shall follow if budget permits.

 

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Dubbed “#Protecting Forests, Sheltering Lives”, a manifesto in support to the fortification of Upper Agno River Watershed Reserve (UARWR) was signed by around 250 Barangay Local Government Units (BLGUs) including community members coming from 52 barangays covered by the Watershed Reserve.

Support for watershed protection and conservation is the manifesto’s call to BLGUs. As BLGU officials and Indigenous Peoples co-managing and inhabiting the area, they pledge to support the NPC- WMD’s programs, projects and activities such as community-based forestry projects, management and control of communal forests, execution of laws that may affect the forests and related concerns, and the conduct of information education campaign activities.

“We call upon you and encourage you, our constituents and stakeholders in the community, young and old alike to support and contribute in your own little ways in protection and conservation of our watershed. Together, let us help and harmonize our efforts in this noteworthy undertaking. If only to protect and conserve what is left, rehabilitate and strengthen what needs be”, reads the manifesto.

Mayor Ruben Tindaan of Buguias asked his constituents to support the advocacy and campaign on watershed protection and conservation, especially that Buguias is one of the headwaters of the Binga-Ambuklao dam.

“Let us leave a legacy for our children’s children to enjoy and share lest we be blamed for not doing our part in making our community a better place for them to live in”, quotes the manifesto.

The signed manifesto, on the other hand, reflected the barangay-based Bantay Watershed Task Forces’ shared commitment and responsibility in forest protection and environmental preservation. The said manifesto was signed during the BWTF General Assemblies and Seminar Series conducted separately for Tublay, Atok, and Buguias municipalities.

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Indigenous peoples (IPs) of barangays Ekip and Karao in Bokod, covered by the Upper Agno Watershed Reservation (UAWR) were trained on mushroom production as a means of livelihood to uplift their economic status while engaging them to take part in environmental/forest protection.

In coordination with Benguet State University Mushroom Project, the Watershed Department of the National Power Corporation through the Upper Agno River Watershed Area Team (UARWAT) held the 2nd Training Course on Mushroom Production on February 14 and 15 at La Trinidad, Benguet.

Twenty- five IP participants from the said Indigenous Cultural Communities benefitted from the two- day training. They were introduced to the growing bag cultivation technology for Oyster Mushroom developed in BSU- College of Agriculture by its researchers and plant pathologists namely Dr. Janet S. Luis, among others.

According to Forester Onofre S. Castro, UARWAT Section Chief, the Oyster mushroom cultivation in growing bags and in other indigenous waste materials is a friendlier technology compared to Shiitake cultivation in oak and alnus trunks.

We hope that our participants shall apply the knowledge gained, be local entrepreneurs and grow their own mushroom business to alleviate poverty and to create job opportunities among their fellows and neighbors, he added.

Throughout the training, the IPs were given series of module lectures from bagging of substrate to packaging of the mushroom fruits. Return demonstrations and hands on exercises from mixing of substrate to planting spawn followed facilitated by Jumarlyn A. Compra and Paterno F. Uyod Jr., BSU Mushroom Project staff and assisting instructors.

Mushrooms are in demand in the market because it is considered to be food for the gods bannering its excellent taste, nutrition and medication purposes. Thus, it boost health and makes good income to growers, stressed Compra.

Our team continues to empower Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICCs) as our valued partners in managing, rehabilitating and protecting the watershed by providing them capacity and livelihood trainings, said Josephine F. Tayoco, UARWAT Community Relation Officers on IP Program.

We believe that investing on IPs shall stir community development and empowerment. We are confident in their commitment that they will embrace such alternative livelihood as we encouraged them to do away from illegal activities which destroy their own forests, said Rhe-Ann B. Ngayaan, UARWAT CRO- Bantay Watershed Task Force Program.

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Aimed at empowering their own communities, the Bantay Watershed Task Force (BWTF) volunteer members inBarangay Karao, Bokod, Benguet which is part of the Upper Agno Watershed Reservationconducted community development activities early this week.

Fifty-one participants from the Karao community were engaged by the BWTF to three activities in a day. Such activitieswere Information, Education Campaign(IEC) through school lecture; community nursery establishment; and school Eco-Receptacle Compost (ERC) facility making. These activities served as one of the highlight of the opening of the barangay?s three- day Uhob Festivalwhere environmental issues are one of the discussion among elders during their ritual gathering.

The BWTF involved the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), Youth Environmentalist in School Organization (YES-O), school pupils and other community members. Upper Agno River Watershed Area Team personnel were tapped as resource speakers and facilitators. The Community Relations Officers and forest guards supervised and extended technical assistance during the nursery establishment and Eco-Receptacle Compost facility-making.

The topics during the IEC were Importance of Watershed and its Protection Measures, Waste Management, and Nursery Management. On the other hand, the erected community nursery shall house a target of 2,000 potted indigenous species to be propagated by the participants.Maintenance of the nursery was turned over to the PTA to be supervised and monitored by the BWTF volunteers.

Meanwhile, the Eco-Receptacle Compost facility was turned over to the YES-O club of Karao Elementary School for their duplication. It shall be harvested in three to six months period, in time during the planting season wherein organic compost fertilizer is needed. Aside from the nursery and school wastes, the YES-O members may include kitchen wastes from their households to generate compost. The produced organic fertilizer from the wastes could be the club?s source of income. They could sell per kilo excess compost supply to farmers, flower shop owners, among others.

During the outdoor demonstration and exercise, the pupil participants, particularly the members of the YES-O club, went enthusiastic that they committed to propagate indigenous seedling species at their own backyards aside from those at they will be producing at the community nursery?, said Maria Liza Panayo, BWTF volunteer.

We pledged to be Bantay Bulilit Task Force. In our own little ways, we want to show our dedication of not only sowing seeds but of growing the seeds into seedlings, then eventually growing the seedlings into trees?, said the YES- O president.

As agreed upon, each pupil is to produce 50 local tree species for the school year, take good care of it until it matures and hardens ready for planting. This shall be monitored by the YES-O club president. At the end of the school year, ?green thumb award? shall be given to the pupil with the most number of grown trees.

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The National Power Corporation Watershed Management Department (NPC-WMD) through Upper Agno River Watershed Area Team (UARWAT) in partnership with Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs)has expanded its agro forestry projects in Upper Agno Watershed Reservation (UAWR) to include barangays Ekip and Pito in Bokod, Benguet this year.

Aimed at protecting and rehabilitating the critical Upper Agno Watershed Reservation at the same time providing livelihood to the community, the coffee plantations under UARWAT's Plan 5 and Plan 6 were established to benefit hundreds of farmer-partners who are mostly the indigenous tribes of Bokod, namely the Ibaloi, Ikarao, Kalanguya, among others.

They were tapped as partners in this coffee venture because we have high hopes that they will be seeding and producing the best coffee brew in the region. Few years from now, these barangays would be the seat of kapihan or coffee festival, said Josephine Fernandez, CRO IP Program.

Each farmer-beneficiary is entitle to 1,100 seedlings to be cultivated in his/her one hectare land by 3x3 meter spacing with the provision of maintenance materials such knapsack sprayer, organic fertilizer/ pruning shear/hose, including a budget for labor from NPC-WMD.

The said agro-based project had employed members of the Cobabeng Bobok Arabica Planters Association (CBAPA), Ekip Indigenous Farmers Federation (EIFF) and Residents Development Cooperative (REDECO). The hires are responsible in the plantation establishment activities such as strip brushing, staking including collection of stakes, hole digging, seeding transport, planting and other maintenance activities such as fire line construction (10-m width), fertilizer application, patrol work, and others.

At present, CBAPA is undertaking replanting and second year of maintenance for the 107 hectares of Arabica Coffee Plantation at Bobok-Bisal and Cobabeng, Poblacion; while planting and first year maintenance is on-going at the 100 hectares at Pito and Ekip manned by REDECO and EIFF, respectively.

According to UARWAT Senior Watershed Specialist Guazon Garcia, the plantation in Pito and Ekip are the replications of the CBAPA coffee farm which was launched and turned over to the beneficiaries in 2015. The species planted were the high value Arabica Bourbon and Typica varieties of coffee while alnus trees and other climax trees were interplant to serve as nurse trees.

As stated in the Memorandum of Agreement by and between NPC and the said IPOs, sharing scheme will be observed by the 2nd year of fruiting (after 3 to 4 years) to sustain their cooperatives/associations and to extend such privilege to other IPOs and adjacent barangays. The submitted coffee beans could be propagated to produce new seedling or could be sold by the organization to generate income.

The agreement strengthens partnership with the community in the protection and preservation of the watershed and it automatically makes the IPOs as co-stewards and co-guardians of Benguet pine and other forest trees in their areas, said Onofre S. Castro, UARWAT Section Chief.