THE FOREST BUILDING REPORT 2014
The Forest Building Report 2014
I cannot believe it is now December and I am now sitting down once again writing the Forest Building report for the Cordillera Conservation Trust. 2014 has by far, since our conception in 2006, been the busiest year for the Forest Builders and it is with much relief that I am writing this now as it sums up the year that has seen our work run across a great swathe of mountains but it is also a year not without it’s own issues as well.
The Cordillera Conservation Trust is growing, that is without a doubt. Since 2011 our Roots and Shoots Forest Nursery program has grown by leaps and bounds growing 1000% since the first school seedling nursery was established in Bangen, Elementary in sitio Labey, Bokod. This year we established 56 new nurseries in the elementary schools and high schools of Bokod and Kabayan completing the nurseries around the Mt. Pulag Ecological system in the municipalities of Bokod and Kabayan in Benguet and Tinoc in Ifugao. With this we have reached the milestone of building our 100th Roots and Shoots nursery and completed a goal of installing nurseries in every school around the Mt. Pulag ecosystem within the Cordillera Administrative Region. Our total nurseries installed to date are 107 in the Municipalities of Trinidad, Kabayan, Bokod, Kibungan, Bakun, Kapangan, Tuba, and Tublay in Benguet and Banaue, Tinoc, and Mayoyao in Ifugao.
2014 has also been record setting for the first half of the year when we do our outdoor events. In it’s 5th year the Globe Cordillera Challenge has grown into one of the biggest, if not the biggest epic mountain biking event in the Philippines. In May 2014 almost 1000 riders not just from the Philippines but as far off as the middle east, Europe, USA, and Singapore came to take part in the epic ride for our mountain forests not to mention our fellow Filipinos who come from north to south from Cagayan to Zamboanga came to take part in this event. It has become more than what we have ever hoped for and we have to thank our partner Globe Telecom, who decided in 2010 to partner with a small little known environmental group up in the mountains of the Cordillera for helping create this opportunity to create so many advocates for our mountain environment. To date since its inception over 4000 individuals have been a part of the Globe Cordillera Challenge and we look forward to growing that next year and bringing more people outside to experience our wild spaces. We also acknowledged that we have now grown this event past our initial management plans and some issues regarding the transport logistics were discovered during the conduct of the event last May, rest assured that we will be taking the learning from this into consideration in the conduct of next year’s epic on May 2, 2015 and bring you a bigger better mountain bike epic.
2014 also marks the first instance that the Cordillera Conservation Trust has actively engaged in environmental issues regarding the destruction of our local ecological systems. The blatant destruction of our forest resources by no other than the sitting Congressman of Baguio city, Nicasio Aliping became a cause for concern as his actions not only undermined a critical watershed of the city of Baguio and Municipality of Tuba but being a Cordilleran leader he is seen as a figurehead for many and his actions have repercussions that reach further than what he did on Mt. Kabuyao. As a leader he should know that people of the Cordillera have always looked up to men in power for guidance and if the guidance that is being given is that you can wantonly destroy forests on your own land then, this is imprudent –hopefully our ka-illians from the Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifugao, Abra, Kalinga, and Apayao will not see him as a leader of these mountains but a stain on our reputation as Indigenous people and protectors of our lands. The Cordillera Conservation Trust through it’s many volunteers and partners launched REFOREST THE ROAD which started the rehabilitation process of the destruction caused by Aliping and his cohorts, we can only hope that these seeds of forests will grow and be protected for future generations.
In 2014 we ventured further as well into our sustainable event certification extending our certification to new partners. For the previous years we have been certifying the Philippine International Skyrace in Mt. Ugo as one of the sustainable outdoor events in the region as well as the Globe Cordillera Challenge. Sustainable racing here as we have previously discussed is not simply about leaving no trace and avoiding environmental damage but also in investing in the people who use the forests through the creation of green jobs from adventure tourism. This year we are adding the King of the Mountain Races organized by Jonel Mendoza’s Frontrunner as part of the races we will be certifying ensuring that our wild spaces are used and used properly as well as making sure that events held in our mountains also invest in the primary users of these mountains –the villages that live within them in order to create value from the wild untouched and pristine with the local people. In 2015 we will now be certifying 9 events as sustainable outdoor events the 6 King of the Mountain Races of Frontrunner in Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet as well as the Philippine International Skyrun in Mt. Ugo and the two home events of CCT the Globe Cordillera Challenge and the Cordillera Mountain Marathon in Mt. Pulag. We are happy that outdoor event organizers are now seeing the value of their real product, it is not the medals or the finishers jerseys that they are selling but the outdoor environment and the need to protect this is paramount in running a business that relies on the pristine wild spaces for it’s lifeblood.
Education is also another aspect of environmental protection that is most often overlooked. Not simply education about the environment but general education as well as expanding the world view of people who live within the mountains. Through CANVAS we have distributed over 1500 books to 1500 children in the most remote schools we work in, providing them not only with the very first books they will own but also a way to explore outside the boundaries of their village through reading. This is extremely important in building the environmentalists of tomorrow. A wider world view, and infused with a spirit of exploration. That is how we started ourselves.
Lastly before we end 2014 we have come to the realisation that the work we need to do extends very much to people and communities, especially as they are the primary users of the Cordillera wild spaces and thus we need to look at the drivers of the deforestation and look for ways to reduce this pressure in order to change the business as usual practices in many of the villages that live in these pristine wild areas. Thus in 2014 we have embarked on a new tool in our toolbox the Forest Economies Program –this program will start to focus on creating sustainable livelihoods for mountain communities that are not in conflict with the natural environment. We have already started this in Mt. Pulag with the creation of homestays to increase family incomes as well as create more of an economy around the tourism that is now growing around the mountain. We have also started bringing in livelihood skills such as knitting that can raise household incomes limiting the need to expand farm areas into pristine environments.
Creating sustainable jobs that rely on the pristine wild space is an integral component of the Forest Economies project. It creates value for trees, nature, clean water without taking from it. In 2015 this Forest Economy Program will include homestay creation, green livelihoods, sustainable outdoor events, and the creation of trekking routes from village to village that will spur economic growth from beautiful landscape walks across trails that have been used for centuries.
As much as 2014 has been the busiest year for the Forest Builders, 2015 is already starting to look like a full plate as well and we are fervently looking forward to this. Already we are getting ready for a few events; primary among which are the Cordillera Mountain Marathon in Mt. Pulag in March and the Globe Cordillera Challenge in May. We will also be doing the Philippine International Skyrun in February as well as the Frontrunner King of the Mountain Series from February to May. Not to mention commemorating the tenth year of the Cordillera Traverse that started us on this journey and supporting another epic expedition, the Cordillera Great Traverse on the same month we did the traverse 10 years ago in April. And that is just the first half of the year.
The second half of 2015 will be devoted as always to working with forests, we will be building more Roots and Shoots Forest Nurseries in the Schools of Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya on the Eastern flanks of Mt. Pulag, continuing and further developing the Forest Economies program and of course building more forests in more than 100 schools across the mountains.
We have our work cutout for us in 2015 but we are happy that the Forest Building gang is growing. When we started we had 5 friends, then it was 25 people on a mountain top planting trees, then 200 and now we have thousands of forest builders from the children in every school we have a nursery in to the parents and community all the way to our partners in Manila and abroad, we are growing and we have everyone to thank for this. Our old partners like Dep-Ed and Globe Telecom who invested in our programs even when we were a little known organization to our new ones like Spyder Philippines, Berghaus, Holcim, Non-pareil, DOTPH, Coca-Cola, Global Criterion, Globe-Business, Eyeworx, Hill Station, Cordillera Coffee, Café Maleng-ag, Canto, Messy Bessy, Philsky, CANVAS, and every rider who joins the Cordillera Challenge. Next year we are welcoming the One Meralco Foundation, GRID Magazine, TrangkoPH, and Frontrunner as well into our Forest Building family. The advocates are growing and every year it is with great pride that we walk into the deep mountains because we know that there are people, partners who rely on us to do so for the next generation of Filipinos.
Nature is a heritage worth protecting.
From the Forests,
Chief Forest Builder
Cordillera Conservation Trust