ABOUT 1,060 hectares of forest and 890 hectares of agroforestry areas in Panay Island in the Visayas will soon be planted with cacao trees under a collaborative project between the German government development agency and the Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines (CocoaPhil).
CocoaPhil said it has signed a memorandum of agreement with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for the implementation of the second phase of the Forest and Climate Protection (ForClim II) in Panay.
The group said the project aims to sustain the protection of the natural resource-management areas in Panay through the cultivation of cacao, coffee, abaca and other crops.
CocoaPhil President Edward F. David said ForClim II will help the country increase its cocoa production and seize the export market for the commodity.
“We are supporting the Department of Agriculture’s Sustainable Cacao Project by addressing cacao shortage through training, consulting services and provision of planting materials,” David said in a statement. The project will span over two-and-a-half years until 2018, and will cover Ibajay and Libacao in Aklan; Pandan, Sebaste, Laua-an, Bugasong, Valderrama, Patnongon, Sibalom and San Remigio in Antique; Tapaz in Capiz; and San Joaguin, Miag-ao, Tubungan, Janiuay and Lambunao in Iloilo.
GIZ Senior Adviser Bernardo D. Agaloos Jr. said farmers, who plant cacao, coffee and abaca in these areas, will be given a maximum of P10,000 for material subsidy and P4,000 for labor subsidy.
He said the project will also link a ready market for the farmers, as CocoaPhil, Manila Cordage Co. and Nestlé Philippines Inc. will be purchasing all produce that meet their quantity and quality standards.
CocoaPhil said it will also introduce value adding to farmers by teaching them how to process cacao beans into chocolates. The group will also link farmers to potential markets. GIZ said ForClim seeks to rehabilitate degraded forest lands through natural regeneration and upland farming technologies. The German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, which funds GIZ, said it has supported Panay forest conservation, as Panay is a known habitat for certain endangered species.
“The natural forest in Panay is the most important carbon sink in the region. Conservation is vitally important. With local people’s participation, forest land-use plans are developed,” the GIZ added.
The first phase of the project, which was implemented from 2010 to 2014, had mustered support from Panay island’s 20 local government units and their communities. Households have established a total of 1,060 hectares of mixed forest and 890 hectares of agroforestry areas.
It has also completed 13 forest land-use plans and employed forest guards. More than 15,000 hectares have been designated as special habitat protection areas.
The project is seen to help the Department of Natural Resources meet its commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic plan 2011 to 2020, which includes the protection of land and sea resources, as well as endanger species.