DAVAO CITY – This year’s winner of the Lunhaw Awards for the Best Agro-Forestry Initiative called for an intensification of tree growing activities along the watershed to reverse the damage caused by widespread agriculture development in the area.
“Today’s celebration of the International Day of Forests is an opportunity for us to emphasize the importance of forests and of trees outside our forests.”, said artist-teacher Ric Obenza.
Obenza, together with the Kalapati group of artists, is famous for his art and ecology workshops which have spurred widespread community initiatives on tree planting and rainforestation projects in Baguio, Calinan, Marahan and Marilog districts.
“Trees are essential in regenerating our watersheds. They absorb carbon dioxide and mitigate the impact of global warming brought about by excessive use of fossil fuels. They cool down our rivers and maintain water quality by preventing soil erosion”, he said.
IDIS Executive Director Ann Fuertes credits Obenza’s tree planting initiatives as instrumental in creating pockets of mini-forests in a watershed that is being encroached by plantations.
“His mini-rainforest parks have become buffer zones against banana and pineapple plantations, protecting communities from toxic pesticides and providing habitats for local wildlife to flourish.”, she said.
The Lunhaw Awards recognized Obenza’s soil generation technique and innovative rainforestation methods which have stopped the desertification of upland areas previously cleared for logging and plantations. His use of native trees and organic methods of farming have revitalized the forest land , allowing local animals and plants to survive and providing a source of forest products for communities to economically benefit from.
Worldwide, global deforestation continues at a frightening rate. The United Nations estimates that around 13 million hectares are destroyed annually, accounting for a 12 to 20 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.
In the Philippines, changing land use policies in recent decades have opened up forest land to industrial agriculture and urban migration. This has resulted to the decline of the dipterocarp forest cover in the watersheds – a situation that Obenza hopes to arrest by engaging more community stakeholders in rainforestation activities.
“Our conscious turnaround from nature exploiter to environment steward is pivotal in reversing environmental degradation, habitat destruction and biodiveristy extinction. The call of the hour is to ‘Think globally, act locally’. Everyone should do their share by nurturing a tree.”, Obenza said. (MINDANAO DAILY MIRROR)