Sustainable cacao production will not be achieved if environmental conservation is neglected. Our biophysical environment largely dictates crop suitability and productivity. Cacao is naturally a tropical crop that needs shade of other trees, prefers higher elevation, prefers more organic matter on its soil, and needs a pollinator to produce flowers and fruits. Environmental conservation, therefore, will have a bearing in meeting these growth and productivity requirements of cacao.
To facilitate the integration of environmental conservation in the cacao farm development of cacao farming families in its project areas, CIDAMI conducted Basic Environmental Seminar/Workshop for selected cacao farmers and barangay officials in Paquibato District Davao City. Watershed Management was the focus of this seminar/workshop as watershed encompass areas from the upland to lowland. The said seminar/ workshop aimed to:
1. Facilitate understanding of the relationship between healthy watershed and sustainable cacao production;
2. Assess the present condition of community watersheds and be able to identify the cause and effect of such state and identify activities to prevent further degradation of community watersheds;
3. Introduce less environmentally-destructive but economically gainful cacao production technologies; and
4. Assist participants to collectively come up with plan of activities and/or draft a barangay ordinance (for Brgy. Officials) for the conservation/ rehabilitation of community watersheds.
This seminar/workshop was conducted last October 27 and 28, 2016 at Brgys. Malabog and Paquibato Proper, respectively. These activities were done through a project grant from the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. A total of 85 farmers and barangay officials participated in the seminar/ workshop. Most of them are beneficiaries of CIDAMI’s Cacao FEAST project being implemented in the said barangays.
Members of the CIDAMI training team served as the resource persons of this seminar/workshop since two of its members have adequate knowledge and experience in watershed management. A combination of lecture and hands-on was used in the conduct of this seminar/ workshop. Topics presented and discussed were: 1) The 6 Ecosystems, 2) The 4 Laws of Ecology, 3) Understanding our Watershed/ Watershed Management, 4) Natural Farming Technology Systems and, 5) Cultural Management for Cacao.
Through this training, the participants were informed on the basics of ecology for them to have in-depth understanding of the purpose of environmental conservation in relation to sustainable cacao production. Through this topic, particularly on the interconnectedness of all things, they realized that cutting trees in forest can affect farm production. They realized that deforestation caused the decrease of snake population which resulted to the increase of field rat population (snake is their predator) which caused so much destruction to their upland rice and corn fields which happened few years ago.
The participants also learned about the different ecosystems and the importance of each. Basics about watershed as well as the threats and current situation of watersheds were discussed. They were informed that clearing slopes for farming without adopting appropriate soil and water conservation technology, indiscriminate use of fertilizers and pesticides, and polluting waterways in the upland areas will have negative effect to farmlands and communities in lowland areas. To encourage participants to help in watershed conservation/ rehabilitation, simple and doable things to properly manage watershed were introduced and suggested. This include teaching them the cultural management practices for cacao and making of natural-based fertilizer and pesticides. Through these topics, the participants realized that some of their activities can contribute both to the degradation and conservation/rehabilitation of watersheds.
Assessment of the current condition of the important watersheds in their sitios or puroks as well as the threats and cause of destruction or improvement of these watersheds was done through a workshop and action planning. Decrease in forest cover or lack of having forest was common to all participating sitios/ puroks which resulted from cutting of trees for firewood and for construction purposes and clearing forested areas for farming. Pollution of waterways was also identified to be common in some puroks. With this, participants identified planting of forest tree species and fruit trees (agroforestry) in areas identified as important community watersheds (springs and streams) as viable steps to address the decline in forest cover while meeting economic needs. Cacao was identified to be the suitable agricultural crop to be intercropped with forest tree species. It was also emphasized that through proper cultural management of cacao, use of synthetic farm inputs will be minimized, if not stopped, thereby reducing water pollution and lessen negative effect to soil microorganisms, pollinator and other beneficial insects for cacao.
Continuing information dissemination on watershed management for communities near water sources, near forest areas, and those communities living in steep slopes was identified and proposed to be conducted in their barangay as suggested by the Brgy. Captain of Paqiubato Proper. This activity, according to him, should be undertaken first. Drafting of ordinance comes next once his constituents become aware about watershed management which, according to him, can result to ease in the implementation of related barangay ordinance later on. CIDAMI agreed to conduct the same training/seminar when the barangay requests so. To encourage barangay officials to pass environmental-related ordinance, CIDAMI training team shared some experience by barangay local government units which implemented doable ordinances for watershed conservation.
CIDAMI training team also suggested that environmental awareness activities such as this training/ seminar should be conducted in schools or for the sitio/purok leaders to capacitate them in spearheading activities towards the conservation of the environment particularly community watersheds.
Sharing of strategies to participants on how to improve and maintain community watersheds specifically their water sources was one of the results of this training. Participants in Brgy. Paquibato Proper who are members of the San Miguel Water Catchment Association were very helpful in sharing strategies in the protection of their water source. In Brgy. Malabog, the Tubig Association of Sitio KTC organized through the program of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) became enthusiastic in continuing their efforts towards the conservation of their water.
The above associations were very keen in improving ways to sustain and protect their watersheds. They admitted, however, that they need assistance from concerned agencies/organizations to sustain their watershed conservation efforts. It was further suggested that IEC activities such as this seminar/ workshop needs to be conducted especially for communities around community watersheds and for owners of the land where source of water is located to conserve such watershed, to improve and sustain water supply, and to improve and sustain crop production including cacao both in the upland and lowland areas.