When the community comes together, they make Cebu just a little greener.
In 2017, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI) partnered with the Aboitiz Foundation, Inc, (AFI), Aboitiz Equity Venture (AEV) and the Department of Education (DepEd) Cebu Province Division for a school community-based tree growing partnership. Together, the partners embarked on a journey to plant 500,000 native trees in key locations across Cebu Province and take active steps towards recovering the tree cover lost in the country.
The partnership was designed to collaborate with schools and their school communities for a school-based and community-based and community-based tree growing approach of indigenous trees. Key components of the project included the establishment of nurseries to produce required seedlings over the course of the engagement, plantation establishment, tree maintenance, and monitoring and evaluation, ensuring high-standard survival rates of seedlings.
Participating students planted native tree seedlings in their school gardens or in the backyard of their homes. Students would receive a “Tree Growing Booklet” where they would record the progress of the seedling they planted.
Over the course of five years, the program planted 508,031 trees with a survival rate of 96% and engaged 51,677 students from 314 partner schools of DepEd Cebu Province. A total of 42 species of native trees were planted over an estimated 635 hectares of land. The program trained of 347 teachers as tree-growing partners. For taking part in the program, schools were likewise given incentives such as TVs, projectors, portable sound systems, water pumps, printers, and handwashing kits.
In an official ceremony on June 27, 2022 at the RAFI Kabilin Center, the school-based tree growing program has been turned over DepEd Cebu Province after partners officially achieved their goal of planting 500,000 native trees together. DepEd Cebu Province was represented by Dr. Marilyn Andales, Schools Division Superintendent (SDS) of DepEd Cebu Province.
“With this ceremonial project turnover of the school community-based tree growing project from our partners…I humbly accept this notable project and commit that we will sustain the project,” said Dr. Andales. With the support of National Greening Program/Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan (NGP/EPP) teachers, Dr. Andales was hopeful for the continued success of the program. “I have these strong people with me right now.”
To ensure the success of the program, RAFI supplied extensive training and support to schools and tree growing partners. Trainings included workshops on nursery establishment and seedling production, plantation establishment, plantation maintenance and tree growing booklet usage, and tree growing monitoring and evaluation training for coordinators.
“We cannot thank AFI, AEV, and DepEd Cebu Province division enough for all their support. Together, we have taken significant steps in helping our environment and combating climate change. This project is a great example of shared community spirit, where one community works towards a greener Cebu. We are glad to have involved our learners in the process of tree growing and we hope that this truly planted a deeper seed of love for the environment and for Cebu within them,” shared Anthony Dignadice, Executive Director of RAFI One To Tree.
Despite the challenges brought by the pandemic, partner schools and teachers remained committed towards the project and ensured its success throughout lockdown periods.
“While there were some challenges, not the least being COVID-19, we were still able to achieve our project goal. It is simply remarkable how even through the lockdowns monitoring of maintenance activities continued through geotagged photos submitted by DepEd NGP/EPP (National Greening Program/Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan) teachers. It bears repeating how this project owes much of its success to our panters who are strongly committed to environmental stewardship to sustain ecological balance,” said Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar, First Vice President – Chief Reputation and Sustainability Officer of AEV.
As DepEd Cebu Province will now oversee the project, RAFI will continue to support DepEd Cebu Province by providing technical assistance and training. By working as one community committed towards the environment, a greener Cebu will grow and thrive.