More biodiversity champions are stepping up and helping reforest trees in the Philippines since the launch of the RAFI GForest Project.
Earlier this year, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. One To Tree (RAFI OTT) program partnered with GCash, and launched the RAFI GForest Project, a reforestation project in Luyang Watershed, Municipality of Carmen, Cebu Province.
Through its reforestation efforts, as of September 2021 the RAFI GForest Project has planted 44,150 local fruit-bearing trees and timber out of the goal of 300,000 trees planted. With a mission to encourage more biodiversity champions, RAFI GForest Project works directly with local farmers to not only reforest, but to provide opportunities for farmers and communities to take active part in the reforestation efforts and watershed conservation.
GForest, an environmental protection feature in the GCash app, has allowed millions of GCash users to take an active role in the tree planting and nurturing in Cebu, from the comfort of their homes. By doing cashless services like sending money, paying bills, buying prepaid load in GCash and by merely walking, users are awarded green energy points in GForest, which they can use to claim a virtual tree. For each virtual tree claimed in GForest, an actual tree is planted in various locations nationwide, including the project site in Luyang Watershed.
Since its inception, the RAFI GForest Project, through RAFI OTT, has rolled out capacity-building and skills training, as well as community-building efforts that provide alternative sources of income to local farmers and partner communities. Working with 83 local partner farmers, the project conducted trainings and knowledge-sharing opportunities among its farmers and volunteers. This includes conducting 3 tree-growing orientations, 1 farm design and planning training, and a plantation establishment training.
The RAFI GForest Project supports partner communities in the municipality of Carmen, namely Nagkahiusang Mag-u-uma sa Communal, San Jose Farmer’s Association, and Eden Rocks Taguini Farmers’ Association. By working directly with local farmers and partner communities, the project offers opportunities for active participation in tree growing efforts, as well as provide alternative sources of income on the community level.
“Before, we spent several days a week cutting trees to make charcoal for sale at the local market just to buy rice and send our children to school. Now, we don’t have to cut trees because we’re busy planting fruit trees,” shared Amerlita M. Cole, Chairperson of the Eden Rocks Taguini Farmers’ Association.
The GCash and RAFI-OTT partnership focuses on collaborative efforts to provide mechanisms for partner farmers and communities to practice sustainability in its reforestation efforts. This includes community mobilization, production of native tree seedlings, timber and/or agroforestry development, enhancement training, and maintenance and monitoring. Moreover, the project also aims to drive large scale awareness and reach by leveraging on the GForest platform. Since its launch in 2019, more than 8.5 million registered users have gone green by activating the GForest feature in their GCash app.
While the project has kicked off just this year in the Municipality of Carmen, it already has taken roots and started creating lasting impact among farmers and their families. “I spent 12 years working in the city but eventually returned to farming to grow corn, bananas, and coconuts. I believe that this program could be a big help to us because as we get older, it becomes more difficult to plant and harvest every year. In a few years, when the trees we planted this year bear fruit, we can harvest and sell them at the market for additional income,” said Vitaliano Cole, one of the members of the Eden Rocks Taguini Farmers’ Association.
The RAFI GForest Project will run for 3 years from March 2021 to September 2023 with the goal of planting 300,000 native timber and fruit-bearing trees to reforest Luyang Watershed in Carmen, Cebu Province.
RAFI One To Tree (formerly known as RAFI Biodiversity Conservation Unit), has been active in reforestation and conservation for over two decades and has achieved more than 80% survival rate for native tree growing. RAFI OTT also assists companies in the service delivery of Environmental Compliance Certificate requirements set by the Philippine Government, as well as helping them achieve carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation goals.
GCash offers a wide reach and opportunity for over 51M users, with more than 3M partner merchants and social sellers throughout the country, to actively participate in reforestation efforts and reducing their carbon footprint. It also encourages individual GCash users to take part by growing their own trees virtually, while supporting local farmers and empowering local communities in the country.