Starting in the early 1990s, Visayas State University (VSU, formerly Visayas State College of Agriculture) and the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) started to develop an agroforestry system known as “Rainforestation Farming.” The goal was to use native tree species to rehabilitate degraded landscapes and restore key ecosystem services and functions, while providing forest-dependent communities with an alternative source of livelihood. A research farm was established on 2.8 hectares within VSU’s campus in 1992 and from 1995–1999, a total of 38 hectares of Rainforestation model farms were set up by cooperating farmers and landowners to serve as pilot sites for the volcanic and limestone soils on Leyte Island.
Although the VSU-GTZ program ended in 1999, the VSU Institute of Tropical Ecology (VSU-ITE), which was established in 1998, continued to expand its research and implementation of “Rainforestation Farming” to other parts of the country. In pursuing this work, VSU-ITE received strong support from various local government units, peoples’ organizations, non-government organizations (i.e., Haribon Foundation, Foundation for the Philippine Environment, and Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation) and government agencies. VSU-ITE also maintained close cooperative relations with Hohenheim University, Euronature, and NatureLife International.
3-storey tree farm structure
Having proven itself as a very cost-effective and widely-applicable method, “Rainforestation Farming” was adopted by the Philippine National Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) through Memorandum Circular 2004-06 as an official reforestation strategy. Around the same time, Haribon launched the “ROAD to 2020,” an initiative by Rainforestation Organizations and Advocates (ROAD) to reforest one million hectares by 2020 with native species. To help implement the “ROAD to 2020” Campaign, the Rain Forest Restoration Initiative (RFRI) was also established and a typology of different Rainforestation approaches—ranging from strict protection to mixed production—were developed to address the variety of management goals and biophysical and social constraints to project implementation.
In 2009, ELTI and VSU-ITE, in cooperation with other RFRI members, developed a Trainer’s Training program to further disseminate the knowledge and skills needed to develop native species nurseries and Rainforestation sites. RFRI has also been taking additional steps through its advocacy, public education, technical assistance, and project implementation work to help Rainforestation reach its full potential in reversing the widespread damage to forest ecosystems in the Philippines.