“Daku kaayo among pasalamat kay makatabang kaayo kini sa among pag-patrolya sa lasang…” [We are very thankful since these are of great help in forest patrolling…]. This was the message of Lemuel Man-onan, a local volunteer forest guard, after he received various forest protection paraphernalia donated by XSF-ECOCARES project to the volunteer forest guards of Mt Kitanglad and Mt Kalatungan.
On April 12 and 17, 2018, Xavier Science Foundation, under the Enhancing Communities’ Capacity for Inclusive Ecosystem Management and Rural Economic Sustainability (ECOCARES) project provided forest protection tools to forest guards in Talakag and Libona towns, respectively. ECOCARES project, aimed to increase forest cover and provides economic opportunities to local communities within the Cagayan de Oro river basin, is funded by the Philippine-Italy Debt for Development Swap (PIDDS) though the Department of Finance (DOF).
The volunteer forest guards in these areas are mostly indigenous peoples who treat the forests as their sacred ground. “The Talaandig’s identity relies on the forests as the forests are what made us, the Talaandigs.” This was stated by Datu Rio Besto, a Talaandig Tribal Chieftain, in his message during the turn-over of tools and equipment for their local forest guards in the Miarayon Region last April 12.
Before the official turn-over of the tools and equipment, the volunteer forest guards formulated Rules and Guidelines for the use and management of these tools through a participatory workshop method. The official turn-over of tools was demonstrated through the signing of the Deed of Donation and Transfer between XSF and the communities. Another turn-over ceremony for the forest guards in Baungon covered by the project shall be done in the next month. The tools donated include raincoats, boots, head gears, flashlights, first aid kits, sprayers and tablets.
These indigenous cultural communities are in harmony with the forests. They have preserve and protected their forest through their indigenous knowledge. However, with the threats to the forests, these forest protection tools and equipment are seen to augment the protection they are doing for the forests.