Kids learn to plant–and nurture–trees
A long-tme forest steward in Mt. Makiling has a message to people or groups whose way of helping the environment is through tree planting.
“Enough of the statistics,” says Dr. Jose Sargento, 63, head of the forests and watershed division of the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystem (MCME). “We (too) have to nourish (the trees we planted).”
Sargento’s office under the University of the Philippines in Los Baños has been receiving requests for tree seedlings to be used for community planting activities. “Usually, (what happens is) tree planting—photo ops—goodbye.”
But in Bay town in Laguna, the children plant the trees and take photos, but they return. “That’s the difference,” Sargento says.
He was referring to the three-year partnership among Multiple Intelligence (MI) International School in Quezon City, Tranca Elementary School in Bay, and the MCME that gave way to Project MAD or “Make a Difference and the Cambantoc River Reforestation.”
On Tuesday, the second batch of pupils from MI, about 150 from the preparatory and Grade 1 levels, planted tree seedlings in the one-hectare vacant property of Tranca Elementary School.
“Some of the students were among those from last year,” Wawel Mercado says. He showed a fast-growing variety of acacia and “toog” trees that had grown to more than 10 feet over 12 months.
Mercado, whose daughter graduated from MI, says the idea of the tree planting program came out of a desire to continue his late father’s advocacy to plant trees in open lots.
“But since we did not have vacant lots anymore (the family’s properties are already planted with trees), we thought of partnering with Tranca Elementary School (who has an available lot),” he says.
A resident of Manila, Mercado frequents Laguna as he manages a family-owned eco-resort in Bay.
For the project, the MCME provided the seedlings and the technology. Tranca Elementary School took care of the maintenance, such as watering the seedlings and regular pruning, while MI raised funds for the maintenance costs.
The first 150 trees, mostly hardwood species, were planted in September last year. This year, another 150, this time fruit-bearing trees, were planted.
“The fruit-bearing trees may take about five years to grow and the timber trees, about 15 years. This could be a botanic garden,” Sargento says.
Subtracting the “casualties” or those that failed to grow, Mercado says the school yard now has about 250 trees. The site is about 500 meters from the Cambantoc river and about a kilometer from the Cambantoc watershed, a major watershed of Makiling.
When Supertyphoon “Milenyo” struck in 2006, portions of the Cambantoc banks collapsed due to flash floods.
Sargento considers the place an “influence area,” meaning it is affected by the climate and water sources in Makiling. “If the mountain is destroyed, the residents here will be the ones to be affected,” he says.
Farmers have started rehabilitating the mountain areas, including the riverbanks. As part of the MAD, high school students of MI will plant trees along the banks in October.
Young as they are, the children would rather scrape soil with their hands and use empty cans to water the seedlings as part of playtime.
Len Magcalas, 33, believes it is a good start to expose her 6-year-old daughter Kelly Raizel, to environment preservation.
“At their age, it’s good they are taught the importance of trees, especially for us (who) live in Manila where there are a lot of flooded areas,” Magcalas says.
For Cordell Zander Tiu, 7, planting a seedling and naming it “Coco” after his nickname “was easy and fun.”
“We are going back to nature here. Before, they say the adults teach the kids. But now, it’s the younger ones who may influence the adults,” Sargento says.
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