ArchivesApril 2011Honey saves forests: conservationist

Honey saves forests: conservationist


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A key Filipino conservationist is recommending to local government units in Negros Oriental to support a program that is pushing natural honey production as an alternate source of income to Indigenous people living in the forests.

The program was proposed by Dr. Neil Aldrin Mallari, director of Flora and Fauna International, and vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines.

Mallari, who was among the more than 200 participants in the recently-concluded 20th Annual Biodiversity Conservation held at Silliman University here, disclosed that they are working on a project to divert the people, most especially small ethnic groups, from coal making to honey production to prevent further degradation of the country’s already depleted forests.

A study conducted in Southern Luzon shows that the real driver of deforestation is coal production as opposed to logging, he said. Every street corner in the areas covered by the study is practically filled with piles of charcoal for sale as liquefied petroleum gas is expensive, thus, people prefer charcoal instead for domestic fuel needs.

Indigenous people sell charcoal for P20 per sack produced. Sadly, a number of food chains in the country, specifically those engaged in offering grilled dishes, opt to buy charcoal as they are cheaper than LPG.

Mallari, however, declined to name these food companies even as he admitted they have yet to launch a campaign to discourage business establishments from using coal.

But educating Indigenous people about the dangers of a depleted forest, protecting and conserving timber and other forest products have led them to a better understanding of shifting to honey production now, which is not as labor extensive as coal making, Mallari said.

Mallari said they discovered that the forest in Southern Luzon was rich with honey so they did an experiment involving ten families and told them to collect honey instead of producing charcoal, a tedious process involving cutting of trees, making firewood and putting them in charcoal kilns.

The people know where the beehives are and are now trained on how to collect honey the natural way, Mallari pointed out.
He said while the indigenous people do not have bee farms, their income from collecting and selling honey is far greater now than what they used to earn from making and selling wood coal.

In a span of four months, those surveyed said they earned a net worth of P200,000, said Mallari.

As of the moment, Mallari said he and his group are working with the local communities and also with consumer-interest-groups.
The communities would always say they love their forests, but are constantly faced with the dilemma of choosing between feeding their children and saving the forest.

“That is why, we find ways to save both the environment and provide an alternate livelihood to the indigenous people,” said Mallari.
The project started last year and is doing good so far. However, this year, there has been a low harvest rate because of a super typhoon that hit the studied area as well as the unusual rainy season even during the summer months, he said. (PNA)DCT/LDV/JFP/TMF

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