Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Baba sa Suba – Part 2

It’s cool to see how sometimes an outsider (me) can just bring up an idea and see results without having to do much, showing the latent demand for doing projects here. In this case, the idea for planting mangroves was still popular, even though the original plan didn’t work. (It should be noted that many ideas aren’t received this well, and are often quickly met with a reason that something can’t be done.) And while I was gone in Manila for a training, the Sangguniang Kabataan (every barangay has like a neighborhood council for youths, the SK) and a couple other community groups conducted a small mangrove planting at the mouth of the river. When I returned to check it out, I could see only a few propagules still surviving – an unexpected typhoon rolled through the Visayas, and the planters didn’t have the proper tools to plant them deep enough in the first place. But it was a start.

On Earth Day, another coastal cleanup was conducted. It was incredible and disheartening to see how much garbage had accumulated in the area since the cleanup about a month prior by the high school students. Some of it came from the ocean or river during high tide, and some of it was obvious dumping activity. Coastal cleanups often feel like a ridiculous Sisyphean task to me, without anything else to go along with it that will actually change the behavior that leads to so much litter. Anyway, the beach was left somewhat clean (at least below the high tide line) and ready for the next round of planting.

As an Earth Day activity, but occurring on April 26, our local Petron company had a CSR-type event working with my office and the Bantay Dagat to plant mangroves at the river. This time, the seedlings were bigger, the tools were better, and the people were out in full force. We even had a banner and t-shirts! I was amazed at the efficiency of the planting. About 200 propagules and seedlings were probably planted in an hour. I returned to the site a couple days later and found about 75% still alive. Some had broken off directly at the sand line. I suspected wave action, by my co-workers were more worried about naughty children. I guess we’ll see how it goes – mangroves are up against enough without having to deal with little miscreants. Regardless, the area will require a lot of care, replanting, and observation until it becomes more established.

Enjoy some pictures from the event:

The mangroves arrive via Bantay Dagat patrol boat

Mangrove propagules ready for planting

No event is complete without a hand-painted banner..

The planting begins:

An excellent primer by the Shedd Aquarium
The Mangrove Action Project
Wikipedia Article

Baba sa Suba (Mouth of the River) – Part 1

This is the first of two posts that will take you through a project I had that turned into two. It started when I heard about a program that takes place on neighboring Siquijor, where a few years ago a PCV initiated a program called “Plant to Graduate” where graduating elementary and high school students are required to plant a couple mangrove seedlings as part of their graduation activities. We have an area near the mouth of a river, also nearby the local high school, that I was eyeing as a mangrove rehabilitation zone.

I worked with a teacher at the HS to flesh out the idea for the plan. Not only were we going to plant mangroves, we were also going to plant in two different areas upstream for upland reforestation. Then the transportation to upland areas became a problem. Instead, we decided to involve other upland high schools – but never heard any response from them. Maybe next time. We got approval from the Mayor, and from the Principal, and set our date. Then changed it a couple times because Amihan (the southeast monsoon, which creates high winds and large waves damaging to young seedlings or propagules) kept going later and later. I remained optimistic as people around me expressed doubt about the planting. We set the date and began the planning. Finally, one day while measuring the planting area, my counterparts told me we couldn’t go forward with it due to the Amihan. I felt very defeated and kicked a coconut in anger, breaking my flip-flop in the process. I sat down for a while to think and then eventually just walked home like an idiot with my broken sandal, not even wanting to return to the office. Eventually I decided we’d just have to do an event timed with the beginning of the school year in June.

My teacher counterpart was more positive and suggested doing a coastal cleanup instead as a graduation requirement. So on the appointed day, I went in and gave a (hopefully) inspiring presentation to the graduating students on the problem with waste and its effects on the environment. But I made sure to emphasize that coastal cleanups are not a final solution. In fact, I have pretty mixed feelings about coastal cleanups, which I can get into at some other time. After my talk, all the students lined up into their ROTC brigades and marched on to their designated areas.

The cleanup went alright. It’s rare to see an area completely cleaned during a cleanup. Possible reasons: a lack of motivation, getting tired, feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of trash, a misunderstanding of what is actually trash, and a sad complacency with garbage piled everywhere. It can be disheartening to be the last person in a long line of participants in a cleanup and realize you’re picking up more trash than anybody ahead of you.

Here’s some pictures from the event: