4000 Students Plant 800 Trees in 22 Hagonoy Public Schools to Tackle Climate Change: “One Child, One Tree” at a Time

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

onechildonetree13jan2017buacan13 January 2017, Hagonoy, Bulacan.  The “One Child, One Tree” initiative was launched on January 13th to reconnect as many Public Elementary School students to the benefits of tree planting and environmental stewardship, also designed  to encourage a larger community effort to help green Hagonoy’s  tree canopy, source and knowledge of climate change mitigation/adaptation to nutrition, and to help protect the Municipality from the perennial damage caused by persistently intense floods.

Bulacan’s coastal perimeter stretches 25 kilometres (15 miles), with everything in between the first coastal barangay (Tag., village) in Salambao, Obando and the last in Pugad, Hagonoy being severely affected by floods*.

Through agro-forestry and by integrating trees into agricultural systems, rural communities are better adapted to climate change, can mitigate its impact and improve their source of livelihoods as climate-smart agriculture typically offers triple wins for food security, climate adaptation and mitigation.

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Previous tree plantings in Hagonoy did not fare well due to the wrong trees being planted, insufficient soil assessments,  extensive winds and rain, and persistent salt water intrusion and flooding from the nearby fishponds  – a major source of livelihood for the area.

The first seeds of the One Child, One Tree initiative were sown by Natalia Sali, a  Philippine visiting Hagonoy resident with family roots in Bulacan. Though she herself is based in London, she was able to mobilise the resources (i.e. people, plants and partners) to reach 4000 students who planted 800^ trees in 22 Public Elementary Schools throughout Hagonoy on January 13th.

Multi-Agency Participation: People, Plants & Partners

Thanks to Natalia’s staunch leadership, the project mobilized different agencies to deped-logocontribute to the attainment of the goals. The participating agencies worked in partnership to complement each other’s resources including practical help in training and planting, their time, technical expertise, and even 3 linked the coordinator to different experts.

  • Update FEED Logo 3.pngFEED Inc. (Fostering Education for Environment and Development) – provided technical assistance including advice on appropriate seedlings to be planted. They also donated ^100 fruit-bearing trees and 40 Bitaog trees. Their Director of Partnerships, Anne-Marie Mananquil Bakker, and VP, Operations, Diana Jane Penales, also 2 delivered learning sessions and assisted children in tree planting in Hanga Elementary School and Hagonoy West Central Elementary School. After the project, they also met with the project coordinator and Hagonoy MENRO (Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer) to discuss future environment projects to address the identified issues during the project implementation. FEED will continue to source the knowledge/expertise/seedlings required to continue this effort. See: http://www.feed.org.ph
  • DENR Penro.pngDENR Bulacan – They provided two foresters to ascertain the suitability of different tree species to different locations. They also sent two speakers at the volunteers’ training held on January 13th, 2017. Last, they donated ^600 Narra and Mahogany seedlings. In partnership with DENR, the Bulacan Enviroment and Natural Resources Office (BENRO) endorsed the project when the latter requested for seedlings to be planted. See: http://denr.gov.ph
  • bulsu_red.pngBulacan State University Eco Rangers – Five Eco Rangers facilitated the learning session and tree planting in Sta. Elena. Three members also went with the group to visit Tibaguin Elementary School to start the implementation of a new project aimed at establishing a Mangrove nursery in Tibaguin and reforestation of coastal areas in Hagonoy. See: https://www.facebook.com/bulsueco.rangers
  • IMG_2222.PNGUP Mountaineers.jpgUP Mountaineers/Green is Good – Three volunteers from UPM delivered training to children and assisted in tree planning in Carillo Elementary School. See: https://www.facebook.com/upmountaineers
  • SB Councilor Millord Cruz – Mr. Cruz has been supportive since the conception of the project and was helpful in delivering seedlings to different schools. He was also our link to the Sanguniang Bayan and to the Mayor’s Office. See: http://sp.bulacan.gov.ph/
  • img_2481Philippine Atheists, Agnostics and Secular Society (PATAS) – It was represented by its president who took part in tree planting in Hanga Elementary School. See: https://www.facebook.com/patasinc/
  • One Child, One Tree Project Volunteers – The project would have not been possible without the dedication and hardwork of 40 volunteers who all performed their respective tasks. Most of them attended a one-day volunteers’ training on January 13th 2017. They conducted learning sessions with students in 22 schools and assisted them in planting trees. Some of them also met with different stakeholders in Tibaguin to plan the Reforestation and Nursery Project. They also assisted in harvesting Mangrove propagules to be planted in schools which are prone to flooding. See: https://feed.org.ph/engagement-activities/one-child-one-tree-project/

Implementing the ONE CHILD, ONE TREE Initiative

From London, Natalia reach out to FEED in August 2016 to discuss the feasibility of implementing the One Child, One Tree concept, espousing that:

“a child, once made aware about his/her role in looking after the environment, will become an advocate and will continue to do his/her part as he/she grows old. A child who plants his/her own tree will then own the responsibility of nurturing this tree”.

IMG_7040.jpegThe project targets learners in Years 1 and 2 with a view that he/she will nurture the tree as he/she continues his elementary education. The main objective is teaching the child to be a responsible member of the community.

The project’s aims were as follows: 

  • To raise the awareness of children on the value of trees and the environment. 
  • To contribute to making schools greener. 
  • To establish partnership between schools, government and non-governmental organisations, and the community. 
  • To raise the profile of schools as environment-friendly institutions.

It has three components:

  1. Education – Facilitation of an hour’s lecture about the environment, the value of trees to people and the environment, and types of soils. This was delivered by trained volunteers.
  2. Tree planting – Each Grade 1 and 2 learners was allocated a tree to plant, or for those schools without enough space, to plant as a group. They named their own trees and will nurture and take care of them as they continue their elementary education. The tree planting was simultaneously held in all participating schools. Volunteers have taken pictures and videos and shared in social media to create awareness amongst the wider population.
  3. Promotion and awareness raising – a Facebook page has been created to share the schools’ and children’s experiences as they take care of their own trees. They can post their pictures of themselves and their trees. This will encourage and inspire more people to plant trees themselves.

Quotes from Partners

The various school heads of the 22 Public Elementary Schools in Hagonoy expressed their sincere gratitude for the ONE CHILD, ONE TREE Initiative, saying they  will continue the advocacy annually. 

“It was a successful project! The children were so happy planting the trees. They even named their own trees. The teachers assisted us in planting and were very supportive. It was a great experience for everyone”. – Catherine Bustos-Usi, BulSU Eco Rangers

“As a follow up, we have started the discussion on building a mangrove nursery in Tibaguin Elementary School. This will be coordinated by BulSU Eco Rangers in conjunction with FEED and the Tibaguin community. It is hoped that DENR And MENRO will be able to work with us on this long-term programme. We need to think strategically whilst there is still time”. Natalia Sali, “One Child, One Tree” Founder

“I am so further inspired, touched, and moved by today’s experience and your (ref: Natalia Sali) leadership. I wish we could continue this initiative as it inspires everyone to plant and, most importantly, the kids who will hopefully be transformed”. Anne-Marie M. Bakker, FEED, Inc.

What’s Ahead: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability through the One Child, One Tree Partnership

The One Child, One Tree effort inspired  participating schools to continue looking after the environment and to work in partnership with different public, private and NGO groups.  The partnership  will lead to long-term environmental projects in the coming  months to ensure its institutionalisation through various means.

The project  also identified issues that can be tackled on a long-term basis such as frequent flooding in 50% of the schools and the lack of source of mangroves propagules, nurseries and protectors. Led by Natalia Sali,  a new project is now being formulated and planned between FEED, Eco Rangers and the community of Tibaguin – the most disaster struck town.  It will  ultimately be aimed at reforestation of mangrove forests in Hagonoy, up to critical areas being declared as protected areas by Philippine legislative and enforcement agencies.

One Child, One Tree advocates and partners will continue seeking sustainable solutions, starting with the most critical needs, i.e. mangrove and other coastal species protection against flooding and saline intrusion, whilst ensuring the strengthening of existing as well as alternative livelihood sources (i.e. fruit, vegetable bearing crops, and sustainable fisheries) to optimise water and food security for the residents of Hagonoy.

FEED encourages this type of tree planting program that directly engages children, also delivers a hands on learning opportunity to get youth involved in the environment and conservation of our natural resources. Recent scientific studies even suggest that students are better able to concentrate, finish tasks and follow directions after being in natural settings.  Through  experiential learning, they are able to see, touch and feel  the structure of the trees, learn how to care for them and watch them grow. Teachers used the planting process to share the various benefits trees provide and it is an intimate and profound way of establishing Living Legacies early on in life.

*Lessons from the Past: Climate Change Takes its Toll in Bulacan

Dino Balabo – February 1, 2011. “HAGONOY, Bulacan , Philippines – Climate change has taken its toll on two coastal villages of this town along the Manila Bay hampering livelihood and food production while threatening to wash away the villages into the sea.

This is due to the destruction of at least 100 hectares of municipal fishpond or propius fronting the Manila Bay.

The said fishponds served as a buffer for the villages of Pugad and Tibaguin here for decades, but declined in management, left it to the waves during rainy season that wiped out the rock and soil dike making it not part of the sea.

“Time and weather has changed this place,” rued Alfredo Lunes in the vernacular, while piloting his motorboat toward a dead tree that remains standing on the submerged dike of the damaged municipal fishpond.  A village councilman of Pugad, the 42-year-old Lunes who is fondly called “Doy” by his friends told The STAR, aside from the lone dead tree beside another which was felled by the waves, nothing is left of the fishpond dike aside from the remains of concrete check gates that stick out of the water during low tide.

The check gates which used to control inflow and outflow of water is of no use now except for being home for growing oysters and mussels.

Doy said that the dikes of the municipal fishponds served as buffer of their village from strong waves during typhoon season.

But the dike began to deteriorate nine years ago as one of the last propietario of the municipal fishpond cut mangroves and other coastal trees that grew on the dike for decades.

It was followed by the absence of a new propietario, as no one dared to rent the propius from the municipal government.

With the fishpond dike gone, Barangays Pugad and Tibaguin were left to the mercy of the waves that penetrated even the center of the villages, especially during high tide. “The waves are so powerful, some houses fronting the Manila Bay were literally uprooted,” Doy said.

This situation, he said, forced many residents to move to their relatives in mainland Hagonoy during typhoon season. But threats to human lives and properties are not the only impacts of climate change in coastal communities.

Ramon Atienza Jr., the chief of Barangay Pugad noted that even their livelihood is at stake. “The sea appeared to be running out of fish,” he said in Tagalog. In the past, Atienza said residents of coastal villages of Bulacan including Pugad and Tibaguin were living in relative affluence due to daily generous catch from the sea. “They said it’s a combination of over fishing, pollution, climate change, but we think that its more of the latter,” he said.

Read more at: http://beta.philstar.com/nation/2011/02/01/652880/climate-change-takes-its-toll-bulacan#tkRTf1FFEwH1GEpR.99

Acknowledgements: Our sincere gratitude to all those who contributed to the success of “One Child, One Tree”!

Anne-Marie Bakker BulSU Eco Rangers  School heads in the West District: 
Arra dela Cruz Catherine Bustos Buga – Mr. Celestino Villafuerte
Ayesa Sali Santos Christine Irlandez Don Miguel – Mrs. Imelda Ramirez
Catherine Bustos Usi Danielle Lorenzo Hagonoy West Central – Mr. Cornelio Roque
Christine Irlandez Jefferson Ramos Mercado – Mrs. Estelita Patrana
Danielle Lorenzo Paul Chrisha Moronia Pugad – Mrs. Ma. Lourdes Cruz
Diane Penales Regine Gumapas Sagrada Familia – Mrs. Rowena Royupa
Diwa Tiongson Roman Guzman San Jose – Mrs. Felicidad dela Cruz
Editha Sayo San Nicolas – Ms. Fe Tayson-Manarang
Ely Danganan Councillor Millord Cruz  San Pascual – Mrs. Julita Cruz
Gentle Signo San Roque – Mrs. Gloria Mateo
Jan Philip Cabrera DENR Bulacan  Sta. Elena – Mrs. Ma. Stella Mendoza
Jeffrey Ramos Celia Esteban Sta. Monica – Mrs. Gliceria Reyes
John Esrom Cruz Virginia Cruz Tampok – Mrs. Conigunda dela Cruz
John Victor Magbitang Tibaguin – Ms. Maria Effie Santos
Kevin Gabrielle Lopez FEED, Inc.  VC Raymundo – Mrs. Jocelyn Perez
Lawrence Calayag Anne-Marie M. Bakker
Lawrence Perez Diane Penales East District: 
Lee Ann Canals Abulalas – Mrs. Lita Sarto
Luciel Martin PATAS Carillo – Mr. Dennis Samia
Mark Angelo Bautista Gentle Signo Eugenio Sy Tamco – Noemi Zoleta
Mark Anthony Yamat Hagonoy East Central – Mrs. Noemi Caparas
Mark Die Atienza UP Mountaineers  Hanga – Mr. Restituto San Pedro
Mark Lester Magbitang Diwa Tiongson Iba Poblacion – Mr. Robert Victor
Marvin Magbitang Lee Ann Canals Iba Ibayo – Mr. Jun Acuna
Miko Sali Sieg T’ron Palapat – Mrs. Marylou Payongayong
Monica Sali San Juan – Mrs. Elvira Bautista
Natalia Sali Teodora Cruz – Mrs. Judith Danca
Niki Sali
Patricia Mina
Paul Chrisha Moronia
Raissa Inocencio
Randolph Santos
Regine Gumapas
Roman Guzman
Rosario dela Cruz
Sieg T’ron
Tess Teodoro
Vince Yepez
Wichelle Go

For More Information

This writing is a joint piece co-authored by and with direct quotes from Natalia Sali, Founder/Initiator of the ONE CHILD, ONE TREE Partnership, with extracts from the “One Child, One Tree Project Implementation Report” dated 22 January 2017.

© FEED, Inc.