Bukidnon occupies a central position on the island of Mindanao. It is host to four main mountain ranges which serve as the watersheds for the island. They are the headwaters – a hydrological power house – from which six major rivers emanate providing the much needed water for drinking, hydro power, and irrigation for agriculture food production.
Together with two other mountain ranges in Lanao del Sur, which are also the rain shadow for southern Bukidnon – a major sugarcane production area, these six mountain ranges are vital to safeguard for ensuring food, water and energy security – and ultimately human security, for much of Mindanao.
Hineleban’s Mindanao Rainforestation Initiative and its Program for Equitable Advancement of Rural Livelihood (PEARL) has been formulated to rehabilitate, protect and preserve these pristine mountain ranges and their associated ecosystems. (Map 1). There are six PEARLs, one for each mountain range which aim to implement the twin objectives of mountain rainforestation and sustainable livelihood development.
The geographic domain of Hineleban’s work connects us to four regions in Mindanao, eight key provinces including two in the Bangsamoro (Lanao del Sur and Maguindano), five big seas, and five coastal cities. (Map 2).
BACKGROUNDER ON MASSIVE LOSS OF PRIMARY FOREST COVER OVER THE LAST 30 YEARS
- Up to the 1980’s, Mindanao used to have three cropping cycles per year for corn and palay, with year round harvests almost everyday. Today this has been reduced to only two cycles, with the second crop often ending in failure or poor harvest due to lack of rain. This represents approximately a 40% decrease in the productivity of the land over the last 30 years.
- The loss of rainfall and river water for irrigation across almost all of Mindanao, is reflected by NIA records which show, over these last 30 years, a 75% decrease in the volume of river waters during the dry season – when such rainfall/river water is required to sustain the second/third crop cycles for food production.
- This drastic decrease of rainfall distribution and dry season river discharge has been caused by the continued loss of primary forest cover from 34% in 1970 down to 3% in 2000, and less than 2% in 2016.
- Conversely, the loss of forest cover is causing massive flooding in the lowlands during the 5 month rainy season.
- The growing extended dry periods outside of the southwest monsoon (June-October) are described as the process of “desertification” of a tropical island, further aggravated by the global climate change phenomenon of increasing frequency & intensity of El Niños.
- However, in Mindanao there are two exceptions to the devastating effects of El Niño on crop production: in parts of the Agusan provinces and part of Lanao, where even at the peak of the El Niño in April, they still had rainfall and continuous crop production – due to the micro-climates produced by the proximity of their existing forest cover.
- This is stark evidence that if our mountain forests are restored, we can create micro-climates that can restore our rainfall.
- Rainforestation of the mountains of Mindanao is the only long term solution to attaining food self sufficiency with 3 crop cycles per year, restoring underground aquifers for urban consumption (even Davao City water supply suffered loss of water during this last El Niño), and bringing back the full capacity of our hydro-electric plants.
- Six of the major river systems of Mindanao have their headwaters in the 6 mountain ranges of Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur (bounding Bukidnon) – flowing down from the few remaining primary forests.
- The headwaters of the Pulangi and Maridugao Rivers flowing through North Cotabato are from these mountains, while the Davao River is likewise from the mountains of Bukidnon.
- Being the headwaters of 6 of the major river systems of Mindanao, Bukidnon was prioritized as the starting point for the Rainforestation of Mindanao.