The Ulot Watershed Model Forest in the Philippines was established in 2000 to address the root causes of forest degradation—small-scale timber poaching, slash and burn agriculture and unregulated wildlife collection. But the diversity of stakeholders (including the State forestry department, the Army, non-governmental organizations, academics and local communities, among others), issues and concerns found within the Model Forest has tended to result in a fragmented approach to the implementation of activities and projects. This situation is changing thanks to a comprehensive watershed management planning process piloted by the Model Forest.
The Model Forest, as its name implies, includes the Ulot River Watershed, Samar Island’s third largest. As the Model Forest lies within the boundaries of Samar Island Natural Park, any management strategy must also reflect the larger protected area management plan. Recognizing a need to address the issue of cooperation, stakeholders recently prepared an integrated watershed plan through participatory processes, in collaboration with the UNDP’s Global Environment Facility Samar Island Biodiversity Project (SIBP) and with funding provided by the IMFN Secretariat. Ulot will act as a pilot project for all watersheds in the area.
Stakeholder representatives developed a planning framework, based on the watershed ecosystem management approach being adopted by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources, to guide the process. These activities included consultation with stakeholders to secure their support and commitment, watershed profiling, identification and analysis of issues, a public hearing and finalization of the plan.
Bringing together the various stakeholders in the planning process enabled them to actively examine and address the sustainability of watershed resources and values. It enhanced their understanding and widened their perspectives on the landscape and their roles in its overall management. Recognizing future impacts on increasing incomes and improving the resource base motivated stakeholders to participate.
Despite the significant time commitments involved, because Model Forests strive to strike a balance between social, economic and ecological considerations, development of the watershed plan has helped create a meaningful partnership that sees value in the sharing of resources, expertise, information and participatory decision-making. The experience will likewise increase the participation of each stakeholder in implementing the activities in an integrated and cost-effective manner, while at the same time benefiting the larger watershed for posterity.