PHILIPPINE waters are comprised of more than just coral reefs and marine life. They also include vast freshwater lakes. These bodies of water have fed entire communities for generations, and hold within their domains an abundance of wildlife and biodiversity.
The fifth largest of these lakes in the country is Naujan Lake, located on the north-eastern part of the island of Mindoro in Oriental Mindoro. It is part of the grander Naujan Lake National Park that covers a total area of about 21,665 hectares. It is home to 517 plant species, 105 bird species, 21 mammal species, and 33 species of reptiles and amphibians. The lake itself is surrounded by four municipalities and contributes to local fisheries and agriculture.
Unfortunately, however, Naujan Lake is under threat. Further residential development, garbage, illegal timber cutting, slash and burn, charcoal making and over fishing are just a few of the issues that endanger the park. These threats are slowly deteriorating the lake’s ability to support life, from birds and fish to the people that live on and around the lake.
Because of this, a program implemented by DENR-USAID called the B+WISER program (Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience) gathered a group of educators and students, training them on the basics of ecosystems, biodiversity, and conservation strategy.
The educators were coined “Eco Guardians” and their students “Eco Rangers,” tasked with creating projects and campaigns to help prevent further destruction to Naujan Lake National Park.
After the trainings, the Eco Guardians and their Eco Rangers returned to their communities and began implementing their projects. Eco Rangers went into action, devising everything from media campaigns to tree plantings.
High school students from Domingo Yu Chu National High School were highlighted by a local TV network, informing Mindoro residents of Naujan Lake’s importance. Students from Aurelio Arago Memorial High School implemented a project advocating the use of organic fertilizers.
The project, which garnered “Best Project Implementation,” was designed by students from Leuteboro High School who located source trees for native tree seedlings in a local forest in the town of Socorro, using them to aid a nationwide campaign called the National Greening Program.
All of these projects were then presented to community members of Oriental Mindoro in Calapan on January 7. It would be here that the Eco Rangers, their Eco Guardians, representatives from DepEd and DENR, B+WISER, Haribon Foundation staff, and the general public would converge to celebrate their work, and inspire them to keep the conservation work going.
Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali Jr., took the time to visit each project. His main advice was that each project must be made sustainable. Indeed the greatest challenge in all of conservation, from newly bred Eco Rangers to veteran scientists on the field, is to keep conservation projects going long after we are gone. But by inspiring communities both young and old to implement their own conservation projects for the first time is a great way to keep conservation work going, and indeed it is a great way to start the new year.
Congratulations to the students of Aurelio Arago Memorial High School, Domingo Yu Chu National High School (DYCNHS) Main, DYCNHS Pola, DYCNHS Matulatula, Leuteboro High School, Melgar National High School, San Agustin National High School, and other schools that participated in the conservation work.
The B+WISER program was designed by DENR-USAID, in collaboration with Haribon Foundation’s Training department, with the help of communities in Naujan Lake National park including the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Socorro, Oriental Mindoro.
The program’s goal is to contribute to improving natural and environmental resource management and reducing risks from disasters in the Philippines.
For more information on B+WISER program, visit www.usaid.gov/philippines/energy-and-environment/bwiser.
Source: Philippines Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (Haribon Foundation)
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Volunteer with the Haribon Foundation’s Training department by becoming a member. Regular membership lasts for entire year and costs P900. Hundred percent goes to all our projects for conservation, and you get first priority for our volunteer opportunities, discounts on exclusive T-shirts, free use of our library located in Quezon City, and more. Visit www.haribon.org.ph.