AN $1.118-million pilot "vertical integration" wood processing project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is expected to utilized unused wood from community-based forest management (CBFM) areas, creating jobs and new export-oriented furniture-producing industries.

This project, funded by the South Korea-based Asian Forest Cooperation Organization (AFoCO), is envisioned to be replicated in logging areas all over the country once proven successful.

Specifically, the project will tap unused wood from a 2,115-hectares community forest in Agusan del Sur and 1,932 hectares in Negros Oriental.

Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu said the project with AFoCO will be the start of a sustainable forest management project in the two provinces, as wood processing plants to be put up will tap raw materials from CBFM areas.

"The Philippines needs five million cubic meters of wood or lumber per year. Only one million is from the Philippines. The rest is imported. Those that come from the Philippines are from private forests, not CBFM," Cimatu said during a project launch.

He also noted that the project will raise the income and livelihood levels of people's organizations in the grassroots.

Participating farmer groups are the Nalundan United Farmers' Association (Nufai) in Barangay Nalundan, Bindoy, Negros Oriental and Mindanao Timberland Farmers Multipurpose Cooperative Barangay Mabuhay, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

Currently, the two groups only earn from round timber (lumber of acacia mangium and of falcata) since they do not yet have wood processing plants.

Lumber of Acasia mangium only sells at P7 per board feet or P84 per 12-foot length, according to Richard Fabre, city environment and natural resources officer in Bindoy, Negros Oriental.

Given the presence of a factory, Nufai expects its farmers to become traders of their own value-added products.

"With the wood processing plant from the AFoCO project, we will be able to produce furniture. PO (people organization) members will go through training under Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) and DTI (Department of Trade and Industry)," Fabre said.

Matilfamco has a CBFM contract over a total of 2,115 hectares in Agusan del Sur and Nufai, 1,932 hectares in Negros Oriental.

In the implementation of the AFoCO project, there will also be collaboration with other national government agencies like the Department of Science and Technology-Forest Products Research and Development Institute and local government units.

The project will be implemented over five years until 2026.