MINERVA BC NEWMAN
CEBU CITY—More than half a million grown trees are now the responsibility of the Department of Education (DepEd)-Cebu Province Division after a successful School Community-based Tree Growing program under the “One To Tree” (OTT) project initiated by the partnerships of Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (RAFI), Aboitiz Foundation, Inc. (AFI), Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) and the Department of Education (DepEd)-Cebu Province Division in October 2017.
After five years, the program successfully planted and grown 508,031 trees with 96 percent survival rate with 42 species of native trees planted and grown; engaged 51,677 students in 314 partner schools and trained 347 teachers as tree-growing partners, RAFI-OTT executive director, Anthony Dignadice bared this during the official turnover ceremony Monday, June 27 at the RAFI Kabilin Center.
“We are officially turning over the project to the DepEd-Cebu Division because we are confident that they can do the job and continue to manage and care for the trees planted and monitor their growth and survival. We are glad to have involved our learners in the process of tree growing and we hope that this truly planted a deeper seed of love for the environment and for Cebu within them,” Dignadice said.
Schools Division Superintendent, Dr. Marilyn Andales accepted the project including all its challenges and committed to sustain and manage the School Community-based Tree Growing Project within the DepEd-Cebu Province Division.
Andales even posed some challenge for future projects such as planting and growing more endangered native species to address its rapidly dwindling numbers. “To grow more native and indigenous trees as there are still wide areas and vacant lands in most school campuses,” she bared.
Andales went on that she was thinking of coming up with a program similar to ‘Kahoy Ko, Kaugmaon Ko’ where elementary school kids can start planting and growing native species and make money from the trees they have planted since their elementary years upon their harvest.
RAFI chief operations officer, Riella Mae Chista Guioguio on the other hand, also thanked all partners of this project and lauded the DepEd-Cebu Province Division for engaging the students and learners the value of taking care of the environment.
Guioguio noted that the project has encouraged volunteerism and other skills in growing trees. What is unique of this project is the planting and growing native trees, that needs to be sustained to provide and see the positive impact of this project in the long run.
“We hope this will be the beginning of more commitment to the environment and continue with the partnership for climate change adaptation advocacy to somehow slow down the huge impact of climate change in our communities today,” Guioguio said.
The Tree Growing Program in retrospect
RAFI-One To Tree (OTT) executive director, Anthony Dignadice said that the goal of the School Community-based Tree Growing Program was to plant and grow 500,000 trees with 150 partner schools and to engage some 50,000 students and train 150 teachers as tree growing partners and to take more active steps towards recovering the tree cover lost in the country.
“It was a daunting endeavor,” Dignadice said. The project components included the establishment of nurseries, seedlings and trees plantations in various partner schools; maintenance, monitoring and evaluation on the survival and status of the trees planted and the entire components of the project.
Dignadice revealed that the project’s challenge was to revolutionize the mind shift from the low survival rates of trees planted to the healthy and successful tree growing with a high survival rate in mind. DepEd ably achieved this challenge.
The project partners led by RAFI with its OTT program, challenged the DepEd students and learners to plant native tree seedlings in their school gardens or in the backyard of their homes. Each student received the “Tree Growing Booklet” where they would record or log the progress of the seedlings they planted.
RAFI and partners conducted extensive seminars and training to support its partners and provided the partner schools with other physical resources as incentives for participating actively in the program.
The project gave out 88 TV sets, 51 projectors, 130 portable sound systems, 45 water pumps, 314 printers, 314 handwash kits and 33 mobile phones for monitoring to participating schools while the students’ incentives included 25,000 school supplies (sets of notebooks, pencils, ballpens and rulers) and 50,000 student COVID kits (alcohol and masks).
“We cannot thank AFI, AEV and DepEd Cebu Province Division enough for all their support. Together, we have taken significant steps in helping our environment and combating climate change. This project is a great example of shared community spirit, where one community works towards a greener Cebu,” Dignadice concluded.