Interconnected coastal systems composed of coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds, beaches, estuaries and the watersheds, forests and other upland ecosystems that feed them have historically been the basis for subsistence, security and culture of local people throughout the developing world. Coastal ecosystems also constitute an important renewable resource for a wide range of other development uses, such as settlement, transportation, fisheries, aquaculture, forestry, mining, industry, waste disposal and tourism.
In many cases, coastal ecosystems are subject to a variety of stresses including sedimentation (largely because of deforestation for agriculture, settlement, and road-building), pollution (industrial waste, urban run-off, and sewage disposal), increased harvesting to meet the demands of a growing population, and temperature and sea level variations due to climate change (e.g. El Niño events). Such habitat destruction is a major threat to biodiversity and is one of the leading causes of species extinctions.
The study addressed the key issues affecting biodiversity conservation in the light of practical need for natural resource utilization around Mt. Malindang. The area was declared as the first priority in terms of biodiversity conservation efforts in the country and risks associated from there.
The activities therefore worked around three themes that directly addressed the problems of coastal communities: a) Reversing degradation of coastal resources, b) Enhancing livelihoods of coastal people; and c) Capacity building and information/data base management.
Thus the project had eight specific components directly addressing the three themes indicated above namely:
- Project 1: Understanding material transfers from watersheds and reducing ‘downstream’ effects of agriculture and forestry on coastal aquatic ecosystems
- Project 2: Addressing non-optimal use of resources through valuation and “environmental payments”
- Project 3: Identifying, mapping and strengthening management of critical coastal habitats
- Project 4: Understanding the factors determining livelihoods for poor coastal people and facilitate the application of ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF)
- Project 5: Restoring production from capture fisheries
- Project 6: Developing technologies for alternative or supplementary livelihoods for coastal people
- Project 7: Resource mapping (Biodiversity Information System) for effective resource management and monitoring
- Project 8: Capacity Building in Biodiversity Conservation and Natural Resources Management
The project drew on the expertise and linkages of the members of the consortium to effectively and efficiently attain the objectives of the project. To ensure sustainability of the activities and interventions, a Project Steering Committee was created comprising representatives of the Consortium and the potential beneficiaries as well as other stakeholders in the Mt. Malindang area (LGUs, NGOs, other line agencies like DA, DENR, DOST, and the academe). This ensured ownership of the project efforts of the stakeholders who would sustain the project’s gains thru their own mandated programs and projects.
A critical component of the project was local capacity building to ensure that the beneficiaries and other stakeholders had the necessary skills and capabilities to continue biodiversity conservation efforts. In addition the coastal communities were empowered with access to technical skills and information necessary to identify and sustain alternative livelihood activities in the project area.
All lessons learned and packages of technologies developed were then managed in an information system (knowledge management system) that ensures the lessons are shared to a wider audience. In addition it would provide key opportunities for applying the same modalities in other areas with similar problems and circumstances.