Agriculture - - Social Development - BY JULIO P. YAP, JR.

SOME 3,000 MEM­BERS of the Manobo tribe in the high­land vil­lages of the mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of Rosario and Bu­nawan in Agu­san del Sur are ex­pected to ben­e­fit from the prop­a­ga­tion of gi­ant bam­boo in their area.

This is just part of the var­i­ous liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties be­ing pro­vided by the Philsaga Min­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (PSMC) for the in­dige­nous peo­ple un­der its so­cial de­vel­op­ment pro­grams in the prov­ince of Agu­san del Sur.

The gi­ant bam­boo ( Den­dro­cala­mus as­per) was specif­i­cally cho­sen be­cause it is one of the fastest grow­ing plants in the world, with a re­ported av­er­age growth of 3 to 10 cen­time­ters per day. It can even grow to as much as 100 cen­time­ters in about 24 hours, de­pend­ing, of course, on the lo­cal soil and cli­mate con­di­tions.

Aside from be­ing a fast grower, one- to two-year-old gi­ant bam­boo plants are al­ready avail­able for the man­u­fac­ture of hand­i­crafts, which re­quire pli­able bam­boo splits; thus, liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties could start early for the mem­bers of the Manobo tribe.

For the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project, the mem­bers of the Manobo tribe were tapped to plant more than 3,500 seedlings of gi­ant bam­boo in an ini­tial area of six hectares last Oc­to­ber.

Dur­ing the ini­tial four years, the gi­ant bam­boo can be seen as a com­ple­men­tary crop that could fill a tar­get mar­ket, rather than a cash crop. But af­ter this ini­tial stage and be­yond, prof­itable sus­tain­able yields may be at­tain­able with­out ad­di­tional ex­penses for re­plant­ing.

Even­tu­ally, it is ex­pected to be­come a pri­mary yearly cash crop for the mem­bers of the Manobo tribe. This is ex­pected to in­spire the 200 sec­toral lead­ers of the Manobo tribe to ini­ti­ate dif­fer­ent projects in­volv­ing the use of the gi­ant bam­boo as raw ma­te­rial.

The project, which was said to be the first-ever in Min­danao, was con­cep­tu­al­ized in line with the ob­jec­tive of the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try (DTI) to pro­vide liveli­hood op­por­tu­ni­ties for the lo­cal res­i­dents of the two mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, aside from pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

The gi­ant bam­boo plants are also ex­pected to en­hance the gov­ern­ment’s en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion pro­gram, with ben­e­fits like sta­bi­liz­ing the soil in sur­round­ing ar­eas and pre­vent­ing the oc­cur­rence of land­slides, in ad­di­tion to pro­mot­ing car­bon cap­ture ca­pa­bil­ity. The gi­ant bam­boo, which re­leases more oxy­gen than trees, will also help sta­bi­lize river­banks, reg­u­late wa­ter­sheds, pro­tect against soil ero­sion, and re­cy­cle wa­ter nu­tri­ents.

Ready-to-plant gi­ant bam­boo seedlings at the nurs­ery of Philsaga in Agu­san del Sur.

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