El Verde Movement (EVM)
Provincial Government of Camarines Sur

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The Province of Camarines Sur is faced with two major problems that bear long-term impacts on thepeople of Camarines Sur. The first problem is (a) poverty incidence and the second is (b) high vulnerability to climate change. Poverty alleviation remains the top priority, even though Camarines Sur has achieved one of the more impressive results between 2006 and 2015. Within this period, its poverty incidence per population declined from 47.7% to 37.3%, a net reduction of 10.4%. This is significantly better than the national poverty reduction of only 2.5% for the same period. In terms of economic growth, the Philippines is viewed as one of the most robust in the next decade. Geographically, Camarines Sur belongs to Region V, one of the fastest growing regions in the Philippines. In 2014 to 2015, the region experienced a growth rate of 8.4% (current 2000 prices), which was 2.6% higher than the national growth rate. However in the Philippines, historical and empirical data show that economic growth rate is not enough to lift the lowest income group out of poverty. This is demonstrated by a consistent rise in the country’s per capita income over the past two decades. Yet, in the same time period, the national poverty rate persistently hovers around the 20% level. This suggests that the benefits of economic development has failed to trickle down to the bottom 20% of the population. One of the major challenges in breaking through the socio-economic divide is a disconnect between the economic opportunities available to the poor and the type of labor value that the poor can actually offer. In the case of Camarines Sur, the poorest residents are predominantly engaged in farming and fishing. This implies two choices in increasing family incomes in this group: (a) offer economic opportunities requiring agricultural skills and (b) improvement of skill sets through education. PGCS cannot overemphasize the importance of improving the reach and quality of public education in Camarines Sur as the key to long-term poverty alleviation. Nevertheless, for the poor and currently in the labor force, agriculture-based economic opportunity is the only way out of poverty. The province’s vulnerability to climate change exacerbates its fight against poverty. Just last December 25, 2016, Camarines Sur was once again badly damaged by Typhoon Nina (International Name: Nock Ten). Total provincial damages in agriculture, fishery and agroforestry amounted to Php 2.8 billion. Out of this total 75% were damages to crops and 20% were damages to agricultural infrastructure. Camarines Sur remains in the top 10 provinces in the Philippines that are most vulnerable to super typhoons. Camarines Sur is faced with a compounded problem involving poverty and climate change. This fuels a vicious cycle where the poor suffer the brunt of the devastating effects of climate change. The Province of Camarines Sur is committed to address this problem through the El Verde Movement.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The El Verde Movement is an umbrella sustainable development program geared towards climate change adaptation and environmental stewardship in Camarines Sur which showcases a massive tree-planting and tree-nurturing program that provides cash and food remuneration, as well as scholarships, to the poorest residents. This program is a perfect example of a triple bottom line approach in finding solutions to social problems because it provides livelihood, at the same time fights climate change by reducing greenhouse gases. The El Verde Movement also contributes to reducing the risk of floods and raises the quality of ecosystem services like clean water, clean air, soil fertility and healthy marine life habitat.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The El Verde Movement is a sustainable development program that balances economic, social and environmental goals. Specifically, El Verde directly uplifted thousands of families from poverty while improving the province’s capacity to withstand floods and reduce soil erosion. Moreover, from the global standpoint, El Verde’s massive tree planting program, currently with 22 million trees covering a total area of 4,041 hectares, contributes to the world’s carbon sequestration. Poverty alleviation. The El Verde Movement introduced the Work for Cash/Food Scheme as a way to ensure that the trees planted would be maintained by locals. This is an incentive scheme where families partner with El Verde to receive remuneration in exchange for maintaining the trees. To date, there are 7,272 families that have partnered with El Verde. Of these families, 30% are non-coastal families who receive cash incentives for caring for the trees. Family-partners who are taking care of mangroves, do not get incentives for mangrove maintenance but rather for mangrove replanting. Examples of testimonials from partner families are available on El Verde’s website. Benefits to partner families include: Provision of stable source of rice, Augmentation of income to better support children through school, Provision of transition livelihood (from small-scale mining) Provision of community lighting facilities as group incentive for supporting the program Improved fishing yields (shrimp, crabs and fish) due to healthy marine nurseries as a result of mangrove reforestation Increased the ability of families to save and invest in other complementary livelihoods such as backyard livestock raising Climate change adaptation. The Province of Camarines Sur is one of the top ten provinces that is most vulnerable to super typhoons in the Philippines. This lends the province to above average increases in rainfall and higher frequency in typhoon incidence. Over and above its location which is facing the West Pacific Ocean, the province has one of the longest coastlines in the country at 909.91 kilometers. It is critical for the province to build stronger resistance against flood and soil erosion. Climate change mitigation. With 22 million trees and counting, the El Verde Movement contributes to sequestering 480 million kilos of carbon dioxide. This is equivalent to 0.3% of the entire country’s GHG emissions.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The El Verde Movement is innovative in its approach because it is a project that truly embraces the triple bottom approach of “People-Profit-Planet.” This program is living proof that economic development does not have to contradict with environmental protection and uplifting communities. In a way, the mechanics of the El Verde Movement goes against the grain of conventional practice, which is to harvest something from nature in exchange for economic value. The difference that El Verde offers is that it prioritizes the expansion and protection of forestry before reaping economic value. With its Cash/Food for Work Scheme, families living in buffer zones are remunerated first for planting trees and protecting and maintaining these trees. This dramatically changes people’s mindsets that puts an economic value to environmental stewardship. In fact, we are creating a new livelihood model that monetizes the protection of forests. With the El Verde Movement, families adopt a certain number of trees or mangroves. For mangroves, remuneration is limited to replanting since once they are stable, mangroves are practically maintenance free. However, they are vulnerable to being uprooted during strong storms. This is when the El Verde Movement provides incentives for replanting fallen trees. For upland trees and bamboo, partner families are remunerated for maintaining trees. For fruit-bearing and agro forestry trees, families are paid P1 per tree biannually. This could translate into an average income augmentation of about P4,000 ($80) a month.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The El Verde Movement was implemented by the Province of Camarines Sur. This program was the brainchild of Governor Luis Raymund Villafuerte, a passionate supporter of environmental stewardship. Within PGCS, the implementing group is the Environment, Disaster Management and Emergency Response Office (EDMERO). The social reach and impact of El Verde is quite extensive. Tree planting and reforestation projects have been implemented in all 35 municipalities and two cities of Camarines Sur. The El Verde Movement also has a youth group, called El Verde Youth, which has a membership of about 20,000 students. Some of these members are also El Verde scholars. During planting events, the El Verde Movement is participated by tens of thousands of volunteers. During its launch, the total number of volunteers was 58,530. For maintenance of trees, including replanting of fallen mangroves, El Verde has partner families engaged in the Work for Cash/Food Scheme. The mechanics involve providing food/rice or cash in exchange for taking care of trees. As of now, there are 7,272 partner families, whose incomes are augmented, lifting them out of the hunger and poverty threshold. It also has 81 school forest parks. The PGCS is largely defined by its leadership. Led by Gov Migz Villafuerte, the youngest governor in the Philippines, PGCS is dynamic, always seeks to grow and expand the reach of its impact. For example, the PGCS has launched various complementary programs that support the tree-planting and reforestation programs, such as environmental protection rangers: Bantay Dagat ( marine ecosystems), Bantay Bakawan ( mangroves), Bantay Ilog ( rivers) and Bantay Bundok ( upland forests). El Verde has also established plant nurseries to support the growth of its tree planting program. It has also expanded into other lucrative plants such as bamboo, citronella, cassava and coconut.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The El Verde Movement was founded on February 23, 2011. Since it has been one of the province’s priority projects, its launch and aggressive expansion has been fully funded by the Provincial Government of Camarines Sur. Its launch day was actively participated by over 6,000 Camarinensis which broke the Guinness World Record for planting 64, 096 trees in just 15 minutes in the town of Siruma. An additional 52,530 volunteers worked to plant 585,566 trees and 100,000 mangroves in 82 planting sites across Camarines Sur at the end of the day. In April, El Verde joined Environmental Summit in celebration of Earth Day. Co-operators of the El Verde Movement met at the Environmental Summit, where Bantay Dagat, Bantay Bakawan, Bantay Ilog and Bantay Bundok were formed as protection units that will safeguard the seas, mangroves, rivers and mountains of the province. The day after the Summit the El Verde Movement and the PGCS simultaneously planted 300,000 trees in several municipalities of the province in celebration of Earth Day. In June 2011, El Verde Movement launched the Sagip Ilog (River Protection) Project by planting 1.7 million trees along the watershed areas of Bicol River and other rivers in Camarines Sur. At the end of 2012, El Verde achieved its original goal of planting 12 million trees. It had also broken its second Guinness World Record for the most number of mangrove propagules planted in one hour. Over 6,000 multi-sectoral volunteers gathered to make the Guinness world of record possible. El Verde was recognized as a best practice climate change adaptation in a book published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. In January 2013, the program’s Note to Prior Consideration of CDM was also published by the UNFCCC. In June, Gov Migz Villafuerte vowed to continue his father’s legacy in protecting the environment by setting a new goal for El Verde which is to plant 40 million trees by 2020. He spearheaded the first-ever Provincial Summit on the Forest Protection on Environmental Laws Enforcement, mobilizing forest protection volunteers to step up PGCS commitment to forest conservation. Furthermore, Gov. Migz and the El Verde Movement led the simultaneous Coastal Clean-up in more than 60 hotspots areas across the province. On the first 100 days of Governor Migz Villafuerte, he was able to plant 353, 170 trees, 53,000 bamboos, 2,160,500 mangroves, and 36,293 nipa palms with 1,303 farmer/fisherfolks and 500 volunteers. As of mid June 2016, the El Verde Movement had family 7,272 beneficiaries and 18,000 scholars. EVM was able to grow 22,047,207 trees in the province, broken down as rain forest – 7,340,207 and mangrove forest – 14,707,000.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Provincial Government of Camarines Sur, through the Environment, Disaster Management, and Emergency Response Office (EDMERO), spearheads and provides full funding for the El Verde Movement. The initial stages of the program's conceptualization involved keen and detailed studies and case analyses of CamSur's forests. These have been successful with the help of both professionals in the field of environmental sustainability, who provided their technical knowledge, and local key persons in the communities, who imparted their indigenous knowledge to the PGCS. Considering the importance of both technical and indigenous knowledge helped the PGCS, through EDMERO, to create a holistic and pro-active plan of action for El Verde Program. In the same way, the project's implementation, although managed, organized, and sustained by EDMERO, will not be possible without the aid of local leaders of the El Verde sites. In some areas, these local leaders comprise of barangay officials, while in others, these are the elders and respected individuals in their community. Apart from the PGCS, EDMERO, professionals and local leaders in the El Verde Sites, elementary schools, through the Department of Education, have also helped in the establishment of forest parks in every school in the province during the early months of the movement.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
The El Verde Movement continues to achieve success in its intended goals of poverty alleviation, environmental protection and climate change adaptation. Following are five concrete examples of success stories. (1) Poverty alleviation. In Del Gallego, most residents cut down trees for a living- to make and sell charcoal. With El Verde Movement’s incentive scheme, re-trained residents plant trees to earn a better livelihood. The El Verde Movement tracked down families program and we received numerous testimonials. Whereas selling charcoal earned P1,000, one partner shared his surprise when he receives 20 sacks of rice as payment for planting 10,050 bamboo trees. With his earnings from El Verde, he was able to put up a house, buy appliances, and purchased his own carabao, which he now uses to till his parcel of land. (2) Providing alternative livelihood: The island barangay of Gata, Caramoan used to be a small-scale mining town. When the Provincial Government issued a ban on mining, the island community was at a loss for sources of food and livelihood. At the onset, a weekly distribution of 5-kilo rice packs were given to 250 families until they were able to grow their own food. The Provincial Government also distributed chickens and seedlings for those who will plant and maintain fruit-bearing trees. Fiberglass boats, fishing nets complete with accessories like sinkers and floaters, and seaweed propagules were also distributed. Through the El Verde Movement, the Gata community learned to plant and maintain fruit-bearing trees cultivate seaweed, become competent fishermen, and raise chicken and livestock. At present, these backyard family enterprises serve as a reliable food source for the community. (3) Climate change adaptation. The coastal community of Old Caaluan, Tinambac was almost completely devastated during Typhoon Rosing in 1995, when the concrete barrier that shielded them from harsh waves broke down. Many households decided to leave the barangay for safer grounds, while some remained hoping for better fortunes. When the El Verde Movement was launched in Old Caaluan, it aimed to rehabilitate its natural resources and also create alternative livelihood. Mangroves, known to protect coastal areas from storm surge and soil erosion were planted in exchange for sacks of rice. One family started planting mangroves in an abandoned fish pond, with seedlings from the Provincial Government. The family was overwhelmed when they received 45 sacks of rice after planting 80,000 mangroves. They ended up giving away 23 sacks, which in turn encouraged more families to join El Verde. After four to five years, residents claim that the water does not rise as high as before. (4) Public service through greening. For a long time, the island Barangay Tamiawon did not have access to electricity. Without any light, livelihood-related activities and emergency medical cases have to wait the next day. Through the El Verde Movement, 25 street lights were provided in exchange for planting mangroves along their coastline. For every mangrove planted, P0.50 was given to the planter, while P0.50 was contributed to a fund used to finance the street lights. In total, 44,000 mangroves were planted. With the amount raised, the barangay was able to light its streets. This helped in community mobilization in case of potential hazards. Due to the island’s location, the barangay was prone to dangers such as storm surge, landslide, and flash floods, especially at night. (5) Improved ecosystem services. Also in Old Caaluan, Tinambac, the head of the El Verde Planters Group attests that because of the mangroves, more bird species are sighted in their community. Also the propagation of mangroves in their coastline created a healthy nursery for marine life, especially shrimps, crabs and fish.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The El Verde Movement faced resistance in its first year especially in the far-flung areas, where illegal livelihood practices such as kaingin, timber poaching, and charcoal making were prevalent. The primary reason may be economical, as they needed to reap fast and, if possible, steady income from their livelihood despite its adverse effects on their resources; whereas the El Verde Movement puts premium in enriching the environment to maximize sustainable resource-based income opportunities. The conflicting paradigms of the community and the movement resulted in some beneficiaries' reluctance to cooperate in its first year, questioning the viability of the program in providing their daily sustenance. In one area, bamboo plantations were burnt as show of protest against the program. To overcome this, the El Verde Movement introduced the concept of Work for Cash/Food Scheme, where beneficiaries will be paid for planting and maintaining their plantations. This was implemented to encourage the participation of the people in identified El Verde sites by paying for the time they used to dedicate to their livelihood that they have instead used for planting. Food in the form of rice was given as payment. The Work for Cash/Food Scheme was eventually accepted and even drew interest in planting and maintaining trees as a dependable source of income. In coastal areas where mangroves were planted, for example, the beneficiaries shared testimonies of richer fish and shellfish sources than in the previous years. Community organizing was also incorporated in the successful implementation of the program. Staff were assigned to their respective sites to ensure that the community, through their continuous involvement, develops a sense of accountability for the program. This sense of accountability later on showed when the beneficiaries no longer required strict and steady monitoring of progress from the program implementers as they were already reaping the benefits of their plantation.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
The El Verde Movement’s impacts can be considered more basic than public services. In fact, its benefits make up the foundations of humanity. Here are the program’s critical benefits to the people of Camarines Sur: Hunger and poverty alleviation through direct increase in family incomes: Hunger and poverty are the most basic deterrents to human rights. Living poor in a highly developed place does not make for acceptable quality of life, hence the PGCS’ focus on increasing family incomes. Through the Work for Cash/Food Scheme, thousands of families in the province have risen out of poverty by being partners of the El Verde Movement. Families in hard to access and environmentally vulnerable areas augment their incomes through cash or food incentives in exchange for maintaining a certain number of trees tagged as part of the El Verde Movement. Climate change adaptation. The biggest environmental and climate change threats to the Province of Camarines Sur are: soil erosion, flooding or inundation and the incidence of super typhoons. These are pre-conditions to good public service. With El Verde’s reforestation programs that cover both coastal and upland forests, the province has built up its capacity to reduce flooding, especially in the coastal areas. The reforestation in upland areas, has helped reduce soil erosion, which inevitably end up deposited in the Bicol River, , the main source of water and irrigation in the peninsular region. The province and the country as a whole contribute so little to the global greenhouse gas emissions, yet they suffer the brunt of the extreme weather brought about by climate change. Improved ecosystem services. Before modern public services, there were ecosystem services. These are made available without financial remuneration by the planet we live in. EVM has helped improve soil retention, its ability to absorb run off, its ability to recharge water and air.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
[This is not applicable to the program.]

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The Work for Cash/Food Scheme of El Verde largely favors women and girls. In fact, to signify this intention, one of the largest batch of trees were planted to celebrate International Women’s Day, on March 8, 2012. On that occasion, 1,009,028 mangrove trees were planted in one hour by over 6,000 multi-sectoral volunteers.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Provincial Government of Camarines Sur
Institution Type:   Local Government  
Contact Person:   Miguel Luis Villafuerte
Title:   Governor  
Telephone/ Fax:   +632 8170831
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   camsur.research.group@gmail.com  
Address:   Provincial Capitol Complex, Cadlan
Postal Code:   4418
City:   Pili
State/Province:   Camarines Sur

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