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Protecting important ecosystems in the Philippines

Our Leyte Sab-a Peatland Forest Restoration project supported a natural regeneration of 1180 hectares of remnant peat swamp forest. Together with our partners from local partners, a total of 487 Lanipao (Terminalia copelandii) and 209 Dangkalan (Calophtlum inophyllum), and 114 Kabak pole plant species were planted in the area to restore the peat forest.

The project also distributed a variety of rice seed stock for the rice varietal trial which hopes to strengthen the livelihoods of local communities dwelling in the peatland area. IIRR and partners facilitated this observational research to determine the most suitable inbred rice to grow in the peatland and its peripheries. The project also conducted Livelihood Enhancement Training to introduce the diversified organic farming system to the partner farmers.

Significance of peatland restoration
Peatlands are wetland ecosystems where the soil is composed of 65 percent or more organic matter derived from dead and decaying plant materials submerged under high water saturation. They preserve global biodiversity, provide safe drinking water, minimize flood risk and help address climate change. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) peatlands store as much as 30 percent of the global carbon.

Peatland restoration is significant for emissions reductions. In the Philippines, a total area of identified peatlands is 20,000 hectares, including Leyte Sab-a Basin peatland. When super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) devastated the country, the landscapes in the region have changed.

Local communities affected struggled to get their lives back on track, the locals who live near the peatland areas began to notice the changes around them too. The trees, including Lanipao (Terminalia copelandii), and Syzygium flowering plants, were destroyed; and the bats, the birds, and tarsier—an endangered species of monkey—that inhabited the peatlands were almost gone.

The loss of the wildlife concerned the local communities, with many feeling that the peatland was becoming unhabitable.

The Leyte Sab-a Peatland Forest Restoration Project

IIRR remains committed to global international agreements, including the Paris Agreement on climate change. It works with local partners and communities to restore and protect these important ecosystems and to ultimately address climate change and its negative impacts.

In partnership with the Forest Foundation Philippines, local municipalities, the Visayas State University, WEAVER – a women’s-led NGO in the region, IIRR is facilitated a 5–year project to protect, restore, and sustainably manage over 1,800 hectares of the Leyte Sab-a Peatland Forest. This includes reinstating, reverting, and restoring areas that come under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Since these areas are owned by poor farmers, IIRR is also working with the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, Inc. (ELAC) to determine the best ways to conserve them.

Rural communities depend on natural resources for food, shelter, and livelihood. And so, IIRR will continue to work for sustainable management and access to land and water resources for these communities.