Community-Based Forest Management: 300 Hectare Model

Candidate areas for community-based forestry management must also allow the growth of natural grasslands as an ecosystem.

How successful can a community-based forest management be? Read the case of San Isidro in Roxas, Palawan to find out.


Understanding the dynamics of the interaction between humans and their environment serves as the foundation for good management—a main concern of practitioners of environmental management. The study of how humans behave requires a keen sense of observation, coupled with a thoughtful analysis of issues and concerns that affect the environment.

Many approaches are used to understand how humans affect the environment, among which is the use of the case study approach. Doing case studies can help you understand people’s behavior in relation to their environment. It can serve as a springboard for a more detailed study or can be used as part of a qualitative research that confirms or strengthens the authenticity and reliability of studies that rely mainly on numbers.

Here is an example of a case study on community-based forest management that can help you gain insights into how the management of human behavior can help direct efforts towards attaining sustainable development. It shows how government intervention on how people use the natural resources, particularly in effectively engaging and supporting them along the goals set forth in the community-based forest management philosophy, can break new grounds for emulation and replication in similar areas.

The contents of this case study originated from key informant interviews, focus group discussion, and community meeting of those who took part in the Philippine government’s project in managing the forests.

Background on Government Programs in San Isidro

The Integrated Social Forestry Program

San Isidro is a community that largely depends on agriculture, specifically growing rice as the main product of their land. Growing rice is a common practice in many parts of the province and the country. Rice is a staple food that makes up almost half of the calorie requirements of the population.

When the government introduced the Integrated Social Forestry (ISF) Program in 1982, it served as an alternative source of income that changed the way how some farmers use the land. This national program focuses on upland development, to maximize land productivity, enhance ecological stability, and improve the socioeconomic conditions of the communities.

As an offshoot of the program, the San Isidro farmers shifted their sights into the potential of agroforestry as a major source of income instead of relying on the commonly cultivated rice as their major source of income. Previous grass-dominated land saw conversion into forest lands using valuable reforestation tree species. The government provided the beneficiaries seedlings for the said program.

The San Isidro ISF Beneficiaries Association

In 1987, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC)-registered San Isidro ISF Beneficiaries Association with 87 members was born. The government granted eighty-two (82) hectares of land to the association through 25-year stewardship contracts. The land should be planted with forest trees and fruit trees at a ratio of 6:4, respectively.

From 1989 to 1990, satisfied with the results of the ISF project, the government awarded another 300 hectares of timberland to the association. They placed two hundred fifty hectares of this land under contract reforestation program of the government, while they managed 50 hectares under the customary reforestation program of DENR.

The area under the ISF program was not part of the contract reforestation program. In the contract reforestation program, they paid the people after they could plant trees. Four organizations joined the said program, namely the Samahan ng mga Nagpapaunlad ng Likas Yaman ng Northern Palawan, Casuy Planters Association, Samahan ng mga Magsasaka ng Mararag, and the local government of San Isidro.

In 1998, the Barangay San Isidro ISF Beneficiaries Multipurpose Cooperative (BSIIBMPC) was created because the San Isidro ISF Beneficiaries Association cannot receive funds from financiers.

Originally, the cooperative had 20 members with ₱50,000 from the DENR as initial capital. The money was used to build a cooperative building to host basic commodities for the barangay as consumers.

Gearing Up to the Community-Based Forest Resource Management Program and Cooperative

In 2001, by virtue of Executive No. 263, the cooperative became a beneficiary of the Community- Based Forest Resource Management (CBFM) program of the Philippine government. The program gave communities the power to manage their natural resources, including forest protection, rehabilitation, development, and conservation.

Once again, the joint association evolved into a cooperative referred to as the Barangay San Isidro Integrated Business Multi-Purpose Cooperative (BSIIBMPC). The government gave the cooperative resource management rights over 782.81 hectares of timberland in Barangay San Isidro.

As a cooperative, the members availed of small loans (₱45,000 to ₱50,000) with the support of the local government of Roxas municipality, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-PENRO), and Budyong Rural Development Foundation.

Through a financial institution, which they just referred to as the PCDO, the cooperative also availed of an initial loan of ₱50,000. Their good performance allowed them to make another loan of twice the initial loan, then another ₱100,000 was granted. They could again pay the loan that made them eligible for another ₱300,000 loan. Eventually, a ₱1 million loan was offered, but they did not accept the offer, anticipating that availing such a large amount and paying for it will be difficult for them.

The cooperative used the funds availed from financial institutions to provide three to 6-month loans to their members. The maximum loan a member could get is ₱20,000. They gave the loans on a first come, first served basis. The members invested the loans in livestock raising, farming, business ventures, and for the education of their children. Just like in other cooperatives, the administrators gave annual dividends and patronage refunds to the members.

In the year 2010, the cooperative started harvesting forest products as a source of income. This benefited not only the cooperative which gains 75% of the income but also the government to whose coffers proceed 25% of the total income. Of this amount, 12.5% goes back to the national government. Part (12.5%) of the government’s income goes back to the CBFM program.

Now, the cooperative sustainably harvests forest products that provide additional income to their rice farmlands. The agroforestry approach has become a model for other communities to emulate and sustain.

Take-Home Message

The case of the San Isidro community forest management program under different schemes of the government shows the viability of the agroforestry approach as a sustainable income source for communities.

The people behind the successful application of schemes recommended by the government can bear good fruit. Truly, the people themselves, when armed with technical and financial help from relevant government and private institutions, can achieve sustainable development goals.

Indeed, the forests have great value able to support the community as long as the communities care enough to manage the resources they have at their disposal.

© 2023 February 5 P. A. Regoniel