Island Women Take the Lead in Peatland Restoration

Eluminada Roca (70) Janeline Garcia (32) and her son (9 months)
— the youngest and the oldest members of San Isidro village
women’s association — are engaged in restoring Leyte Sab-a Basin
peatland. Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
LEYTE ISLAND, Philippines , Mar 7 2019 (IPS)

Eluminada Roca has lived all her life next to the  Leyte Sab-a
Basin peatlands. The grandmother from of San Isidro village in
Philippines’ Leyte island grew up looking at the green hills that
feed water to the peatland, she harvested tikog—a peatland grass
to weave mats—and ate the delicious fish that was once in
abundant in the waters.

But today, the land is losing its water, the grass is
disappearing and the fish stock has drastically decreased.

The community is mainly subsistence food growers and dependent
on the catching and selling of fish both for consumption and
sale.

So, at the age of 70, Roca has joined hands with women of her
village to restore the peatland to its previous health.

In the 1970s, the government of Philippines encouraged its
people to clear the peatland forests and start farming.

In Leyte Sab-a Basin, it resulted in destroying some hills to
build roads and canals. However after decades, the canals are
draining the peatland water, making them go dry. Fortunately, there
is now a new effort to undo the damage.

In a hot, March afternoon, Roca sits with the members of San
Isidro Village Women’s Association, discussing why they must
restore the peatland.

“We need to make the peatland whole again, so we can resume
our life as it used to be,” Roca is heard saying.

Everyone nods in agreement, including Janeline Garica who, at
32, is the youngest woman in the group.

Eluminada Roca – the oldest member in San Isidro village
women’s association who is engaged in restoring Leyte Sab-a Basin
peatland. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Peatland – crucial to combat climate
change

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,
minimise 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.

But, damaged peatlands are also a major source of greenhouse gas
emissions. So, when drained and damaged, they worsen climate
change, emitting two gigatons of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year,
which accounts for almost six percent of all global greenhouse gas
emissions.

Peatland restoration can therefore bring significant emissions
reductions. Countries have been urged to include peatland
restoration in their commitments to global international
agreements, including the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Leyte Sab-e peatland in Leyte island, Visayas province,
Philippines. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Peatland in Philippines

According to the data published by the Department of Environment and Natural
Resources (DENR)
, the total area of identified peatlands in the
Philippines is 20,000 hectares, including Leyte Sab-a Basin
peatland. Spread over four villages, including San Isidro, this is
one of the two major peatlands in the country. 

In 2013, when Philippines was hit by the devastating typhoon
Hayan (locally known as Yolanda), everything in Leyte and its
capital city Tacloban was razed to the ground. According an Oxfam

report
, the natural disaster had “brought out the greater
vulnerabilities of women, children, persons with disabilities,
elderly people and the LGBT individuals in already poor
communities.”

As they struggled to get their lives back in track, the locals
who live near the peatland areas began to notice the changes around
them. They started identifying them one by one. 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. 

In 2017, WEAVER—a women’s-led NGO in Tacloban started a
project to restore 1180 hectares of Leyte Sab-a Basin peatland by
roping in local women. Today, with support from the local
government, the Visayas State University and International
Institute for Rural Reconstruction, an international NGO. 

“It is a project where the local women will be the main
actors. The different partners will contribute by doing research on
what alternative crops can the locals grow, what alternative
livelihood they can have because they cannot just be taken out of
the place. We will help them organise, give them training and help
them have an income through peatland restoration,” Paulina Lawsin
Nayra, founder of WEAVER, tells IPS.

According to Nayra, training of the women will begin after April
which will include deepening their knowledge of peatland, its link
to climate change, its vulnerability to fire and the various ways
to restore it.

The training will include collecting seeds and planting the
trees that only grow on peatland, vigilance against fire as
peatland are very vulnerable to forest fire and keeping
nurseries.

Janeline Garcia, 32 , with her 9 month old son in San Isidro
village near Leyte Sab-a Basin peatland. To secure her son’s
future she wants to restore the peatland. Credit: Stella
Paul/IPS

While are yet to be formally trained in the restoration work,
the women of San Isidro already are looking at the future.

“If we plant enough trees, birds will be back and we can start
a bird sanctuary which can be a tourist attraction,” Maria
Cabella, 52, who heads the village women’s group, tells IPS.

“We can also starts a ropeway cable car for the tourists to
enjoy the view of the peatland below,” Estilita Cabella, 42,
tells IPS. “We can restart making tikog mats,” reminds
Roca.

But for Janelina Garcia—the young mother—the future health
of the peatlands is related closely to the future of 9-month-old
son.

“Once we restore the peatland, my husband can catch enough
fish  to support our child,” she tells IPS with a smile.

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Island Women Take the Lead in Peatland Restoration
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Excerpt:

This feature part of IPS coverage of International Women’s Day
on Mar. 8

The post
Island Women Take the Lead in Peatland Restoration
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first on Inter Press
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Island Women Take the Lead in Peatland Restoration