May 16, 2021
By Melody Mendoza Aguiba
A degraded mangrove coastal area in Barangay Buayan, General Santos City has been adopted as a “Rhizophora” farm by Bayer Crop Science in an aim to help sustain biodiversity, protect the community from storm surges, and generate livelihood and income.
Called “Adopt a Coastal Special Protection Area,” the project was initiated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the city.
“It will generate income for the community from the seedlings that they’re able to grow. We will encourage them to maintain the transplanted seedlings in a portion of the coastal area,” said Richard Bangoy, Bayer Crop Science regional field technical lead for Philippines and Indonesia.
An initial 200 seedlings of the mangrove variety Rhizophora mucronata have so far been planted in the mangrove area by Bayer.
The Rhizophora varieties have been identified by the City Environment and Natural Resources (CENRO) office of General Santos as Rhizophora has been naturally occurring in the area for a long time. It has been the long-known adaptable mangrove variety that better survives diseases and climate changes..
Rhizophora mucronata has multiple uses, multiplying potential sources of income for the Barangay Buayan community.
Aside from helping prevent coastal erosion, its timber is used for firewood and in the construction of buildings, as poles and pilings, and in making fish traps.
The fruits can be cooked and eaten or the juice extracted to make wine, and the young shoots can be consumed as a vegetable. The bark is used in tanning and a dye can be extracted from both bark and leaves. Various parts of the plant are used in folk medicine.
The degraded coastal area in Barangay Buayan has made the community vulnerable to harsh impacts of climate change — storms and tsunamis.
“General Santos City’s environment and natural resources have been under threat from various environmental issues and problems from deforestation and conversion of forestlands, degradation of its rivers and coastal waters and resources from erosion, pollution and anthropogenic activities, climate change, among others,” said Bangoy.
Protecting the community from serious disasters (such as what happened to Leyte communities during the very destructive Yolanda storm) is a major objective in rehabilitating the coastal area.
“Mangroves are the first line of defense for coastal communities. They stabilize shorelines by slowing erosion and provide natural barriers protecting coastal communities.”
The communities in Barangay Buayan have contributed to putting up the nursery for Rhizophora. They are the ones picking up seeds or seedlings and first grow these seedlings up to a height of one foot to 1.5 foot before transplanting to more vulnerable coastal areas exposed to the tide. They also water the transplanted plants.
Over the longer term, the mangrove area may potentially generate livelihood from growing crabs or a local delicacy called “Tamilok.” Tamilok is a kind of edible earthworm prepared into a dish like kinilaw or kilawin – a dish cooked in vinegar.
Bangoy also hopes that sustaining the environmental beauty in the coastal area of Barangay Buayan would help transform it into a tourist site near General Santos City airport.
In the last eight years, Bayer has been supporting different environmental projects including a bamboo planting along the riverbanks of Barangay Tinagakan, General Santos City. Bayer has a corn research and breeding station in the city and these efforts are a way of giving back to the local community there. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)