Mangrove forests not only provide habitat for plants and animals, it also has the ability to mitigate disaster impacts from storms, flooding, and erosion. This ecosystem also supports sustainable livelihood for the coastal communities. To ensure the conservation and sustainable management of resources, communities are now taking active steps in protecting these habitats.

One of the communities that pushes for the protection of mangrove forests is Barangay Somal-ot in the town of Casiguran, Sorsogon. Recognizing the vital role of the mangroves, the community saw the need to restore and preserve these natural habitats through the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS), a program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) that uses the Community-Driven Development (CDD) approach.

According to Miraflor Grajo, 57, barangay councilor of Somal-ot, many of the community members particularly fisherfolks have the difficulty to earn an income due to weather disturbances.

Dahil sa lahat ng mga nagtatrabaho dito ay nasa dagat merong minsan walang huli, dahil kung malakas ang ulan, malakas ang alon, hindi nakakapunta ng dagat,” she said.

(Since most of the community members are fisherfolks, there have been occasions when their fish catch has been low because of heavy rain and strong waves that prevent them from going out to the sea.)

To provide additional income for the low-income households, the community decided to implement the Cash-for-Work for Mangrove Planting and Declogging of Drainage Canal under the National Community-Driven Development Program – Additional Financing (NCDDP AF).

Maria Teresa Espera, 56, community volunteer or chairperson of the Barangay Development Council – Technical Working Group (BDC – TWG), shared that the community prioritized the scheme for its positive environmental and social impacts that it will provide to the villagers.

“Mangrove dahil nakakatulong po ‘yun sa pagpapadami ng mga isda at mapapakinabangan po paglumaki na sila [at] tulad po ng mga calamity na pumapasok dito sa aming barangay, yung bagyo, maraming malaking alon at yung pagguho ng lupa sa gilid ng dagat,” she explained.

(Mangrove plays a major role in boosting fish harvests and preventing soil erosion when a calamity such as a typhoon or strong waves hits the community.)

However, the community encountered difficulties in encouraging the villagers to implement the sub-project as community volunteers. Through a series of conversations led by Teresa, the community was able to form a team of volunteers.

Sa pakikiusap namin at sa paliwanag namin kung ano naman yung magiging bunga nung paghihirap namin bilang isang volunteer, ‘yan nakukuha naman namin ang loob nila para mahikayat ko sila na mag-volunteer,” she stated.

(We have encouraged community members to volunteer by sharing the results of our efforts as community volunteers through discussions.)

Driven by a shared vision towards environmental protection, the community members cleaned drainage canals and planted 6,258 mangrove seedlings with a total project cost of PHP 161,790.00 that benefited 49 households.

Teresa also highlighted the significant role of villagers in protecting the mangrove forests for continuous benefits.

“…tulungan po natin na ma-maintain or maging malinis…para hindi sila mamatay at lumago pa sila at ‘yun din po ang makakatulong sa atin at hindi lang sa atin po na nagtanim noon, maging sa darating pang henerasyon ng barangay natin,” the volunteer emphasized.

(To prevent the mangrove trees from dying, let’s help in maintaining the cleanliness to improve the growth conditions since it will greatly help the community as well as the next generations.)

As the mangroves take root and flourish, it remains a symbol of resilience and empowerment of Barangay Somal-ot and their community volunteers with hope of a brighter, greener future.

Teresa also shared that her volunteerism can be compared as a chili plant in which despite the spiciness, it will serve as a part of the learning process.

Parang ganun ang naging buhay ko na paunti-unti nagiging maganda at sa bandang huli, kahit maanghang, masarap pa rin,” she described.

(The chili plant is similar to my life wherein it gradually became a wonderful life and even though it’s spicy, it’s still lovely.)

As more and more communities initiate environmental preservation efforts, the power of collective action is an effective ingredient in strengthening humanity and protecting nature.