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Terrestrial and Aquatic Restorations By Students Immersed In Environmental Reforms

Creating Change Through: The Can-ugkay Community-based Watershed and Habitat Restoration Project

A name like Terrestrial And Aquatic Restorations By Students Immersed In Environmental Reforms or TARSIER would surely spark the interest of many. However, the success of this small school-based organization from the Visayas State University (VSU) was of that of the little-tugboat-that-could, having started with simply the will to help even amidst scant resources.

The Can-ugkay Community-based Watershed and Habitat Restoration Project was conceptualized by former TARSIER president Jihan Santanina Santiago. The project site, the island municipality of Pilar in Cebu, is where Jihan is from. And despite this being far from their home base in Leyte, TARSIER members dedicated their weekends, travelling on land and across the sea to make great things happen.

What’s the Story?

TARSIER’s Can-ugkay Community-based Watershed and Habitat Restoration Project is a response to the deteriorating water supply of the Can-ugkay Watershed, which provides water to 1,500 households and plays a key part in keeping ecosystems and biodiversity in place.

Due to the dwindling forest cover and the increase of harmful and unsustainable farming practices such as the slash-and-burn technique, TARSIER members took a stand to believing that “a deep sense of environmentalism is a key to sustainability”. They addressed the lack of alternative sources of income for farmers or fisher folk and worked to counter negative environmental effects through a rehabilitation method called Rainforestation,

The Rainforestation Farming System integrates fruit-bearing trees like Lanzones, Durian, Rambutan and Mangosteen with native trees, resulting in a stable source of income for locals, the safeguarding of biodiversity and the protection of water supply. TARSIER tapped the expertise of the Institute of Tropical Ecology (ITE) of the Visayas State University and garnered the support of Plan International, Villahermosa Barangay Council and the Sangguniang Kabataan.

As local government units supported travel expenses, TARSIER members conducted training on Rainforestation Farming and Environmental Leadership seminars for farmers, youth leaders and high-school students alike. This not only produced a 1-hectar Demonstration Farm with 250 grafted fruit trees and 5,000 indigenous trees but also lead to the establishment of a centralized farmers’ group named the Can-ugkay Rainforestation Farmers’ Association or CaRFA.

Recognition and Success

In October 2009, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the Municipality of Pilar and Visayas State University for TARSIER’s continuing project. And for three consecutive years, TARSIER has been recognized as Best Student Organization.

During the TAYO 8 National Awarding, Team Energy awarded TARSIER 20000 pesos and a computer set-up for their “strength in synergy while demonstrating the power to serve and help build lives to inspire change among the Filipino youth.” Serving both man and nature, it is truly is a monumental achievement for the little-tugboat-that-could.

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