FIGHTING FIRE WITH KNOWLEDGE: Communities Learn Basic Fire Suppression and Prevention

Peoples Organization representatives and barangay local government officials participating in a fire suppression simulation under the supervision of Bureau of Fire, La Union.
Peoples Organization representatives and barangay local government officials participating in a fire suppression simulation under the supervision of Bureau of Fire, La Union.

Perceptions towards fire and its use and occurrence vary greatly. For farmers who need arable land, fire is a tool for conversion. Government units and ecologists have identified vast areas of forest land and aim for biodiversity preservation to which fire is an ominous threat. It is these varying perspectives and priorities which make multi-stakeholder interactions important for projects like watershed protection.

In barangay Poblacion, Santol, La Union a training on Forest Patrol, Slope Protection, Fire Prevention and Basic First Aid was held for the community members and barangay officials of areas within the Amburayan watershed last March 9-11, 2016. One hundred eleven participants from various barangays and People’s Organizations came together, and some of them tolerate and even participate in slash-and-burn or kaingin for agricultural and cattle grazing purposes.

Ms. Catalina Pang-ot, one of the training facilitators and the Municipal Agriculturist of Sudipen, La Union points out that the slash-and-burn system is prevalent in economically depressed areas who have no alternative livelihood options, highlighting the ever-present struggle between resource use and resource conservation. Ms. Grace Libong of the La Union Office of the Provincial Agriculturist recognizes this dilemma as a daughter of two farmers herself, she mentions the importance of agroforestry or the use of agricultural and forestry technology to create more sustainable land use systems.

Addressing the concerns of livelihood against the equally great need for forest conservation is an important step in controlling slash-and-burn activities, one of the major causes of forest fires. Imparting skills and knowledge to supress fire while looking at solutions to minimize the necessity of forest clearing and burning is an approach made possible by the full participation of farmers, community members and government entities.

Protecting and Defending the Amburayan River Basin and Watershed through Good Governance and Active Peoples’ Participation is a project funded by the USAID through the Gerry Roxas Foundation (GRF) and is implemented by the Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation Inc.  (JVOFI).// Flynn S. Ayugat

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