ONE multi-purpose cooperative in the island of Camiguin proves that resource conservation and community development can go hand in hand.
As in most worthwhile stories, it all began with one man’s quest.
Fisherman Rolando Cordero, from Barangay Cantaan in Guinsiliban town, Camiguin, was awarded as Gawad Saka Outstanding Capture Fisherman by the Department of Agriculture in 1994.
Cordero was noted for his conservation efforts with the endangered giant clams species (Tridacna gigas) in Camiguin.
His efforts led to the setting up of the Giant Clam Showcase and have stopped fishermen from giant clam poaching. They have turned to conservation instead.
Cordero’s work caught the interest of funding agencies that were willing to support his conservation efforts.
The World Bank funded his giant clam conservation effort and provided assistance in developing his clam conservation facility.
In 1997, Cordero and the Cantaan Fishermen Association (CAFA) were invited to participate in the orientation of the Coastal Environment Program by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Through the encouragement and support of DENR, CAFA was inspired to focus on giant clam conservation.
CAFA was then involved in the “7,000 Clams for 7,000 Islands” project spearheaded by the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Marine Science Institute.
Marine conservation groups like Seamind and the Silliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management worked with CAFA in acquiring different species of clams, providing technical training on clam conservation, and helping them set up reseeding sites and conservation facilities.
“In other units or organizations that would like to do giant clam training, after training, nothing happens. This group was really committed to continuing the project. We gave them support because we could see that their efforts are sincere,” said Dr. Hilly Quiaoit of Xavier University Marine Center, one of the first marine biologists to work with CAFA.
Expansion of efforts
Recognizing the need to manage large amounts of funds to sustain their clam conservation facility, CAFA changed its name to Cantaan Centennial Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CCMPC) and received the approval of the Cooperative Development Authority on June 7, 1999.
In October that same year, the Foundation for the Philippine Environment (FPE) approved the cooperative’s Giant Clam Sanctuary project proposal and granted it P114,000 to fund a 3,000-square-meter conservation site.
From just 30 clams in 1997, the Giant Clam Sanctuary now hosts over 4,000 clams. It is home to six of the seven giant clam species in the world.
Research groups from local and foreign universities continue to visit the site to study the clams.
CCMPC has expanded its conservation efforts and now also manages a fish sanctuary, a mangrove sanctuary, and a mud crab nursery.
The giant clam conservation site has since evolved to include a tourist facility complete with snorkeling gear for guided tours, a restaurant, sari-sari store (neighborhood convenience store) and souvenir shop.
The facility averages 1,000 visits per month, with that number doubling during the summer.
Cantaan is a small barangay with 441 residents and 97 households, whose primary livelihood as fishing.
Largely through CCMPC’s efforts, the conservation site, which now spans four hectares, was declared a Marine Protected Area by the Municipality of Guinsiliban in 2003.
To date, 56 households in Cantaan have become members of the CCMPC.
Seeing the value of the conservation site in their barangay, as well as the cooperative’s expansion of its conservation efforts, members have taken an active role in the maintenance of the marine protected areas. They receive a daily honorarium for their services.
CCMPC has also helped its members start alternative livelihood projects like raising hogs and ducks, vegetable farming, souvenir-making and setting up sari-sari stores.
CCMPC chairperson Alona Cordero said their goal is to support members who are interested in going into family enterprises.
“Our cooperative is stable. We look for funds so that we can provide support to our members who are interested in expanding on their own,” she said.
Because of the continued interest of funding agencies, CCMPC has also helped facilitate the construction of roads and a multi-purpose hall in the barangay.
CMPC’s efforts and success are deeply rooted in respect for life and bayanihan (cooperation).
“It’s the total involvement of the community. And that starts from the adults in the community to the children. Therein lies sustainability,” said Siliman University Angelo King Center for Research and Environmental Management Research Coordinator Richard Ebner.
As for Rolando Cordero, who is now 70, he continues to watch over his giant clams as a father would a toddler taking its first steps.
“I would like to see the community add to our efforts,” Rolando said in the local dialect. “I would like to see the community keep working together in order to thrive.” (RAFI)
(The CCMPC is one of five finalists in the institution category of the 6th RAFI Triennial Awards. The winner will be revealed on Friday, Aug. 14.)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 06, 2015.
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