Rethinking Reforestation? Native Species, New Forests, and the Potential of Sustainable Economies in the Philippine Uplands

Planting native species has the potential to transform forest practices. But how can alliances be built between science, governments, and communities to establish sustainable reforestation sites?

The need for reforestation projects is ubiquitous and undisputed in debates about climate change and biodiversity. However, the seedlings used and the social and ecological consequences that evolve out of those projects are rarely touched. My project focuses on the ecological knowledge and use of native species and their potential for transforming forest practices in the Philippine uplands.

Native species are not common in reforestation programmes in the Philippines. The majority of the past and present programmes use imported species on account of being fast-growing and resilient. While deforestation rates have increased over the last decades, there are now more and more voices that question the success of imported species. Dr. Paciencia Milan, a Philippine biologist, is one of those voices. Her Rainforestation Farming approach highlights the biodiversity of native species and the potential to include agroforestry in reforestation schemes. With the development of tree nurseries, handbooks, training, and numerous years of research, Dr. Milan has produced a specific ecological knowledge of reforestation with native species.

To set up and run reforestation sites with the Rainforestation Farming scheme, scientists, environmental authorities, and the communities in the Philippine uplands need to collaborate. However, all of these actors bring different perspectives on, knowledge of, and demands from forests. As such, I want to adopt a multi-sited perspective to follow the (co-)production of ecological knowledge related to reforestation projects among scientists, environmental authorities, and local communities. I am especially interested in the negotiation of different perspectives and the characteristics that hinder and support a) the creation of alliances between the different actors and b) the potential for sustainable livelihoods in the Philippine uplands.

Christopher Klapperich is a Ph.D. student at the Rachel Carson Center, LMU Munich. Contact: