A living example of how technology and industry can thrive alongside nature is ACEN’s Conservation Estate in Ilocos Norte, the first of many that the power company envisions to create within its host communities. 

The 700-hectare forest protection program has gone a long way since its establishment in 2014.  Livelihood programs complement it through seedling production and agroforestry. Long-term sustainability programs anchored on excellent environmental management and biodiversity protection and social programs aim to improve lives within its host communities. 

While ACEN powers the region with renewable energy through its two wind farms, North Luzon Renewables and NorthWind, it has drawn the blueprint to preserve and protect life as it flourishes side by side with nature.

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Recovering forest resources while enabling livelihood

Since reforestation initiatives began, more than 450,000 seedlings have been planted in the Conservation Estate, with the goal of planting half a million seedlings by 2023. Endemic agoho and other tree species like narra and fruit-bearing trees were introduced to enhance biodiversity.

The communities living in the periphery have also found livelihood in nurturing the forests. Over 500 local residents are now employed as forest rangers and planters in the Conservation Estate. As an integral part of the reforestation program, residents are engaged in seedling production, with the seedlings being purchased from them and replanted in the Estate.


Empowering locals through agro-forestry

Small to medium scale agriculture plays a significant role not only in ensuring food security, but also in providing farmers with the means to be socially and economically adept.

In the Conservation Estate, fruit-bearing and forest tree seedlings are propagated within the 4.5 hectare model farm, a vital part of a ten year agro-forestry plan designed by experts from UP Los Baños, with the objective to provide livelihood, self-reliance and food security to the local community.

With various training workshops to build their skills, local residents learn sustainable farming techniques such as contour hedgerow and watershed systems. They are also taught how to produce mushrooms, ginger, ube, and other root crops, fruits and vegetables. Today, there are around 2,100 fruit trees of cacao, coffee, calamansi and cashew flourishing in the farm.

Through the soon-to-be- launched “farm to market” framework, the locals will gain direct access to consistent and profitable markets for their produce, doing away with the highly fragmented supply chain, and creating an environment for farmers to build financially viable operations. The farmers will then emerge as entrepreneurs in their own right, being able to distribute their product directly to the consumer with appropriate process, storage and even product marketing.

ACEN aims to transform the lives of the locals economically and socially through this business model, enabling them to take ownership of their “businesses” by empowering them with the tools and skills they need.

Protecting biodiversity

As ACEN creates awareness on coastal environment protection, turtle conservation and biodiversity, local residents have also discovered the value of protecting nature in their daily lives, and are now stewards of ACEN’s Conservation Estate.

The forests witness an increase in biodiversity as ACEN, with the help of the locals, create an ecologically diverse landscape through analog forestry. And as the trees grow, the animals return – the forest is now home to 117 species of birds, 33 of which are endemic, and four are classified as vulnerable. Additionally, studies identified the presence of near-threatened monkey species, bats and other animals. The findings show how the Conservation Estate is an important wildlife habitat in the Northern Luzon region, and ACEN is constantly working with local communities to help them understand how their livelihood is directly linked to the natural resources and wildlife.

Meanwhile, in the coastal town of Bangui, species of endangered marine turtles have been observed laying eggs and nesting along the shoreline of the bay. But through awareness campaigns and continuous coordination with the locals, the danger of poaching and smuggling of the eggs have significantly decreased, with the residents acting as guardians of the endangered species, becoming partners of ACEN in turtle conservation.