Meet Niccolo Jose and Jen Horn. One is an artist and woodworker; the other, a community engagement consultant and staunch proponent for sustainable lifestyle. Together, they are forest conservation advocates and certified BFFs of the Best Friends of the Forest Movement (BFF Movement).
Faced with the combined threats of land development, logging activities, and mining projects in areas such as Palawan, Sierra Madre, Samar and Leyte, and Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental, the BFF Movement was launched last March 2018, to gather a community of young, action-oriented environmentalists, travelers, social entrepreneurs, and artists who aim to inspire people to be advocates of forest conservation and protection.
The Movement held its very first BFF Talks entitled Creation, Conservation, and Communities, with the BFFs, Niccolo and Jen, exploring their roles as creators in promoting and empowering environmental efforts.
Delving into this theme as the BFF representing the Arts & Culture passion point, Niccolo discusses how the power of art engages people in a personal way, helping raise awareness on environmental issues, and stirring the youth into action towards conservation and protection. To him, art is just one of the many extensions of his advocacy.
After all, being a woodworker and a conservationist may seem like two completely opposite things. Indeed, as being a woodworker requires the use of wood, which raises the question of where it is sourced or if a tree was felled for this very purpose.
But as a staunch practitioner of upcycling, all of Niccolo’s works are crafted from reclaimed wood — effectively bridging the gap between creation and conservation through this practice. “I am very conscious of the material I use,” he explains. “I always use second-hand lumber from junk shops, fallen trees after typhoons, or even from old houses. At the same time, in my studio we practice zero waste. Nothing gets thrown out. Everything is used to the point that it's a sawdust. But even then, the sawdust gets used for the vermiculture and also for the plant nursery,” Niccolo added.
Through the BFF Movement, Niccolo hopes to galvanize a new generation of advocates to take action. “For me, being a BFF is learning how to share your ideas, inspire people to be creative with what's around them, and above all, to help people appreciate nature more.”
Meanwhile, for Jen Horn, the BFF Talks provided her with an avenue to discuss the growing role that social enterprises serve in promoting advocacies and raising awareness on social issues. After all, social entrepreneurship in its simplest terms is doing business for a cause. And while these causes may vary, most provide support to communities through initiatives that aim to develop a positive impact on social and environmental issues.
“Conservation is a community effort,” said Horn. Speaking of her experience as MUNI’s Chief Collaborator, Jen recounts her experiences working with social entrepreneurs and discusses how enterprises can serve as a platform for promoting advocacies. “We create events that connect communities — the conscious consumers and the mindful producers. We aim to provide a platform for more socially and environmentally mindful businesses who are creating products that have the people and the planet in mind.”
She concluded with an impassioned rallying call inviting the youth to take action. “The objective of the Movement is to encourage sustainable change and inspire more people to take action for the environment and this can be achieved by building a community that supports each other, that can learn from each other, and share different ways on how we can live a more sustainable life and help protect the forests and the planet as a whole.”
Bolstering the message that the BFF Talks aims to convey to its attendees, the event was also graced by other representatives from organizations that are also into social entrepreneurship:
Atty. Jose Andres A. Canivel - Executive Director, Forest Foundation Philippines
Atty. Jose Andres “Onggie” Canivel has more than 15 years of experience in environmental advocacy and policy development. He previously served as Development Assistance Specialist of the Office of Energy and Environment of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Philippines and Executive Director of Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC).
Schenley Belmonte - Communications Officer, Forest Foundation Philippines
Schenley Belmonte is the Communications Officer of Forest Foundation Philippines. In various capacities, she has done communications work for the government, non-government and private sectors for the past 6 years. She graduated with a degree in BS Development Communication from the University of the Philippines Los Baños. She is currently finishing her Master of Development Communication degree from the University of the Philippines Open University.
Bryan McClelland - Bambike
Bryan McClelland is an environmentalist, social entrepreneur, community advocate, and the founder of Bambike — a socio-ecological enterprise that hand-makes bamboo bicycles with fair-trade labor and sustainable building practices. Through this and all his other pursuits, Bryan is able to promote conservation, as well as inclusive growth by providing sustainable livelihood to the communities that he has adopted.
Trish Lim - Woven Crafts
Trish Lim is a marketer by profession and a social entrepreneur at heart. As the co-founder of Woven Crafts, Trish aims to uplift the lives of artisans in the community of Basey, Samar and sustain weaving as a culturally and economically relevant livelihood. Thus, she has made it her goal to help the weavers maximize their income through their craft by providing training, resources, and access to market their products.
Vie Reyes - Philippine Coffee Alliance
Vie Reyes is the executive director of Bote Central, an active member of the Philippine Coffee Alliance, and a staunch advocate for the welfare of coffee farmers. Her mission is to empower the coffee farmers and improve their livelihood by educating them with best practices and bringing their products — the coffee beans — to market, by directly purchasing them under fair-trade principles through her social enterprise, Bote Central, to ensure that the farming communities have a sustainable livelihood.
Danilo Tandang - National Museum of the Philippines
Danilo Tandang is a researcher for the Botany and National Herbarium division of the National Museum of the Philippines. An accomplished veteran in his field, he has taken part in various botanical explorations in different parts of the country, documenting and collecting a wide variety of unique plant species ranging from exotic, threatened, indigenous, and endemic species which added to the diverse collections of the Philippine National Herbarium and Natural History exhibits.
What part will you play to save the forests? Take action now with the BFF Movement! For more information, log on to http://www.forestfoundation.ph/be-a-bff/.