SAN FERNANDO CITY, La Union – A 12-year old boy from a far-flung upland village here has been chosen by the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) as its ‘ambassador’ to tell the whole world the most pressing message of time – “Preserve the forest, save Mother Earth.”

A son of a slash-and-burn upland farmer called ‘kainginero,’ in the local language, James Daryll Rey, grade 6 pupil of Nagyubuyuban Elementary School here, now carries the title of ‘Young Earth Ambassador’ conferred on him by the UNFAO through the Yakap Kalikasan, a UNFAO-sponsored non-government organization, and the regional office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Young Earth Ambassador James Daryll Rey (in white shirt) during a school program in his upland village.  JUN ELIAS

As UNFAO ambassador, Rey will be sent to address multi-sectoral groups within the country and abroad to narrate how he successfully led his community, even at his young age, to take action for the preservation and conservation of forests.

As his first task, ‘Ambassador’ Rey will be speaking before delegates to the Asia- Pacific Forestry Week Conference on Wednesday (February 24) in Clark, Pampanga.

He is expected to share his ‘daring’ initiatives and efforts in persuading his parents to stop their charcoal business, enlisting the support of his teachers, swaying local politicians to join his advocacy and leading the whole community to save the dying forest in their barangay.

Paquito Moreno, Jr., DENR regional director, said that James Daryll’s becoming the newest ‘ambassador’ of UNFAO reflects people’s initiative and concerted effort, including children, to save and preserve the remaining forest in the city and the whole province.

La Union has 29,002 hectares of forest land. From 2011 to 2015, 5,634 hectares were reforested with a total of 4,297,967 trees planted, according to the records of the National Greening Program of DENR Region 1.

Led by the kid ambassador, the Kabataang Green Warriors, composed of young people whose parents used to be kaingineros, reforested the denuded areas of barangay Nagyubuyuban and presently manages a tract of mini-forest planted with ipil-ipil, narra and acacia.

“We didn’t inherit Mother Earth from our forefathers, we borrowed it from our children,” Moreno said, even as he acknowledged the Kids-to-Forest-Program (K2F) of the Yakap Kalikasan describing it as ‘awakening and empowering the children for forest management and sustainable environment.’

Moreno said Young Earth Ambassador James Daryll Rey was a product of the K2F program that instills awareness among children the importance of forests and encouraging them to take action in preserving the forests for the coming generations.

Meanwhile, Yakap Kalikasan, the regional offices here of the Department of Education and DENR in coordination with the Don Mariano Marcos State University have selected eight schools located in this city’s upland villages as beneficiaries of the K2F program.

These schools – Sacyud Elem.School, La Union National High School-Sacyud Annex, Pao Elem. School, Pao National High School, Bangbangolan Elem. School, Bangbangolan National High School, Parparya Elem. School and Nagyubuyuban Elem. School – will be receiving information, education and communication (IEC) materials and books.

It was learned that the students will be exposed to interactive learning, video showing, lecture and discussion to further build awareness, instill appreciation on the importance of forest and to contribute to a sustainable management of the environment. JUN ELIAS/northboundasia.com