ISTF 2023

As a research institution, Visayas State University (VSU) continued to make an influential contribution to science, technology, and environmental conservation in local, national, and international arenas.

#ProudViscan Dr. Guiraldo “Junjun” C. Fernandez, Jr. represented VSU by presenting the research success of rainforestation–a farming initiative originally developed by VSU together with the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in the 1990s.

Dr. Fernandez is the lone Filipino participant and one of the chosen paper presenters of the 29th Annual Conference of the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) based at the Yale University School of the Environment. His current rank is Professor III at the Department of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (DLABS) and also serves as the University Secretary of the VSU Board of Regents.

This international conference was held in New Haven, Connecticut on February 2 to 4, 2023. It was attended by environmentalists, anthropologists, social scientists, and environmental educators from all over the world.

Dr. Fernandez discussed the rainforestation dissemination in Negros Island–research that he conducted together with VSU’s Institute of Tropical Ecology and Environmental Management (ITEEM). 

This is a research about the success of native tree conservation innovation of Rene "Tatay Eti" Vendiola in Negros, a training alumnus of the Environmental Leadership and Training Institute (ELTI) where he showed how he transformed his 2 hectares of degraded coconut farm into a vibrant rainforest farm within 16 years.

Rainforestation is the principle of planting native trees as a means to restore and conserve denuded forests and the ecosystem.

“In the paper, I argued that the reason why Mr. Vendiola was able to influence people from all walks of life, it’s because he has proven that rainforestation is still very doable and possible. And he has the best visual aid because he created a mini-forest in his [land] property which now after 16 years, it’s already forested. From a degraded coconut farm, he turned it into a mini-forest composed of different native tree species. And when people see these particular trees, they are encouraged to do the same. It is a game changer for them to adopt forest conservation because of the example of Tatay Eti,” Dr. Fernandez explained.


Because of this initiative, Vendiola was able to encourage different influential people to adopt rainforestation technology. From a slash-and-burn farmer before, Vendiola has bought additional 58 degraded lands to continue the restoration and conservation project.

“The experience of being there [at the conference] was very encouraging. We are allowed to show them what we are doing in the university, with regards to research and extension, about conservation using the principle of rainforestation. In that particular conference, I focused on the experiences of Tatay Eti and how rainforestation has changed his life, as well as how it touched other people’s lives,” Dr. Fernandez concluded.

The ISTF Conference 2023 is themed, “Envisioning the future tropical forests: The role of feedback, interconnectedness, and adaptation.”

VSU and Yale University’s 14 years of partnership

VSU through the ITEEM has been partnering with Yale University for a decade and a half years in actively pursuing environmental conservation efforts.

This partnership started when Yale University visited VSU and became interested in the Molave Hill rainforestation conservation initiative of the university, which eventually led to the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) by both parties in 2009.

The Forest School at Yale University has an initiative called ELTI that aims to train and support people to restore and conserve tropical forests using strategies that support biodiversity and livelihood.


Yale University has been supporting VSU-ITEEM on the rainforestation project. VSU has been privileged with many benefits because of this partnership, including the provision of expensive equipment such as drones, which are used in mapping the forest through aerial footage, and a budget allocation for training on rainforestation in climate-resilient communities, among others. 

In the past 14 years, VSU has been visited by professors and students from Yale University. This coming April, another 2 graduate students from Yale will be expected to visit and conduct a study at the university. By June this year, VSU is also expected to welcome additional 15 graduate students who will pursue some research engagements with ITEEM.

Yale-ELTI partners include the Philippines, Panama, Colombia, Brazil, and Indonesia. In the country, VSU-ITEEM, Rain Forest Restoration Initiative (RFRI), Zoological Society of London (ZSL) - Philippines, and Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation (PTFCF) are among the members of the elite Yale-ELTI group.

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