MedNet held an e-Learning forum entitled Climate Change and Mediation, which tackled the importance of mediation in the realm of climate change. Mr. Andy Reginalde, a seasoned community development worker, spoke about the experience of the indigenous Ikalahan community in Imugan, Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya in building their resiliency to cope with the impacts of climate change.
The Ikalahan/Kalanguya people have been living in their ancestral domain since time immemorial. Imugan, Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya is located in the hinterlands of northern Luzon. In the 1960s, the Ikalahan people encountered three major pressing problems: access to education, access to livelihood and land grabbing. The youth had to travel to nearby municipalities to get their education and later on to find livelihood.
The entry of migrants into the ancestral domain also triggered land grabbing.
The Ikalahan responded to those problems by organizing themselves into a people’s organization called the Kalahan Educational Foundation, Inc. (KEF), which they registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1973.
The KEF gave legal personality to the community, allowing it to transact business. And so it came to pass that in 1977, the KEF entered into Memorandum of Agreement No. 1 with the Philippine Government making it the first Indigenous Cultural Community in the Philippines and in Asia that has secured a Forest Management Agreement with government. This MOA led to the establishment of the Kalahan Reserve. The MOA, therefore, became instrumental in the legal recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and resources. It also prevented squatting, hence, land grabbing.
The Ikalahan experience provided a basis for the enactment of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA). It also made Ikalahan a good study area for the development of tenurial instruments in forest, such as, the Community Forest Stewardship Agreement, the Integrated Social Forestry, and the currently used Community-Based Forest Management Agreement.
Armed with its legal personality, the KEF was able to engage government and other actors in areas of local environmental governance, particularly through extension programs, natural resources development interventions, livelihood support, and educational programs.
An important undertaking in regard to land use allocation and management is the use of a 3D map through which you can clearly see the current resources within the community, which serves as the basis for community planning, implementing programs and projects on natural resource conservation and sustainability as well as monitoring them. There is clear delineation of protection zones for watersheds, wildlife sanctuaries, and fish sanctuaries or hatcheries. Burial grounds and sacred places were also made part of the protected area. The map also shows the production zones within the ancestral domain, that include production forests, agricultural, agroforestry, fisheries and residential and commercial areas. So, whenever boundary conflicts arise in the community, this map becomes useful in resolving such conflicts.
These partnerships forged by KEF have given way to multifarious productive activities by the community itself and in collaboration with other stakeholders.
Central and satellite tree nurseries were set up allowing them to plant appropriate native tree species within the ancestral domain in partnership with their barangay governments such that denuded and open areas, watersheds and sanctuaries have been identified and vegetated through annual tree planting activities. Forest guards, in partnership with concerned barangay governments and community members, can monitor and implement policies dealing with forest fires, tree cutting, quarrying, hunting, chainsaw operations, fishing, gathering of non-timber forest products, small scale grazing, swidden farming, sanctuaries and watersheds.
Cooperative actions through the years have led to the development of local policies. A system of punishment and rewards, for one, has standardized the manner by which they deal with violations and good behavior. A sharing scheme of the fines has been developed to reward those who report and apprehend violators, thus, community members themselves guard their area. Sustainable practices have also been either continued or adopted by the community. People gather resources only according to their needs and with little damage, if at all, to the resource base. A system is strictly observed for the permitting of tree cutting, chainsaw registration and use, kaingin. People practice sustainable farming, applying indigenous farming practices based on their Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Practices (IKSP), such as, Gen-gen, Dayog, Balkah, Kinabba or fallow farming, which are basically natural and organic farming systems.
The partnership with academes and researchers helped identify around 1,500 species of flora and fauna found in the area, and established their population status. The ancestral domain has also oftentimes been a pilot area for carbon stock calculations, rainfall and stream flow measurement and monitoring, orchid propagation/culture, etc. Data generated by these researches have also helped establish value chains for its non-timber products and the produce of its sustainable regenerative agriculture practices.
The local school has integrated environmental values that inculcate climate change mitigation and adaptation in the minds and hearts of pupils and students. The school conducts watershed management, solid waste management, soil management, and similar activities. It has also become a center for community discussions on sustainable development through symposia, fora and other community discussions.
All these have led to the following results:
The Ikalahans are now able to control and stop forest fires, and are continuously protecting and expanding the secondary forest. The forest has in fact already become a tourist destination adding to the sources of livelihood for the community.
Illegal activities within the ancestral domain have been curbed through customary practices and locally set policies.
A functional natural resource management system is in place, based on cultural practices and customary laws.
What makes these set of initiatives beautiful is its significant environmental impact. Based on recent studies, the emissions absorbed by the Kalahan Reserve is equivalent to 2.3 million cars. This is how important the Kalahan Reserve is or has become. We need to continue to educate and inspire people both inside and outside the ancestral domain, taking off from the learnings of the community through decades of natural resource conservation and management work. For this, KEF has partnered with the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID) through the through the Resilient Caraballo-Central Sierra Madre Bioregion Project, funded by the INSPIRE project of USAID, being implemented by the Gerry Roxas Foundation. This project has three strategic approaches: Partnership Building, Stakeholder Capacity Building and Sustainable Environmental Governance. In this endeavor, it is crucial to know what really is happening, what your resources are, what needs to be done and how your solutions can be implemented. Information is key.
The message is very clear. Responding to climate change does not conjure a standalone approach for there are several intertwined actions and actors at play. We need the participation of stakeholders at the local level, especially the communities being affected, in order to address the issue of climate change.