University of the Philippines Open University
Conservation Efforts and the Ifugao Rice Terraces
Every Filipino knows about the Ifugao Rice Terraces (IRT), not just because it was found at the back of the older version of one thousand peso bill, but most likely because it is all over your textbooks in grade school and is always mentioned by your "Araling Panlipunan" teacher.
Back in 1995, the Ifugao Rice Terraces was included in the World Heritage List for being a renowned cultural landscape. As years passed, the terraces faced varying threats to its natural and cultural heritage due to natural calamities and modernization. This led to its addition to the List of the World Heritage in Danger in 2001. Thankfully, conservation efforts to protect the Rice Terraces bore fruit by the removal of the site from the Danger List during the 36th Session of the World Heritage Committee.
According to the committee, the Philippines was able to restore at least fifty percent of collapsed terraces and documented and rehabilitated major irrigation systems. Laws and policies to preserve the World Heritage Site were also crafted as well as community-based land use and zoning plans and measures were put in place to ensure the proper management and protection of these sites.
The joined efforts of both the government and private institutions succeeded in improving the condition of the IRT landscape; however, further conservation actions are needed as the terraces still face different challenges.
Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program
Focusing on human resources development is very crucial in ensuring the sustainable development of IRT. This propelled the partnership among the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), Ifugao State University (IFSU), and Kanazawa University, Japan to spearhead the Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program (ISMTP) which aims to capacitate the Ifugaos and equip them with technical skills and knowledge for the conservation of IRT. The project was implemented with the local government of Ifugao under the funding of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The program started in 2013 and will continue into 2021 onto its third phase as a sustainable program under Ifugao State University. It has produced a number of graduates who serve as stewards of the Ifugao Rice Terraces geared with the technical knowhow and practical skills to better equip themselves in the journey towards the sustainable development of their cultural heritage site.
Youth for Ifugao Rice Terraces
Drawing from the success of ISMTP, the UP Open University, together with IFSU, KU, Ifugao LGUs and now the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB), launched the Youth Capacity Building and Exchange Program towards Sustainable Development and Conservation of Ifugao Rice Terraces or Youth for Ifugao Rice Terraces (#Y4IRT) in January 2017. The project was funded by Mitsui Co. & Ltd.
The #Y4IRT is an offshoot project that aimed to educate and empower the youth in order to help address recurring and new conditions that the IRT and communities around it faces. It also intended to improve human resources through capacity building among Ifugaos by promoting exchange activities between the Ifugao youths and urban youths in the country.
Part of the #Y4IRT project is developing educational modules to be installed in tablets and be made accessible for youths of Ifugao. This, together with other multimedia materials that are up to date and checked by experts from various fields and local community members from different sectors, ensured the validity of the information provided.
With the inevitable shift in the way of life through modernization, the Ifugao Rice Terraces face the challenge of preserving its natural and social environments. The site, built by Filipino ancestors around two thousand years ago, has stood the test of time with the help of generations of Ifugaos.Through the exchange program, which is the highlight of the project, it empowered the young generation of Ifugaos and their urban counterparts, with both the knowledge and leadership capability to sustain the IRT landscape. The project produced a total of 25 youths who are more concerned and more involved in the conservation and sustainable development of the IRT
Aside from this, the exchange activities and exposure in both urban and rural settings of the youths, armed them with the knowledge about two distinct places with different traditions and culture but are interconnected through sustainable development. The program helped them appreciate the interconnectedness of these systems which will hopefully result in the decrease in rural to urban migration as well as stimulate economic development, strengthen food security and preserve the rich cultural and environmental heritage of the Ifugaos. Ultimately, the dissemination of the value of these GIAHS areas and its relevance in our present world.