The Kalanguya experience of community-based monitoring and information systems in Tinoc, Ifugao, Philippines

From 2008 to 2010, ecosystems assessments were conducted in Tinoc, Ifugao, using CBD indicators on land use and land use change, land tenure, indigenous languages, traditional occupations and people’s wellbeing (See case study “Summary data on the global headline indicators adopted by the CBD in relation to Target 18”). Community research was carried out in 5 of the 12 barangays or administrative villages of Tinoc: Ahin, Wangwang, Tulludan, Tukucan, and Binablayan. This assessment employed cultural and GIS mapping, workshops, surveys and interviews, as well as secondary data and government rural health clinic records on frequency of childhood illnesses.

When Tebtebba started the work, people were very cautious to speak about their traditional knowledge, owing to long experience of discrimination. Also, research was seen as the work of academics and professionals, and information seldom ended up in the hands of the community. Demystifying research encouraged participation. It was important for people to realise that anyone can be involved in research and the creation of knowledge, and that this is part of everyday life, and can be transmitted through storytelling, songs, rituals and art, and in other ways.

The research project showed that traditional territorial management was vibrant up to the mid 1990s, but with the adoption of chemical-based commercial vegetable production, communities veered away significantly from traditional practices. A new category of land-use and associated technologies appeared in which the land is privately owned and managed outside the customary community rules. This has caused forest degradation and river siltation, drying up of natural springs, exploitation of farmers by the market system, and food insecurity, among other effects1

Traditional monitoring systems still exist, such as the giti, for monitoring irrigation systems and changes in seasons and weather. For example the maturing of the pullet plant signals the time to start land preparation in the irrigated riceland, and the arrival of kiling birds indicates that storms have passed and that it is time to start planting rice. The accuracy of these traditional indicators in the context of climate change needs further study.

The process of participatory action research enabled the Kalanguya people to :

  • Revitalise their indigenous knowledge systems and practices for territorial management;
  • Understand negative impacts arising from their adoption of chemical-based, commercial vegetable farming;
  • Adopt a Community Land Use Plan addressing the problems that were identified.

After more than a year of participatory action research the Kalanguya fully appreciated the wisdom and science of their indigenous knowledge, which embodies sustainable resource use and equitable sharing of resources. The study showed that indigenous territorial management among the Kalanguya is based on land use patterns that manifest man-land-nature and spirit relationships, based on biodiversity, culture and spiritual values.

Communities used the emerging data to draw up action plans which varied from village to village. In the Wangwang community, where data showed that the forest is largely intact, the community’s aim is to upgrade their traditional knowledge and to strengthen customary sustainable use and customary laws. On the other hand in Tukucan the data showed a significant reduction in the coverage of the bel-ew watershed protection forest, from 1108.73 hectares in 1970 to 717.65 hectares in 2009. Much of the forest had been cleared for commercial vegetable farming and the range of foods eaten by the community was less diverse compared to those previously collected from the forests and swidden farms. Here, the aim of the community is to reclaim the watershed area from degradation and privatisation, assist in forest regrowth and shift from chemical-input farming to ecological or sustainable farming. One member of Tukucan concluded:

“For as long as one is willing to work the land, no one will be hungry. But hunger will occur if we deprive man of the land that is the basic means of production”2

A land summit was held to unite the communities around the findings of the community assessment. Policies were developed to protect watershed areas and river systems, and to monitor crop yields. Through this process it was realised that although people spoke the Kalanguya language in family conversations, terms relating to customary laws were no longer widely known.

A unity pact or covenant to arrest environmental degradation and promote peoples’ wellbeing was agreed among community leaders. To realise this covenant, a comprehensive land use plan was formulated with the following goals:

  1. Enhanced ecosystems for increased food sovereignty and community resilience;
  2. Strengthened customary governance for the promotion of traditional values, customary sustainable use and equitable sharing of resources; and
  3. Strengthened people’s advocacy for appropriate development programmes and improved social services

Activities related to awareness-raising, capacity-building, project development, community resource mobilisation, policy advocacy and networking were agreed upon, and indicators were adopted for monitoring progress.

Community-based documentation of positive contributions of traditional rotational farming to carbon sequestration and ecosystem resilience, Thailand

The Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples network (IKAP), a regional network of indigenous communities throughout mainland montane Southeast Asia, and the Inter Mountain Peoples’ Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), a network of indigenous peoples in northern Thailand, have carried out detailed research during the past two decades in three areas in Chiang Mai province where rotational farming is practised. Rotational farming is an agroforestry practice where a selected patch of land is cleared and the vegetation is dried and then carefully burned. The land is then cultivated and, after harvesting, left fallow for a long period (generally seven to ten years) to regenerate. This practice is based on deep cultural and spiritual relationships between the people and the environment and follows many customary rules and regulations. The research done by IKAP and IMPECT involved community monitoring of Karen farming areas in Ban Mae Lan Kham 3 and Hin Lad Nai2 using a stock-based approach to analyse above-ground carbon. The net carbon storage from fallow fields covering 236 hectares that were left to recover for up to ten years accounted for 17,348 tonnes of carbon, while CO2 emissions from the burning of fields amounted to only 480 tonnes of carbon.  Thus the overall effect of rotational farming was a reduction in carbon emissions.

The research also documented a large number of edible plant species that grow naturally or are planted in each successive year during the seven to ten year fallow period, all of which contribute significantly to food security and sustainable livelihoods. In addition, various wild animal species were attracted to the fallow plots for food. Overall the research concluded that rotational farming stores much more carbon than it emits and contributes to sustainable livelihoods, food security, the resilience of agroforestry systems and increased biodiversity. 3

The research led to a change in government and media perspectives on rotational farming. In 2010 the Thai Government passed a Cabinet Resolution for the Revitalisation of the Karen Way of Life, thereby providing policy support for the maintenance and revitalisation of these important customary practices in northern Thailand.

Wapichan people’s plan to secure and care for their lands, Guyana

The Wapichan people live in the South Rupununi District of Guyana. The “Wapichan wiizi” (territory) is home to many animals, reptiles, plants, insects, birds, fishes and other water creatures, many of which are globally rare or endangered.4 The Wapichan territory contains many important cultural heritage sites for the communities, where stone axes, arrow heads, beads, pottery and rock carvings and burial grounds are found. The Wapichan have compiled a plan for the sustainable community-based use and development of their ancestral territory, which covers about 2.8 million hectares, for the benefit of present and future generations.2 The plan describes the multiple services, values and meanings that the territory provides. For instance, respect for spirit beings and their homes is essential for the wellbeing of the communities and the health and abundance of the fishes and game. The territorial management plan sets out common principles, goals, and customary laws on the responsible use of the land, forest, mountain, grassland and wetland ecosystems. It includes more than one hundred inter-community agreements on collective actions for sustainable land use, customary sharing of resources, community development and livelihood initiatives. It also details hundreds of local wildlife sites for community protection, including proposals to establish an extensive 1.4 million hectare Wapichan Conserved Forest covering old-growth rainforest in the eastern part of the territory.

Securing the Wapichan territory by obtaining its legal recognition is a major goal for the Wapichan and a prerequisite for fully realising and implementing their plans. The existing land titles are fragmented and do not cover the full extent of the areas traditionally used and occupied by the Wapichan people. Further the Wapichan territory is facing serious external pressures from illegal mining, cattle rustling, logging and encroachment from commercial hunting. To address these, the Wapichan have developed a community-based system to detect and document such pressures as well as to monitor ecosystem health (for example water quality) and land use change.3 4

The Wapichan have initiated active dialogue with relevant government departments, agencies and commissions to explain their plans for continued community-based care of their ancestral areas. The Wapichan use their own maps and photographic and geo-referenced information, and data on traditional use of the land, to support their land claims and to point out where the tenure gaps are. These initiatives have led to formal talks between the communities and the government about actions to secure their land and forests legally, and to prevent and suspend industrial logging and mining concessions on Wapichan land.

The story of the Potato Park

We are potato farmers and papa arariwa (guardians of the native potato), passionate in the conservation of our native potato diversity now and for future generations. I live in the Community of Paru Paru. My community is one of the six that make up the Potato Park, established in the year 2000 in collaboration with Asociación ANDES.5 Our home is near Pisaq, Cusco, in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

The Potato Park is an Indigenous Biocultural Territory. We call it “Papa Ayllu” because it is modelled on the Andean Ayllu system2, which is a holistic community where humans (and domesticated species), the wild, and the sacred, live together in harmonious and reciprocal co-existence. This model is key for maintaining the habitats and the evolutionary processes that have created the potato germplasm. The Ayllu model helps us to maintain potato genetic diversity along with other domesticated and wild species and the diverse habitats where they thrive. In turn this helps to maintain healthy wildlife and pollinators, and we have better decomposition of organic matter and soil fertility.

My land, Peru, is a territory blessed with diversity. Our mountains have marked variations in elevation and microclimates. The efforts of our ancestors have made this land one of the world’s most important centres of plant domestication and diversification. We have adapted and farmed diverse crops in all altitudes3. For us, however, the potato is the most important food crop. Over 2,000 different varieties are known to our peoples in Southern Peru alone. At the outset of the Potato Park initiative we collected 778 varieties from our own and surrounding communities; later we added 85 varieties through community to community exchanges and donations. The Park now has a total collection of 1,430 potato cultivars, 410 of which were incorporated through a Repatriation Agreement signed with the International Potato Centre (CIP) in 2004. This agreement led to the restitution of the diversity of the Park and also to recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Other crops in the collection include unique Andean tubers and grains. The Park harbours six of the nine existing cultivated potato species, two semi-cultivated species and six wild relatives. We farmers recognise and name all these potatoes as distinct units. I myself farm around 150 cultivars of native potato in my community, all different in shape, colour, texture and flavour. They are beautiful. My brothers and sisters do the same in their communities. Our indigenous knowledge, particularly of the women, is responsible for the high number of varieties we have in the pool of species used in our fields and kitchens. Women ultimately make the decisions about what variety to maintain, incorporate or discard from the repertoire of varieties we keep in our households.

Biocultural heritage improves our food security, our local economy, the resilience of the agro-ecosystems and thus the wellbeing of the Potato Park communities. Diversity helps us to continue to adapt our potato varieties to the heterogeneous and fast changing environment and makes them less vulnerable to pests, diseases and severe weather conditions that we face in the Andes.

In managing this great diversity, we have merged in-situ and ex-situ conservation strategies. Our in-situ conservation approach combines community seed banks (which are probably more dynamic than conventional gene banks because they are actively used by all community members) with the conservation of wild relatives within genetic reserves4, and the continued cultivation of potato genetic resources in our indigenous farms. This approach has minimised genetic erosion as well as generating endogenous plans5 based on traditional knowledge, which ensure that genetic variation is secure for the future.

The repatriation process has fostered a dynamic horizontal partnership with other scientists, creating exemplary collaborative partnerships based on written agreements and mutual respect with research centres, including national and international universities. These collaborations focus on complementarities and on producing new ideas and innovations from the cross-fertilisation of indigenous knowledge and science that benefits our communities.

The Potato Park is managed collectively by a decision-making body called the Association of Communities of the Potato Park. This leadership is an inter-community institution working for the collective. Local institutions function and coordinate with the leadership at various different levels of governance. These institutions have been effective in fostering local innovations based on their deep knowledge of the local environment and the application of customary rules, norms and protocols. Livelihood and income generation from crop diversity has been achieved by fostering local microenterprises, and the generation of benefits through these micro-enterprises has gone hand in hand with the promotion of the maintenance of crop diversity on farms. Government support, through the Peruvian Biodiversity and Biosafety Unit of the Environment Ministry, has been essential for both ex-situ and in-situ conservation at the Potato Park.6

Traditional knowledge and customary sustainable practices to conserve the endangered red panda in Ilam, Nepal

The indigenous peoples of Ilam, East Nepal include the Kirant (encompassing the Rai and Limbu peoples), Lepcha, Tamang, Sherpa, Sunuwar, Gurung, Magar and Thangmi. East Nepal is the historical domain of Kirant, with Kirant kingship running from 600 BC in Kathmandu. Kirant kings have ruled for over 1,000 years, using customary practices.

The indigenous peoples of Ilam are making important contributions towards conserving the endangered red panda (Ailurus fulgens) through their traditional knowledge and customary sustainable practices. Under the Nepal National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act (1973), the red panda is recognised as a protected priority species, designated as vulnerable in 1994 and as endangered in 2004 because of habitat loss.7 People do not hunt red pandas because religion and customary systems have prohibited it, even before they were known to be endangered.

“Tamang culture has a “Choho” traditional institution of Tamang, to help take care of the forest, red panda habitat, historical areas and resources; and the head Lama (Buddhist) plays a valuable role in decision-making for the use and protection of red panda habitats. “ 2

Indigenous peoples know that red pandas in the wild rely mostly on bamboo for food (90 per cent), followed by fruits (three per cent), insects (2 per cent), crops (1 per cent) and other sources (3 per cent). Communities have observed that the existing bamboo forests in the areas are experiencing poor growth. They are damaged by wildfire, drought and the disappearance of water sources in the boreal forest, and other disturbances such as over-collection of non-timber forest products, local development including road construction, and human encroachment. Consequently, the indigenous communities have increased actions to protect the bamboo forest ecosystem inside the boreal forest through controlling wild fires and restoring water sources. As two community members explained: “We make a fire break line and check it for further burning. People keep a rotation to watch the fire and inform everyone to control the fire. They are also protecting water sources with planting and restoring natural ponds that can help to preserve the bamboo forest for red pandas.”

Traditional practices and institutions for conserving the red panda: the “Kipatiya Pratha” of the Kirant

The Kipatiya Pratha is the customary system of the Kirant. It is a local authorised body which uses traditional governance practices for conservation and sustainable management, for the use of natural resources and for the protection of biodiversity and the habitats of red pandas.

Kirant priests (Phedangba and Nuwagire), elders, women and traditional healers play important roles in collective decision-making to declare the forest patches that should be protected, ensuring that water sources and bamboo forests provide a good habitat for red pandas. In the Kipatiya Pratha, the individual obeys the collective decision to care for the red panda’s habitat (Pudekudo ko Basthan) and natural resources. If any member of the society tries to disobey the decision or misuse it, he or she will be punished. Kipatiya Pratha maintains a good governance system for red panda habitat conservation, controlling poaching, hunting, fire control, use of resources; and it has its own punishment tradition. If somebody acts in a way that disobeys tradition or hunts the red panda, then they call him or her into a meeting and inform the person not to do this, because it is important for society. If the person continues hunting or disobeying, or ignores the decision, then they will receive further punishment, such as a fine or becoming a social outcast (the person will not be allowed into any kinds of social functions). It is these social norms and values that create a good governance system.

The Indigenous Terra Madre 2015

In November 2015 the second Indigenous Terra Madre (ITM 2015) was held in Shillong, Meghalaya, North-east India. Indigenous Terra Madre is an event organised by the Indigenous Partnership for Agro-biodiversity and Food Sovereignty, Slow Food International and North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS).

Bringing together 640 delegates representing more than 170 indigenous food communities from 62 countries across the world, the ITM celebrated the cultural and biological diversity of indigenous communities as expressed in their songs, dance, dress, folklores and food systems. Thematic sessions centred around issues of advancing local food systems, clean and fair food, building networks of local climate-smart crops, and promoting resilient livelihoods and nutritional security. The event showcased indigenous traditional knowledge, evolving skills including culinary innovations, and sustainable practices that safeguard agro-biodiversity and contribute to resilient food systems. The event also facilitated engagement among food communities and participating scientists and policymakers. The gathering adopted “The Shillong Declaration” – a declaration with commitments and proposals for action – which has since been disseminated and communicated widely.3

Kapuas Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia: indigenous Dayak try to save forest, river and lake habitats under threat from palm oil expansion

Protecting forests and food resources from degradation due to land use change is an important issue in Kapuas Hulu district, West Kalimantan. Although it is home to two big national parks (Danau Sentarum and Betung Kerihun National Parks), at least five oil palm plantation companies are active in the area. Due to oil palm expansion, the area has lost several significant ecosystems such as forest, river or lake ecosystems. These ecosystems are customarily managed by indigenous peoples (Dayak) or Malay descendants that have lived in the area for centuries.

Seberuang sub-district has the biggest intact forest in the area (some of it protected) and is therefore key to preventing further degradation from oil palm plantations, which are growing significantly in this district.

Alongside three neighbouring villages, Bati village has rejected plans for oil palm expansion in the area. The villagers heard about an oil palm company seeking a survey permit in their area. Concerned that this would threaten forests vital to them, the communities found themselves in a race against time to prevent the oil palm expansion. In March 2015, letters were sent to the District Head (Bupati) of Kapuas Hulu rejecting the proposed expansion plan. As a young man from Bati village explained:

We have seen the impacts of oil palm in neighbouring areas that are devastating. We are concerned that our culture will disappear with the arrival of oil palm plantations.”

Dayak communities in other parts of Kapuas Hulu have already been affected by oil palm expansion. Since the start of the operation of Golden Agri Resources’ (GAR) subsidiary PT KPC in 2007, unclear processes of land acquisition and non-compliance with social and environmental standards have caused protests and demonstrations and resulted in major rifts in almost all the affected communities. Following an international campaign, GAR developed a Forest Conservation Policy related to the zoning of High Carbon Stocks (HCS) forests as a tool to achieve “zero deforestation” in palm oil production. The site of PT KPC’s operations was selected as a pilot area.

Several of the affected communities undertook participatory mapping exercises and action research to develop community land use plans. This allowed them to identify how much land each family will need to sustain their ways of life, and to take an informed decision on whether to lease or sell their land for oil palm development. As the head of custom of the hamlet of Kenabak Hulu said:

We need to explain where our customary lands and forests are, which are ours, because of certain conditions and events of the past. For example sacred sites and untouchable areas are guarded by us and we make the decision to look after such areas collectively and make them a sacred site. When we do this we also invite the neighbouring villages to witness the agreement and make the area a customary forest. This is because it is not just our own beliefs [that matter] but these need to be transferred with our traditional knowledge and culture to the coming generations. This is how we came up with an agreement about which areas should not be used commercially or cultivated”2

Several villages rejected the proposed palm oil expansion plans (including Kenabak Hulu) and the lands of these communities were excised from the concession area. Because of this as much as 90 per cent of the HCS forests identified in GAR’s provisional concession ended up outside the company’s permit and jurisdiction. The communities emphasised that it has been they who have maintained these forests up to now and who value them and can look after them in the future. Nevertheless, their customary rights to these lands are still not recognised by district and national governments.

Children of the water: Plan de Vida (Life Plan) of the Misak people, Colombia

We, the Misak, are located in the Southwest of the Republic of Colombia, and have a population of approximately 25,000 inhabitants, with ancestral and autonomous authorities managing and regulating the territory.

We created the “Plan de Vida” (Plan of Life), which is a political strategy to ensure the existence of community life and spirituality linked to Mother Nature and countervailing the country’s own laws and regulations. The “Plan de Vida” is Mother Earth’s path to a comprehensive life with the mission of preserving moors, water resources and wetlands, all of which are alive and enjoy their own natural rights with no economic attributions. But we humans cannot see them as living beings. The Plan of Life is ancient and was passed on through oral tradition until it was systemised in 1992.

We, the Misak People, based on our Plan de Vida, protect life in our territory. We safeguard the moors, which are sacred places, and plant trees to safeguard water sources, manage watersheds and riverbanks and avoid their contamination. Similarly, we restrict research activity and the collection of resources within our territories. We, the Misak, are a people consisting physically of individuals, but we have a collective mind and conscience. This collectiveness gives us the necessary measures to protect Mother Earth and its biological diversity. We, the Misak, we have lived with Mother Nature wisely without looking at economic, commercial or industrial benefits, with the conviction that exercising the right to live is not only a human right but also the fundamental right of our Mother Earth. Only then can we live well. We are not against what the Western world call “development”. But we are against dispossession, a model of extractive development, mining, or any kind of human action that threatens the life of our Mother. We support a minga2 for the life of our Mother; we want to work as brothers with all the peoples who work to protect environmental rights. We want to unify our physical and spiritual strengths to protect a sustainable life. This is the only way to stop the illness of the economic and political models that fail to ensure the life of the planet and humanity.

Story from the Northern Territory, Australia: Dabboh and Smoke Money: Burning the Bush for People and Country

“The Balngarra Clan is an indigenous Nawurrk2 tribe from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory of Australia. Our homeland covers around 250 km2 of savanna, escarpment and wetlands. The Balngarra Clan’s ‘ownership’, ‘connection’ or ‘belonging’ to this land has never been broken. The Balngarra Clan use many types of fire to look after people and Country.2 Fire is used for hunting and gathering, cooking, keeping plants and animals healthy, and clearing paths for walking and is important for ceremony. In the cool part of the dry season, somewhere between April and August, in our language3 we call it marluwurru. When we see spear grass, gardaykkah4 flowering, when we are touched by that wind feeling, cold weather is coming up – gabekbek. That means it is time to go and burn, to ‘smoke up’ the Country. We never leave fuel load to build up because we know that the next season coming will be warlirr (hot weather) and more fuel of dry grass, leaves and branches will build up on the ground and we get unmanaged wildfires.

Our fire is like a treasure. When we do traditional fire management we always get rewarded; our Country gives us back animals, bush tucker5, and we can collect spears from the jungle. Our Old People looked after it the proper way. Burning at the right time is not dangerous.

Then one time, these Balanda6 scientists were watching Bi7 burning Country. They realised that our traditional fire management was not only good for biodiversity, but also reduced the greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide that gets put into the atmosphere by unmanaged wildfires.8910 Bi started to make partnerships with fire scientists and worked together to measure all the trees and collect data from the monitoring sites. In the late 1990s we started the West Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (WALFA) project.1112  Today, we are negotiating agreements with all of the indigenous ranger groups in Arnhem Land to join the Arnhem Land Fire Abatement project (ALFA). This will cover an area of around 120,000 km2, including hundreds of indigenous clan groups. Every year we bring all the rangers, scientists and knowledge holders together to plan for burning at the right time.13 ALFA has a board that watches over the project and we use a formula to split the income equally. However, boundaries do not worry us. We want to manage that country without lines. Because when you put lines, draw boundaries on a map, that is the Balanda way.

As soon as the fire projects started to grow, all the rangers received training from ‘accredited trainers’. They taught us how to fight fire. All the smoke money that we were creating was going back into rangers fighting fires. One time I was watching Traditional Owners using fire to do hunting and gathering on their Country. The rangers started to worry that this Traditional Owner fire might grow into a wildfire. So they got a helicopter, flew over and put it out. That is wrong. In Bi culture we never fight fire. That is not the way of Nawurrk tribes. We just make fire, not put him out. So this made me stop and think. Look back to that Country and to the Traditional Owners.

Bi did not work closely with scientists on developing the carbon accounting methodology. We only did field work with scientists. Just recording and measuring, and guiding scientists to different places. We did not get proper pay. All the science work we did out in the field, carrying all the equipment and tools with scientists, we only got CDEP14 money. Scientists and politicians set up the carbon accounting methodology and gave us this rule saying we can only burn every year in May, June and July. The 1st of August is the deadline to stop burning or we will get a penalty.15.

Today, we are making some good money from fire work. We are making satellite ranger bases on each of the clan estates in the Arafura Swamp region in Arnhem Land. These satellite bases are not getting any funding from any government organisation. They are running on bushfire smoke money. Traditional Owners are being paid a salary and have equipment to support burning. This means that we can make sure that rangers are not acting like heroes by going and fighting fires, but that Traditional Owners are taking the lead in looking after their Country.

It is really important for Traditional Owners to have jobs on Country. Country is not a place for weekends, it is our home. The towns that the governments are trying to make us live in, ‘growth towns’16 are making our people and our Country sick. They are overcrowded with lots of different clans, which creates social problems. It makes us worry. But the good news is that from smoke money some of our families are getting back to Country. Not only do carbon projects help us to stop global warming, if they include Traditional Owners properly, they can help us look after our health, our language, our ceremony, the biodiversity that lives with us on Country, and provide good jobs for our people.”