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.

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.3 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.

History of the Ngati Hine pilot program for the monitoring, recovery, and protection of eels

Ngati Hine is a fishing nation in Aotearoa/New Zealand which cultivates a day to day relationship with eels. We maintain a high level of traditional knowledge and customary use, including on how to transfer and hold eels in boxes for up to twelve months. There is much concern over elvers (baby eels, tangariki in Māori) due to the man-made and natural obstructions within our catchments. Local environmental guardians (kaitiaki)3 have historically helped transfer the elvers above waterfalls and continue this practice today. This is embodied in the local story of a supernatural being tanisha 2,[Rangiriri, who saw young children using a kete (tightly woven flax basket) to help elvers up the waterfall at Otiria over 400 years ago.

In the 1980s a study was carried out on Ngati Hine eel harvesting that found that customary harvest practices producing approximately 30,000 kg of food were sustainable over a seven year period. Over the past ten years, Ngati Hine, alongside other customary and commercial fishers, have expressed concerns over declining eel populations. In 2011, we completed an eel population survey with the support of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, peer reviewed by the Ministry of Fisheries. The report confirmed the following: long fin female numbers are low in the upper catchments; there are several eel passage obstructions; significant habitats are degraded; there are lakes with the potential for stocking where eels can mature within four years, and there is potential to establish a nationally significant reserve area on the lower Taumarere River. A pilot project was subsequently designed to address these issues. The project vision was to enhance the relationship of local people with the eel population within Ngati Hine catchments as a pilot strategy that can be implemented across the North Island. The project is called “Kete Tangariki” and its main objectives are to:

  • Improve eel populations for customary and commercial interests;
  • Improve habitat appropriate for eels;
  • Support local, established and new, customary and commercial fishermen;
  • Advocate for laws and policies to improve eel management, engaging the local and central government, industry and the public.

Snapshot of outcomes and successes from the project are as follows:

  • The ideal eel habitat and methods of improvement, such as riparian planting (a traditional method of water management) were discussed. Underground wetlands were identified as important unique habitats which Ngati Hine must maintain.
  • Impacts of farming and pine forestry were identified as having harmful effects on elvers and eel habitats. Following these discussions, priority sites for enhancing this work were identified.

The pilot project brought together customary and commercial fishers from around the country who built stronger relationships with each other through improved respect and understanding. There is a strong desire to continue this journey of assessing the on-going health and management of eels.

Ngati Hine provided information to the international panel reviewing the state of eels, which assessed its monitoring information. Since the review, the Ministry for Primary Industries has contracted Ngati Hine to carry out a national inventory of indigenous communities’ monitoring of eel stocks and has discussed whether we would be interested in adapting a common methodology so that we can contribute to national reports on the status of eels. The results and any future work on this inventory will ultimately influence regulations surrounding sustainable fishing in Aotearoa.

IPLCs making good use of REDD+ in Vietnam

Can financial incentive systems be designed in a way that respects the rights, wishes and existing practices of IPLCs? This was the central question of a pilot project managed by the Tebtebba Foundation in Vietnam3 in collaboration with the Centre of Research and Development in Upland Areas (CERDA),2 the Northern Vietnamese local authorities and grassroots organisations. The aim of the project was to provide legal standing for IPLCs in REDD+ and to integrate the principles of carbon sequestration and reductions in deforestation in a way that respects human rights, traditional knowledge, traditional monitoring systems, collective decision-making, and local social and environmental attitudes. Through the project, communities established cooperatives, which provided them with legal standing to use and manage forests that had previously been unallocated and consequently affected by illegal logging. A demarcation map of community forests was created by the communities and local forest experts developed tools for monitoring tree diversity and forest biomass through community-based monitoring.34 Project funds were allocated for community projects linked to forest regeneration, conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

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

“The Balngarra Clan is an indigenous Nawurrk5 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.”