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.

Rooibos tea and access and benefit-sharing for the Khoi-San, South Africa

Rooibos and Honeybush are two South African plants that are used as commercial commodities by big companies for pharmaceutical and cosmetic purposes, supplying a huge local and international rooibos tea industry.3 However they have both been used historically by the Khoi-San peoples of South Africa: for livelihoods, for medicinal, food and health purposes, for skin care and in other ways. In spite of this, for more than 100 years now, the tea trade has continued without recognition of the Khoi-San’s indigenous knowledge and the rights that accompany it.

The Khoi and San peoples (collectively known as Khoi-San)2 self-identify as indigenous peoples of South Africa and have occupied the region for thousands of years, but during apartheid they were forced into the racial category of “Coloured”. This was done intentionally to dispossess them of their land, culture, traditions, languages, heritage and natural resources, as well as their ethnic and indigenous identity. Official statistics in South Africa still reflect the apartheid typology of race and language and do not reflect the presence of Khoi-San people in South Africa. It is not surprising, therefore, that historically their property rights have been ignored. However with the Nagoya Protocol coming into force, the rooibos industry now has a legal obligation to share benefits with the Khoi-San community as the associated traditional knowledge holders. The South African government has conducted a study on the traditional knowledge associated with rooibos in South Africa, which confirmed that the original holders of knowledge on the use of rooibos were the Khoi and the San peoples. Their indigenous and genetic resources had been utilised for tea in the Western Cape for over 150 years. Rooibos and honeybush are examples of plants known to the Khoi-San long before European colonisation.

Most of the Khoi-San people have moved away from areas where rooibos grows naturally, but some of them have remained and are still practising the old and the new ways of harvesting and trading. Knowledge of the uses of the species is still passed orally from generation to generation, including harvesting and preparation practices.

The National Khoi and San Council (NKC) first became aware of Nestle’s intention to patent the results from their research on rooibos and honeybush through the work of Natural Justice (NJ) and the film they produced around this matter. The NKC has started to engage with our South African rooibos industry, with support from NJ and funding institutions such as OSISA3, to persuade them to recognise the indigenous knowledge of the Khoi-San peoples and pay benefits to these communities. The NKC and the San people, under the leadership of the South African San Council (SASC) and assisted by their legal representative Roger Chennells, negotiated benefit-sharing agreements around certain plant species (such as Hoodia). We then entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the National San Council (NSC) to establish a legal negotiating team consisting of members of both councils. Together we worked towards the goal of bringing the rooibos industry to the negotiation table.

Nestle approached the Khoi and San during 2014 for a South African product they intended to develop using rooibos. A benefit-sharing agreement was subsequently signed between Nestle and the NKC and the SASC. It was a big relief that Nestle was so willing to comply with their benefit-sharing obligations. Biopatenting is a very difficult issue, for we are not dealing with an isolated community; the impact is widespread to include all the Khoi-San communities. So it is difficult to visualise the impact biopatenting would have had.

For us the concepts of access and benefit-sharing that arise from the utilisation of indigenous/traditional knowledge play a vital role in post-apartheid South Africa’s restitution processes. They entail the restitution of the injustices of the past. For generations there was misappropriation of knowledge, and that must now be repaired. This issue is also inseparable from the issue of land rights. We also see rights related to access and benefit-sharing as part of a process of creating generational rights to guarantee that the descendants of the Khoi-San will always benefit from the traditional knowledge of their people.

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 4 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.

Community-based vulnerability and resilience mapping and adaptation practices in the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans, Bangladesh

The communities around the Sundarbans are continuously struggling to sustain their livelihoods. Most of the community members are entirely dependent on the Sundarbans’ mangrove ecosystem but forest degradation (caused by overwhelming pressure on its resources), recurring cyclones 4, salinity intrusion, floods and other factors are contributing to increased vulnerability of the traditional resource users. With the support of the NGO Unnayan Onneshan, a local research team and the communities worked together to identify areas of vulnerability of traditional resource users and to map the current and potential threats. Elders and experienced honey collectors, fishermen, and collectors of golpata (Nypa palm fronds) collaborated to point out the areas that are most vulnerable to flooding and other threats. Resource collection areas were grouped into three zones: a green zone where resources are abundant, a blue zone where resources are decreasing, and a red zone where resources have decreased considerably. Factors were also identified relating to the drivers of resource degradation. The research data gathered were used to prepare vulnerability maps to indicate which areas need special conservation attention and which areas can be used for resource collection (and to what extent). These maps are used for advocacy with the forest departments, who often have a different view on the vulnerable areas and therefore implement inappropriate action.

The same research initiative also investigated community-based adaptations and listed their main features, limitations and opportunities. The study documented 47 adaptation practices that respond to livelihood and water scarcity and structural scarcity. The practices enhanced resilience to tropical cyclones, storm surges and salinity intrusion. For example, communities affected by natural disasters and climate change in coastal areas in Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat districts have attempted to cultivate mangrove species in swampy lands with brackish water, which are suffering from increased salinity and have become unproductive for food crop production. In their community-based mangrove forestry practices, which combine traditional knowledge and innovation, mangrove species are grown alongside production of fish, ducks and vegetables, leading to reduced pressure on the Sundarbans while also securing livelihoods through the generation of multiple incomes. Following small-scale advocacy programmes at the local level to popularise this agro-silvo-aquaculture model, many Bawalis (traditional woodcutters) have started similar practices in their private or leased land and have been able to improve their livelihood conditions.

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.2 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 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.5

An invader in our waters: actions of Guna People (Panama) in relation to the Lion Fish

The lionfish is a priority invasive alien species that was first recorded on the East Coast of the United States in 1992, but since then it has spread down the coast to MesoAmerica. Although lionfish were first recorded in the Guna yala region, Panama, in 2009, it wasn’t until early 2010 that the communities became aware of the danger posed by the species. In that year several local fishermen and divers and three young children were stung by the fish and had to be transferred from Gunayala to Panama city, because of a lack of local medication and knowledge about how to mitigate the pain and injuries.

In order to address the lack of information, the Guna initiated a project to investigate the possible effects of this fish on the natural dynamics of communities and on their culture. It is important for the Guna yala indigenous communities to seek viable ways to manage the lionfish which do not undermine their cultural, environmental and food systems, given their reliance on the sea and coral reef systems.

One of the first objectives was to develop a participatory map of places where the fish had been seen. In addition, interviews were held with community members, lobstermen and fishermen and a review of the literature took place to gather knowledge and information about the lionfish.

Linking community-based monitoring and reporting of oil pollution to environmental enforcement: FECONACO’s Territorial Monitoring Programme

Oil exploitation in the Corrientes river basin in northern Peru was started by Oxy [Occidental Petroleum Corporation] and Petroperu [Petróleos del Perú S.A.] more than 40 years ago, in the territory of the Achuar and Urarina indigenous peoples, without their consent. The resulting pollution has affected the health of native communities, animals and fisheries. There are, for example, lakes that are totally contaminated, where all the fish are dead. Contamination occurs because the pipe valves or pipes used in the exploitation process break, or because waste-water wells overflow. Communities have suffered from many illnesses but did not know what was going on. In September 2013 2 the situation was declared an environmental emergency, partly due to the advocacy of FECONACO [the representative political organisation of the native communities of the River Corrientes] and its environmental monitoring programme. Today, we still continue our fight against oil pollution.

Activities of the Territorial Monitoring Programme

The Territorial Monitoring Programme documents environmental incidents and reports the companies who are responsible to the State. There are currently 19 environmental monitors, who are elected by the communities.

I myself am an Achuar, from a community located in Lot Eight. As coordinator of the Territorial Monitoring Programme, I am responsible for planning the work and coordinating which areas are to be visited each month. Indigenous monitors identify contaminated sites (e.g. lagoons, ravines) and write down the GPS coordinates. With this information a report is prepared and submitted to the OEFA [Peruvian government’s Agency for Environmental Assessment and Enforcement]. OEFA sends investigators, who are guided to the contaminated areas by the environmental monitors in order to take samples for laboratory analysis.

Challenges and successes of the programme

Since 2004 we have been able to identify numerous spills and incidents [for example pipeline spills, leakage from storage wells, dumping of waste water]. The situation has been declared an environmental emergency, partly due to the support of our Territorial Monitoring Programme.

A big challenge to the programme has been the lack of resources for training environmental monitors. Future plans for the programme are to have indigenous environmental monitors collect soil and water samples directly, and for the programme to create its own office with internet access so that it is easier to report contamination issues. Indigenous environmental monitoring has been essential in generating evidence and highlighting our demands, which are as follows:

  • Safe water for communities: If communities do not have wells with treated water they are forced to continue drinking contaminated water and they will continue dying.
  • Implementation of best practices to prevent environmental pollution. For example changing the old pipes (many sections are from the seventies), improvement of waste-water wells, and so on.
  • Restoration of contaminated sites: The State has committed to do this but so far there has been no restoration.
  • Compensation payments to FECONACO for all damages and for use of the land.

Exploring a labelling scheme for biocultural heritage-based products

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the University of Leeds and the Asociación ANDES from Peru are exploring the development of a new labelling or indication scheme for “biocultural, heritage-based products”. An informal collective trademark developed by the Potato Park in Peru (described under Target 13) increased revenues and strengthened social cohesion and environmental stewardship, but the communities were not able to register formal trademarks for their products due to bureaucratic difficulties. The proposed scheme will emphasise and authenticate the way that cultural and spiritual values, local knowledge, innovations and practices, and the local environment are all linked closely together, giving products a unique character. The scheme aims to ensure that as much of the market value as possible is captured locally, through “full benefit capture”, rather than through the benefit-sharing approach developed by others (the access and benefit-sharing (ABS) model). Consultations on the design of the scheme and investigation into similar schemes are currently taking place. A number of key design questions around issues including accessibility, local language, certification versus labelling, and enforcement still need to be addressed. However, concrete initiatives like this hold the potential to promote continued and enhanced sustainable community-based agriculture, forestry and aquaculture while providing a source of income and incentives to sustain these practices.2

The traditional land use system of the Lua (La-weu) peoples in northern Thailand

The traditional land use system of the Lua (La-weu) peoples in northern Thailand includes different categories of conservation forests whose management and use is guided by various rules and agreements. They range from sacred forests, which can only be used for performing rituals, to forests where no trees are cut, and the only forms of harvest are gathering of timber and food. The Lua also practise rotational farming or shifting cultivation in areas which are unsuitable for rice paddy farming; each area is used for one year according to what is agreed in community meetings. The main crop is rice but many other plants are also grown in the fields. Land is cleared and dried for two months and then burned, but before burning, fire-break lines are cut near the fire protection forests to prevent spreading. When cutting the trees, the community members leave the stumps at a height of 60-100 cm and, after harvesting, trees sprout again from these stumps. This allows the forest to regenerate quickly. Land is left fallow for at least nine years. As a local leader explained:

If you farm like this, the soil will remain healthy and the rice is good”.2