The forest conservation including biodiversity and culture preservation among the Ikalahans of Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines has been documented to be successful. Facilitating factors for its successful implementation include recognition of rights within the ancestral domain through secured land tenure, crafting and effective enforcement of community rules and regulations on forest conservation, and incorporation of values and culture in the educational system. Other initiatives to improve the lives of the Ikalahans while conserving the environment include livelihood activities like food processing, organic farming and agroforestry, and forest improvement technology. Also, recent innovations supportive of international conventions and market mechanisms have been initiated like biodiversity conservation, carbon trading, and payment for environmental services. Just like many indigenous peoples in the Philippines and elsewhere, however, the Ikalahans face major challenges that need to be hurdled in the context of changing times. These include market access, institutional support mechanism and continuity of traditional leadership.
Keywords: Ikalahan, Kalahan Educational Foundation, ancestral domain, land tenure, sustainable natural resources management
The term “Kalahan” literally means forest. The people living in or from the forest are called “Ikalahan.” The Ikalahans belong to the Kalanguya tribe of the Cordillera and Caraballo mountains of Northern Luzon in the Philippines (Rice 2000). Ikalahan is just one of the many ethnic groups or tribes in the Philippines concentrated in the northern part of the main island of Luzon.
In the Philippines, land is classifified into two major classifications. These classifications are alienable and disposable (A and D) and forest land, and in 2017 represent 47% and 53% of the total land area of 30 million hectares, respectively (Philippine Forestry Statistics 2017). The A and D lands are those lands of the public domain which have been classified and declared as not needed for forest purposes (Presidential Decree 705 1975). Forest lands are those declared as permanent forests, established forest reserves, established timberland, national parks and game refuge and bird sanctuaries, wilderness area, military and naval reservations and civil reservations (Philippine Forestry Statistics 2017).
Forest cover changes from 1934 to 1988 show that a steady decline has been observed (Figure 1). In 1969 forest cover declined by almost 7 million hectares, and in 1971 issuance of Forestry Administrative Order No. 62 (Kaingin Management and Land Settlement Regulations), where the focus was the containment of slash and burn cultivators rather than punishing forest occupants, which was the start of community-based forest management programs in the Philippines. The rapid decline in forest cover was caused by large scale commercial logging displacing local people, opening roads which facilitated migration and encroachment into the forest.
After the commercial logging and opening of roads into the forest, entrance of land speculators and lowland migrants was facilitated. Lowland migrants cultivated the forest and employed slash and burn farming, fallow period, nomadic farming or hunter-gathering. These activities contributed to the decreasing forest cover caused by land-use change.
The decrease in forest cover in Philippines prompted the government to pioneer community-based forest management agreements to contain forest dwellers from encroaching further into the forest and at the same time conserve existing/remaining forest cover.
While forest cover change for the Philippines is generally decreasing through time, the case for the Kalahan Reserve is the reverse. According to Dizon et al (2008) and as shown in Table 1, the Ikalahans have targeted an increasing agricultural land, watershed, orchards, public lands and dipterocarp forest while a decrease in swidden (fallow) cycle, swidden area, fallow area and grassland/monocrop pine forests have been proposed until Year 2020.
HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE KEF
The Ikalahans were not spared from land speculators whose purpose was to acquire logged over areas for personal purposes. In fact, in 1970, the Philippine government planned to convert about 6,300 hectares of the ancestral lands into a vacation centre. Fake titles were used by relatives of high government officials in efforts to grab the land from the Ikalahan. The Ikalahans decided to file a case in court to force the government to recognize their ancestral land claims. The government attempted to have the case dismissed, but eventually, the Ikalahan achieved legal victory in 1972. The court revoked the lowlanders’ titles, and eventually forced the government to abandon plans to develop the area as a vacation centre. The victory of the Ikalahans paved the way for the establishment of the Kalahan Forest Reserve and issuance of Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) No. 1 between the government and the Ikalahan tribe. The MOA legitimized the prior and vested rights of the Ikalahan tribe over their ancestral lands, recognizing their claim and assured that they will not be driven away from their ancestral lands and that they were given the complete control and authority to manage the land and its resources. The Kalahans took the responsibility of protecting the watershed.
After the victory of the Ikalahans, the Philippine government pioneered the implementation of community-based forest management approaches, primarily to reforest logged over areas. The issuance of MOA No. 1 was the basis for the delineation of ancestral lands and domain claims in 1993 through Adiistrative Ordeer No. 2 Series of 1993, and later became the basis of Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) in 1997.
The Ikalahans are people that have associated their existence with forests. Wildlife fruits (guava, santol, dagwey), flowers (hibiscus and orchids) and rattan can be collected from the sanctuaries, however, only a small portion of these can be collected (about 15%) and leaving majority (85%) to serve as food for the wildlife (birds, deer, wild pigs, etc.). Allocation of communal lands to all farm families is up to 8 hectares, mostly extending from the river up to the mountain slope. The flatter lands near the river were devoted to rice and vegetable, the mid slopes for swidden farming and the top portion will be maintained as farm forests. The farm forests are adjacent to the delineated wildlife sanctuaries, to maintain the ecological balance and biological diversity and integrity (Rice, 2000).
Despite changes in land use and land cover through time, the effective stewardship of the Ikalahans over thrir ancestral domain was key in the conservation of the remaining forest resoures and biodiversity in the Forest Reserve as well as the associated environmental services like water supply, soil amelioration, carbon sequestration, regulation of climate and the like. Figure 2 presents the change in land use/land cover in the Forest Reserve in 1979 and 2002.
FACILITATING FACTORS FOR THE SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF FOREST CONSERVATION
The Ikalahans were originally hunters and gatherers and eventually became swidden farmers and their swidden farming system is characterized by a system of crop rotation and forest fallow which makes their farming system sustainable. Traditionally, the fallow cycle is about 17 years but this has been reduced to about 12 years in 2000 (Rice 2011). Swidden farms are planted to obi/sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas L) which is their staple food and ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc) which is processed as hot drink (Pulhin et al 2007).
According to Dizon et al (2008), “although the Ikalahans did not have written rules regarding the use of natural resources, established indigenous practices have been observed prior to the issuance of MOA No. 1. For instance, they have their indigenous way of land management which includes the gen-gen, an ancient composting done on unfertile level farms using sweet potato vines; day-og or in situ composting within sloping land; and balkah, contour cropping. For some time, these practices have been stopped because the KEF members perceived these as “old- fashioned””. In 2018, gen-gen, day-og and balkah were no longer practiced by the farmers, there was no need for these technologies as they have reduced land cultivation in steep slopes and allowed the regeneration of forests. Also, their farming systems are diversified and sweet potato and ginger are no longer the only crops that they are cultivating in the flatter portion of their farms.
The issuance of MOA No. 1 to the Ikalahans serves as the basis of “ownership” by the community of a vast tract of land. Inorder to be recognized, they have registered with the securities and exchange commission of the Philippines and has been recognized as Kalahan Educational Foundation (KEF).
When the Ikalahans were awarded their title and upon seeing by the tribal leaders that their population is growing and their swidden farming methods causes more harm to the forest, the role of the tribal leaders came into force.
Recognition of rights through secured land tenure
The Ikalahans (meaning "people of the forest") have lived in the Kalahan Forest Reserve for centuries, relying mainly on hunting, gathering and traditional swidden agriculture for survival. The Ikalahans are indigenous peoples that belong to the Kalanguya tribe of the Mountain Province. These indigenous peoples are recognized by the government as rightful owners of the land they occupy, provided they have continuously occupied and cultivated, either by himself or through his ancestors, a tract of agricultural land since time immemorial (RA 8371 1997).
The Kalahan Forest Reserve lies at an elevation of 600 to 1700 meters above sea level with average slopes of 45 degrees. The predominant vegetation is tropical rainforest having frequent typhoon from June to December with an average rainfall of 3,000 to 5,000 mm year-1.
The Council of Elders within the Kalahan Forest Reserve takes control of the allocation of land. Every family has an average of 6 hectares of farm lots where food production can be implemented (Dolom and Serrano 2005). Any member of the tribe that wants to clear a forest for farming should ask permission from KEF and the foundation’s forester inspects the area and determines its suitability.
The recognition of individual rights within the ancestral domain has encouraged farm development following land-use plans formulated by the farmer and his leader (Dolom and Serrano 2005).
The Ikalahan incorporated themselves into the Kalahan Educational Foundation, Inc. in 1973 to protect communities from possible eviction by land grabbers (Villamor and Lasco 2006). The natural resources were managed by local leaders and the community members using indigenous systems. In 1974, MOA No. 1 was awarded to the Kalahan with the land and all its resources belonging to the Ikalahan community. The responsibility of the community was to protect the watershed. In 2006, the Certificate of Ancestral Domain (CADT) was awarded to the Ikalahans.
RA 8371 (1997) defined ancestral domain as “all areas generally belonging to ICCs/IPs comprising lands, inland waters, coastal areas, and natural resources therein, held under a claim of ownership, occupied or possessed by ICCs/IPs, by themselves or through their ancestors, communally or individually since time immemorial, continuously to the present except when interrupted by war, force majeure or displacement by force, deceit, stealth or as a consequence of government projects or any other voluntary dealings entered into by government and private individuals/corporations, and which are necessary to ensure their economic, social and cultural welfare. It shall include ancestral lands, forests, pasture, residential, agricultural, and other lands individually owned whether alienable and disposable or otherwise, hunting grounds, burial grounds, worship areas, bodies of water, mineral and other natural resources, and lands which may no longer be exclusively occupied by ICCs/IPs but from which they traditionally had access to for their subsistence and traditional activities, particularly the home ranges of ICCs/IPs who are still nomadic and/or shifting cultivators.”
Crafting and effective enforcement of community rules and regulations on forest conservation
According to Larson, Cronkleton and Pulhin in 2015, the Kalahan Educational Foundation (KEF) was formed by a group of elders, and the Board of Trustees (BOT) is made up of one representative from each of the participating barangays, plus three others (an additional representative from the most populous community, a youth representative, and a non-voting representative of the barangay local government offices). The BOT manages the KEF that has sections that deals with the Forest and Natural Research, Health and Sanitation, Education and Enterprises Development. The organizational structure of the KEF is shown in Figure 2.
Forest and Natural Research Section deals with farming, forest, agroforestry endeavors. This include proper farming practices, forest improvement activities, cropping combinations, proper planting and harvesting techniques, land-use and land distribution policies. Health and sanitation deals with solid waste management including ensuring that there is no thrash in waterways. Education section deals with the management of the Kalahan Academy, a formal education provider up to Grade 12. Enterprise development is in-charge of food processing.
According to Rice (2001), elders hold office by ascription and are people recognized as effective at providing leadership and resolving disputes, but they do not represent or make decisions for the community. The most important institution is the Tongtongan. The Tongtongan functions like a tribal court, presided over by local elders, whereby people come together to discuss a conflict or problem; the elders make the final judgment, aimed at reconciliation (Rice 1995).
The tribal leaders serve as the overseer of the ansectral domain. They develop simple but clear rules for recognizing individual rights within the ancestral domain. The KEF is a case where transfer of forest management from the government to the forest dwellers proved to be successful. Some of these resource policies are shown in Table 2.
Incorporation of values and culture in the educational system
The Kalahan Academy (KA), was established to provide education to the children within the reserve to provide access to appropriate knowledge and skills with which to better utilize the available resources sustainably (Dizon et al. 2008) and prevent cultural erosion (Dolom and Serrano 2005). The curriculum includes a significant amount of Ikalahan history and culture to help the students in their search for self-identify as well as ecology to encourage early natural resources management perspective.
Although originally designed to serve Ikalahan students, the KA has attracted students from many other mountain tribes, including Mangyan from the province of Oriental Mindoro, Philippines.
Also, most of the KEF staff and teachers are graduates from the Academy. Others serve as barangay (local government) officials in the community while others are working in the municipal office of Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya, Philippines (Dolom and Serrano 2005).
a. Food processing
The BOT realized that utilization of wild fruits was a promising livelihood without damaging the forests. In 1980, KEF established the food processing center to produce jams, marmalades, preserves and related products using wild fruits from the forests and was marketed under the “Mountain Fresh” label.
In Kalahan, people began with guavas (Psidium guajava Linn.), which were eventually- developed into three different products: jam, jelly and butter. With more than 500 hectares of wild guavas within the Kalahan Reserve, there is little danger of overexploiting the resource.
Dizon et al (2008) mentioned that aside from guava, other wild fruits that are processed are dagwey (Saurauia subglabra Merl.), bignay (Antidesma bunius Linn), santol (Sandoricum koetjape Burm), dikay (Embelia philippinensis ADL), and hibiscus (Hibiscus rosasinensis Linn).
Other products processed but were not popular were Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa Linn), Bignay fruit (Antidesma bunius Linn.), Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis), and wild raspberries (Rubus pectinalus and Rubus rosaifolius).
Before the processing of these fruits, ginger (Zingiber officinala Rosc.) was the only plant that had any commercial value to the community. Although guavas, passion fruit and santol could be marketed fresh in the lowlands, the price was so low that it was not economical to ship them.
The implementation of agroforestry in the Ikalahans farms was through the exposure of some of its members to capacity development activities organized by environmental organizations including state colleges and universities. These learnings were tried into their local farming. Specifically, Elder Omis Balinhawang, decided to incorporate Alnus napalensis in his swidden field planted to sweet potato, after learning about the concept of contour cropping of incorporating leguminous trees. Until the early 2000s, the practice is widespread and adopted by fellow Ikalahan, and was called pangomis, in honor of the Elder who developed the technology.
Alnus napalensis is now incorporated in swidden farms, as a living barrier to prevent soil erosion. Also, branches of Alnus nepalensis can be used as firewood for cooking and heating. Alnus logs were at one time used as growing medium for Shitake mushroom.
Forest Improvement Technology (FIT)
The implementation of the FIT by the Ikalahans is aimed at improving the forest. They perform this by eliminating crooked, damaged or crowded trees. This forest improvement technology is done to ultimately come up with the best quality lumber and a healthy forest, able to regenerate itself. Rice (2001) described FIT in Box 1.
FIT follows the natural rejuvenation process of the forest. Trees die or are felled by storms, while new seedlings will sprout and develop. Mature trees that have stopped growing are removed to create favorable conditions for forest rejuvenation. If this is done every year, the forest will continue to develop and improve. The removal of individual trees does not hurt the forest or its environment and provides first class lumber.
Each year the forest farmer makes a selection of trees to be cut. The farmer checks for crooked, damaged or crowded trees that need to be removed to improve the forest. Simple equipment is used, and the sawdust, tops and branches are left to rot because they restore fertility to the forest soil and help maintain biodiversity. The farmer does not separate the potential crop trees from the other trees because he knows that all trees have a role to play in the forest.
If there are large open spaces, a forest pioneer species will be planted first. Agricultural crops are not planted between the trees because they would bother the other plants that need to grow to make a good forest. Enrichment planting can increase the population of one or two species of large or small plants. This can be highly favorable as long as the forests is not turned into a plantation. The forest farmer will cut only a small amount of growth, allowing the forest to improve each year.
When the forest finally has its proper amount of wood, which is approximately 270 m3 ha-1, the farmer can begin to remove an amount equal to the total growth rate of 15 to 20 m3 ha-1 year-1. The farmer will have to do that to allow the seedlings to grow.
The growth rate presently expected in Philippine forests is about 4.5 m3 ha-1 year-1. Under proper management, using FIT, the forest can produce as much as 15 to 20 m3 ha-1 year-1. Such a forest still retains the characteristics of a natural forest.
It still has a high biodiversity and is an effective watershed with a high percolation rate. It will also provide a sanctuary for many kinds of wild orchids, animals, birds and insects. If each forest farmer cares for 5 ha of good forest, he may harvest up to 80 m3 of first class lumber every year without damaging the forest. That would provide him with higher cash income than many professionals and he would still have plenty of time to produce his own food on the farm. Once the forest has developed, it can be sustained indefinitely.
Box 1. Forest Improvement Technology as described by Rice 2001.
RECENT INNOVATIONS AND MARKET MECHANISMS
The Ikalahans are hunter-gatherers and if they plant sweet potato, they plant them in swidden farms and fallow the area, if it is no longer productive. Each fallow cycle is about 17 years, which when done properly is sustainable indefinitely (Rice 2011). After food and cash income requirements have been met from swidden farming and hunting and gathering from identified niches, pressure to the old growth and second growth forests have been reduced. With this, the population was willing to institute a strict hunting season for wild birds and animals and have also expanded the area intended for wildlife sanctuaries from 400 to 4000 hectares. These wildlife sanctuaries can be places where they can collect food, fruits and wildlife, but they are only allowed to collect 15% of the total population (Rice 2011).
Flora. There are presently 1 400 identified species of plants in the database. More than 900 of them are already represented in the herbarium sheet collection. The research is continuing and the number of species is expected to reach 1800. Eleven of these identified species are on the CITES Appendix 2 list, not including the orchids, and another five are listed in the IUCN Red Book as Endangered. Eighty-six species of orchids are found in the forests of the Kalahan Reserve. Two of these, in Genus Paphiopedellum, are on the CITES Appendix 1 list. The remaining 84 are in Appendix 2.
Fauna. Of the 148 species, which have been clearly identified, 27 are on the IUCN Appendix 2 list. Three additional species are in Appendix 1, but the community leaders report that the Philippine Eagle and Koch’s Pitta, two of the three have not been seen for several years so they are not sure whether they still exist in the area or not. The Peregrine Falcon, the third from Appendix 1, is still seen occasionally. In addition to those species protected by virtue of their inclusion in the CITES lists, the IUCN Red Book classified five of the identified species as Endangered, another six as Vulnerable and three others as Threatened.
Other fauna. Although the record of other fauna is very incomplete, 48 species of large fauna have been identified and another 20 are being studied. Included in this number are ten species which are on the CITES lists in Appendix 2. Eight of the ten are also on the IUCN lists. They include five species of bats, two lizards, one deer and two snakes.
When the issue of climate change was discussed globally and locally, the Ikalahan recognized that the same forest that provides water is also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. Kalahans also recognized that the forest is an effective carbon sink.
Carbon trading was recognized as one of the ways to provide income to the community, without compromising the functions of the forest for watershed and carbon sequestration.
With assistance from various groups (Biodiversity Conservation Network (BCN) and the University of the Philippines Los Banos, an inexpensive and easy to follow methodology was developed. In 1993, a methodology was worked out which allowed KEF to estimate the amount of carbon sequestered by the forest.
Based from the measurements and computation done by the foresters in 1999, the 10,000 hectares of production forest within the Kalahan Reserve sequesters about 10,000 tons of carbon every year and the rate of sequestration is increasing every year as the forests are improving (Rice 2009). In 2002, KEF estimated around 38,383 tons of carbon dioxide were recycled by the Kalahan forests (Villamor and Lasco, 2006).
In 2003, Kalahan was chosen as the first pilot site in the Philippines for the development of a carbon sequestration payment mechanism. KEF targeted two types of carbon markets – the regulated market, through Kyoto’s CDM, and the voluntary carbon market. KEF planned to convert the 900 hectares of marginal and abandoned agriculture land to more productive tree-based system, enhance the livelihood of the communities in the proposed area through agroforestry; and protect the watershed, enhance the biodiversity, and improve land beauty of the tourism area.
Villamor and Lasco (2006) estimated that the 900 ha area would sequester 89,776 t CO2-e for 20 years under the medium tree growth scenario, based on the tree growth rates using the Philippine derived values of Lasco et al. (2004).
The voluntary carbon-offset markets aimed to maintain 10,000 ha of secondary forests for production and carbon sequestration. Initial estimates in 2007 showed that the forest area could sequester 1.7 M t of CO2 for a period of 20 years.
The payment for environmental services is needed by the Ikalahans so they can escape from poverty, protect the forests, expand their forests, restore the wildlife, provide health services and provide appropriate education. Once they get paid, they plan to provide health services to all, provide education, provide employment in forest improvement, and establish micro-industries using forest products. However, this initiative has not yet been fully realized at present with the passing away of Reverent Pastor Rice who was responsible for this project.
Payment for ecosystem services
Accoding to van Noordwijk (2005), watershed functions are considered to be the first environmental service functions that have been recognized for payments due to their immediate relevance to the people. The major issue in watershed services payments is a lack of clarity about the impact of different land uses on water (Kaimowitz 2004). The Kalahan Ancestral Domain provides water supply to the downstream areas, but they are not being paid. The Ikalahans are lamenting “we carry all the burden while the people in the lowlands receive all of the benefits.” Rice (2004) pointed out that “most of the needed legislation to enable the Ikalahan people to be remunerated for the forest services they provide are in place, the next step is to begin the dialogues with the beneficiaries of the forest services to convince them to pay for the services rendered.” While there is no remuneration paid for the watershed functions provided by the Kalahan Forest Reserve, KEF is looking forward that their efforts will be compensated with the best rewards.
While the Ikalahans have successfully secured their land tenure and successfully implemented forest and biodiversity conservation in their ancestral land, there remain some challenges that they are currently facing.
In a visit to KEF in 2018, the processing plant has stopped its regular operation due to marketing problems and limited operating capital. The marketing arm for organic, village-produced products, the Upland Marketing Foundation, Inc, ceased its operation in early 2000. With this, the KEF has to market its own produce to supermarkets in Metro Manila and neighboring towns. The option for international market was also stalled with the passing away of Rev. Delbert Rice, the former KEF Executive Director, who was responsible for marketing the products both locally and internationally. While there are regular local supermarkets that the products are displayed, the demand has not increased. Slow turn-over of products, limited buyers, and not enough capital to purchase all the raw materials are some of the reasons for the reduced operation.
There is the need for a better marketing strategy that will penetrate local and international markets, including a strategy to advertise the existence of their processed products. KEF also needs financial assistance to support its operational activities until such time that the enterprise becomes more economically viable and sustainable.
Institutional support mechanisms
There were various institutions and linkages that were established since 1972. These include the academe, NGOs both local and international and have participated in providing assistance to the attainment of the different plans of KEF. According to Dizon et al (2008), some these include assistance from the Commission on National Integration (1974) for the newly established Kalahan Academy; Ford Foundation which provided grant for agriculture and forestry development (1975); USAID (1978); Philippine Australian Community Action Programme (1987); Canadian International Development Agency (1988); and churches in Netherlands and Germany (1990).
While KEF showed capability in managing their current resources, there are threats that are now visible in the community. One of these is the construction of a road connecting the province of Nueva Vizcaya to the province of Pangasinan in the Philippines that may endanger the biodiversity conservation efforts of the area. Another is the planting of sayote following the age-old practice of monocropping and needs a large clearing to be able to construct the trellises for maximum yield.
There is still the need for continuous capacity building and education of the current farmers to find cropping combinations that does not require large areas of land and non-erosive. There should also be institutions that will capacitate more the farmers in terms of value-adding or processing so as not to transport raw materials outside the community.
Continuity of traditional leadership
While some of the children are earning college degrees and are moving out of the community, there are those that remained in the community and continued to become farmers. These farmers were trained and capacitated by the Elders on the different aspects of farming. These upcoming leaders should be able to adapt to the changing challenges of modernization, climate change, carbon trading, and trade liberalization.
These future leaders should be good at incorporating traditional leadership but at the same time adaptive to current issues.
According to Dizon et al (2008), a recent review of Kalahan Academy’s (KA) alumni also indicates that most of the mountain villages which have sent students to the Academy have now at least one alumnus serving as an elected official in the Local Government Unit. This has had a very positive effect on the environment and economic development as well as on the peace and order in the remote areas.
The Ikalahans are forest dwellers and they derive their food and raw materials for shelter from the forest. The Ikalahans are the first tribal group that was given the recognition by the Philippine Government as partners in the management of a forest reserve. The Ikalahans have proven themselves to be good stewards of the forests for the benefit of the current and future generations. Their efforts have contributed to the ecological, economic and food security of the community but also served as a model for sustainable indigenous forest management. In addition to their competence in environmental management, the importance of culture has also been inculcated by establishing a culturally-responsive educational system that continue to valorize indigenous knowledge and practices in forest management and protection. With the changing aspirations of every member of the tribal group and with more government development initiatives in the context of a modernizing society, there are also major challenges that need to be hurdled if the spirit of Satoyama is to live on among the Ikalahans.
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Date submitted: September 10, 2019