On 30 July 2015, UNU-IAS in cooperation with Ifugao State University held the Science-Policy Forum on the Sustainability of the Rice Terrace Systems (Hani and Ifugao): Building Learning Alliance in Manila, Philippines. Following an earlier event, the forum focused on the traditional knowledge of Ifugao and Hani indigenous people about water resource management. It built upon a UNU-IAS research project, Developing Ecosystems Based Adaptation Strategies (supported by the Asia Pacific Network on Global Change), which explores adaptation strategies for enhancing the resilience of rice terrace systems to climate change.
In the keynote speech, Loren Legarda (Senator, Philippines) spoke about the importance of indigenous knowledge and practices as well as the role of other stakeholders in the sustainability of Ifugao rice terraces. Subsequent speakers discussed recent conservation efforts, capacity building projects for local communities, scientific quantification of environmental processes, field monitoring instruments for climate projections and impact assessments, among others.
Comparisons were made between Hani and Ifugao rice terraces and ― finding commonalities in the impacts of climate change, market and tourism demand, water availability and the disappearance of culture, among others ― the speakers emphasized the need for increased dialogue between the two communities as well as support from policymakers. In particular they called for greater involvement of the legislative branch by generating bills that support mechanisms benefiting the local communities.
Among the key concerns raised at the forum was the issue of environmental justice — how equitable sharing of resources should benefit the communities that are maintaining the systems, including the muyong (woodlots or forest) system, for instance. The panel concluded with a pledge to adopt a trans-disciplinary approach and to create a learning alliance to formulate projects that can be scaled up and replicated in different contexts.