Indigenous women farmers in Bataraza, southern Palawan, Philippines, plant upland rice in now-controlled slash-and-burn areas. Bataraza is a municipality nestled in the foothills of Mount Mantaligahan, 140 km south of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, Phiippines. Within the vast Mount Mantalingahan mountain range lies the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape. Covering 120,457 hectares of forest, this protected area serves as the headwater of 33 watersheds and is home to many highly-endangered wildlife species. In terms of farming, slash-and-burn agriculture has been used by the local communities for many generations, but its effect in today’s diminishing state of natural resources has been destructive and unsustainable. The USAID-funded Protect Wildlife Project, in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is helping indigenous people improve upland farming and strengthen local livelihoods so they won't need to expand their slash-and-burn areas or resort to wildlife poaching just to make ends meet. These women farmers have been taught the proper upland farming techniques, such as using a minimum land area for inter-cropping of vegetables and fruit trees. Slash-and-burn agriculture causes deforestation, accidental fires, habitat and species loss, increased air pollution and the release of carbon into the atmosphere, which contributes to global climate change. Photo taken in Palawan, Philippines on June 18, 2019.
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The Pasig River runs through the heart of Manila and flows from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. The river was a major source of water, food and livelihood and offered an alternative mode of transportation. In the 1990s, Pasig River with all its garbage and foul odor, was declared biologically dead. Rehabilitation efforts started after the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission was created in 1999. The photo shows a section of the Pasig River two decades after rehabilitation.
Bataraza, Palawan, Philippines, June 18, 2019.
By Jessie Cereno, Talakatha Creatives.
A woman farmer in Bataraza, southern Palawan walks through a slash-and-burn area of an agricultural section of Mount Mantaligahan, 140 kms south of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, Phiippines.
The Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape encompasses five municipalities, within these municipalities and bordering the protected area are 140,184 hectares of forestlands. The largely forested protected area and the forestlands around it provide various ecosystem services that benefit the local and indigenous communities. These ecosystem services include supplying water, food, medicine, scenic places, fertile soils, and wildlife habitats. The forest cover also prevents the occurrence of destructive forces like flash floods. Thus, it is in the best interest of the communities to have their forests and forestlands placed under an effective management system.
The USAID Protect Wildlife Project builds farmer capacities to use sustainable farming methods. The Project promotes planting a diversity of food crops, creating buffer zones of native trees around existing forest, and the reclamation of degraded land through reforestation and other practices.
Forests are still being cut down and burned to clear land for farming, ranching, and road building. Slash-and-burn contributes to climate change by releasing all the carbon that the forest trees have absorbed over their lifetimes.
Bataraza, Palawan, Philippines, June 18, 2019.
By Jessie Cereno, Talakatha Creatives
A woman farmer sows rice seeds in what used to be a slash-and-burn area of Mount Mantalingahan in southern Palawan, Philippines. Slash-and-burn farming has become rampant in the mountain, aggravating occasional timber poaching and hunting of threatened species like the talking mynah and blue-naped parrot, which are popular pets even among the locals.
To establish and strengthen financing support for sustainable agricultural production in target communities within the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape, the USAID-funded Protect Wildlife Project holds capacity-building workshops for local farmers in project sites. These farmers are now learning how to make their ancestral land more productive.
Protecting the forest and stopping illegal wildlife trade is a livelihood issue. One cannot just tell the person to stop hunting birds without offering alternative livelihood. By introducing a better source of income or livelihood, controlling the spread of slash-and-burn areas, the project hopes to reduce the human pressure on Mount Mantalingahan, so that the protected area can perform its natural functions in helping mitigate climate change.