Ifugaos ready to share terrace technology

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BAGUIO CITY—Ifugaos are ready to share the centuries-old technology that shaped their rice terraces, after learning about a program aimed at developing Mindanao’s terraced farms, Ifugao Rep. Teodoro Baguilat Jr. said.

Baguilat, in a text message, said he encourages the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) plan to use “age-old upland technology still practiced by the Ifugaos and other Cordillerans to improve rice production in other upland areas of the Philippines.”

But Baguilat said the technology was not engineered to draw tourists.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala oversaw agricultural workers build their own version of the rice terraces in Arakan, North Cotabato, recently.

Baguilat, in a separate statement, said he was happy that Alcala and the DA are supporting this technology “that integrates agriculture, slope protection and tourism needs in one sustainable ecosystem.”

“The Ifugao people are very happy to provide assistance in improving the rice terrace farming technology in Cotabato and in other provinces that want to have their own terraces,” he said.

The Ifugao terraces were enshrined as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) in 1995.

The terraces were also picked by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization as one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) in the world, said Clarence Baguilat, Cordillera director of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The DENR was engaged by FAO to help “promote the dynamic conservation and adaptive management of globally significant agricultural biodiversity harbored in GIAHS areas” like Ifugao, according to a 2008 GIAHS project framework for the province.

“The rice terraces provide multiple goods and services,” it said.

Rep. Baguilat said upland farm technology is “multifunctional,” and it would be difficult to sustain without underscoring what Ifugaos do to protect the terraces’ biodiversity.

The GIAHS project paper said the maintenance of biodiversity “relies mainly on the capacity of owners to regulate harvest” and to impose strict regulations over the use of woodlots on mountaintops because the trees serve as watershed for the terraces.

“The sustainability of rice terraces depends on the availability of water and the physical integrity of the terraces to hold water,” the paper said.

“In the rice terraces, the Ifugaos ensure that terraces are well kept and inundated the whole year…. After the harvest season, vegetables are grown in organic mounds (pinkol) and flat organic beds (inado) while fish are raised in fish holes (luhok) built inside the terraces… [so] fish and shells are readily abundant immediately after the harvest season,” it said. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

 

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