The indigenous Dumagat and Alta communities, with support from Rainforest Trust and partner Daluhay Daloy ng Buhay Inc., an organization focused on democratic ecosystem management, have just established the San Luis S’bkal-Is’suwi Indigenous Community Conserved Area and Territory on the Philippine island of Luzon. This 97,670-acre reserve safeguards habitat for threatened species while helping surrounding communities assert ownership of their ancestral lands.
The island of Luzon holds the Sierra Madre mountain range — which harbors a massive swath of old-growth tropical rainforest home to a wealth of rare species. This includes birds such as the Endangered Green Racquet-tail and at least one breeding pair of the iconic and Critically Endangered Philippine Eagle. Tree species include the Critically Endangered Philippine Mahogany, Red Lauan and White Lauan.
But logging from people who live outside the community is decimating these forests. And with this habitat loss come threats to the local communities’ traditional ways of life. Local resident and Forest Watcher Diego Sindac said “Many of my tribesmen are now poor and suffering from the effects of an unhealthy forest.” The new protected area is a vital step in benefitting the communities economically and ecologically.
This new protected area gives nearby communities responsibility for conservation management in these forests. At the declaration ceremony, Chieftain Ernesto Sanchez from Dimanayat settlement said “We should make sure we look after our forests, our land of heritage, for this is ours. Therefore, we should be the ones to fix what needs to be fixed. The actions should start from us.”
Local community members are taking advantage of development and forest guard trainings while providing input in protected area management planning and implementation. The reserve will be managed as an Indigenous Community Conserved Area (ICCA) through traditional knowledge, governance and practices. ICCAs are an increasingly popular category of protection, where indigenous peoples manage their ancestral lands and continue traditional resource use.
“This project is an exemplary conservation model involving local community participation,” said Rainforest Trust Asia-Pacific Conservation Officer Felicia Spector. “We are thrilled that our support is helping indigenous communities gain land rights, allowing them to become the key stewards of this important protected area, preserving the forest ecosystem and their way of life for future generations.”
“Through the project with Rainforest Trust, the opportunity for indigenous people to regain control of their ancestral land through recognition of their rights, responsible stewardship and engagement of the youth gives them high hopes of a brighter future,” said Maravic Pajaro, Executive Director of Daluhay Daloy ng Buhay Inc.
Rainforest Trust Conservation Fellow Mark Raquino added, “With the support of Rainforest Trust, the San Luis S’bkal-Is’suwi Community Reserve can be a model in the future for an effective approach to conservation led by indigenous communities.”
To learn more about this project, visit the project page.
This project was made possible through gifts to the Conservation Action Fund, with leadership gifts from the Jennings Family and Josh Diehl. All donations were matched by SAVES Challenge.
Header photo: The declaration ceremony for the San Luis Community Reserve. Photo courtesy of Daluhay Daloy ng Buhay Inc.