Philippines: Indigenous knowledge takes on climate crisis


“In the Philippines, the Government is promoting their use in environmental protection and conservation.” “In the Philippines, the Government is promoting their use in environmental protection and conservation.”

Chairman of the Council of Elders of the Bukidnon Umayamnon community, Mr. Perino has seen the impact of climate change up close. “In the Philippines, the majority of our forest land and headwaters are within the ancestral domains for the various indigenous cultures,” he said. “There is a real need for the world to fully recognize their important contributions in conserving the environment that benefits the entire population.”

Heavy tolls

Climate change is exacting a heavy toll on Filipinos’ lives, properties, and livelihoods. If left unaddressed it could hinder the country’s goal of becoming a middle-income country in 2040. In 2012 and 2013, floods destroyed more than a dozen homes of community members living along the Pulangi river. “Since then the Pulangi river has flooded every year,” said Mr. Perino. “In 2022, the river caused so much riverbank erosion that it was widened by about 50 meters from its regular width.”

Multiple indices rank the country as among those most affected by extreme climate events. Over the past decade, highly destructive typhoons have hit almost every year, with related annual losses estimated at 1.2 per cent of overall gross domestic product (GDP).

In July, Typhoon Doksuri brought widespread flooding and landslides to the Philippines, killing at least 39 people and forcing 12,000 people from their homes.

‘A sense of cultural pride and joy’

To combat the growing impacts of climate change in the region, Mr. Perino coordinates a locally-organized project under the community-based organisation, Bukidnon Umayamnon Tribe Kapu-unan To mga Datu (BUKDA).

Supported by the UN via an AFICIA grant, the project also seeks to tackle deforestation and pollution while generating sustainable income for indigenous peoples by promoting the planting of bamboo and cocoa by local farmers in Mindanao. That includes training people on cultivating, harvesting, and marketing.

Highlighting the value of bamboo in protecting the forest by helping to prevent erosion and helping restore degraded soil, Mr. Perino explained that the initiative is slated to plant 20 hectares of vegetation along the Pulangi River. Farmers have already begun to reap the benefits of new cocoa and bamboo plantations that will be created in July 2022. The project is currently providing income to farmers through temporary labour opportunities and is supporting families to buy food and other basic items.

“Since we got AFCIA support,” Mr. Perino said, “we could see a few benefits in our community, such as income from employment due to land protection, a sense of cultural pride and joy that we can contribute to the mitigation of climate change impacts and have hope that the once barren and idle land of the indigenous peoples will one day be our refuge from the negative impacts of climate change and be a source of our financial sustainability including our next generations.”