Mt. Mahuson, Philippines
Mount Mahuson is located on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. Its northern slopes are home to the indigenous Manobo-Tinananon community, who manage the 1047 hectares of forest, grassland and farmland that form the Mt Mahuson ICCA.
History and Activities
In 1992, a Philippine eagle nest was discovered on the community's territory. The discovery of the critically endangered bird's nest led the community to set up an Indigenous Peoples' Organisation called the Pan-uangdig Lumadnong Panaghiusa, or PALUPA. In partnership with the Foundation for the Philippine Environment, and the Philippine Eagle Foundation, PALUPA became the management authority for conservation and development projects within the community's ancestral lands.
PALUPA's establishment followed decades of uncertainty for the community. Pressure from logging companies, which persisted until 1985, was swiftly followed by political instability, necessitating the evacuation of the entire community. Only after several years did they feel able to return to their native lands.
Since PALUPA's inception, the community's conservation work has protected not only the Philippine eagle, but a wealth of other biodiversity. Regular foot patrols deter damaging slash-and burn practices, illegal logging, and other forms of forest encroachment. Periodic wildlife surveys ensure that up-to-date data informs PALUPA's activities.
The forest provides the community with ecosystem services including water and local climate regulation. It is also a source of supplemental food and non-timber forest products (NTFPs), the use of which is controlled for locals, and prohibited to outsiders. NTFPs which were previously close to depletion have now recovered, and deer and wild pig hunting has declined. Since PALUPA's inception, the community has adhered to responsible levels of forest use, and the most recent forest patrol indicated the state of wildlife, NTFP and timber resources has improved.
A pair of Philippine eagles continues to breed within the forest, with six successful nesting attempts verified since 1992.
Management and Governance
PALUPA's officers are elected by a community vote, and supervised by a board of directors made up of the chieftain and traditional elders. Under this framework, the organisation has used community development planning sessions to identify the community's strengths and assets, and to identify development aspirations and priority outcomes. The resulting Community Development Plan now guides the organisation's conservation and development activities.
PALUPA's activities have had a positive impact, not just on biodiversity, but on the quality of life of community. Through partnerships with charities, the community has received help with conservation training, adult literacy, and obtaining farming supplies. They also receive financial and other incentives from the Philippine Eagle Foundation in return for the provision of ecosystem services. The community's earnings from its communal tree nurseries were sufficient in 2012 for the purchase of a generator, which now provides electricity to every home.
What's Next and Lessons Learned
In 2013, the community plans to plant a fifty hectare area of forest on land that is currently overrun with invasive Imperata grass. They also wish to obtain land ownership rights over the Mt Mahuson ICCA.
PALUPA still faces challenges with the implementation of its plans. However, through constant trouble-shooting and regular community consultations, it continues to generate promising innovations to guide the community's conservation and development future.
Information provided by Hadassah Faith C. Carig, Philippine Eagle Foundation, October 2013.