As part of the EMPOWER project in partnership with NGCP, HARIBON has been providing training to local communities and indigenous people in three (3) Protected Areas (PA) in 2023. These capacity development sessions aim to educate and empower them with the knowledge and skills needed in the conservation and management of forest ecosystems in their area.
Conserving our forests and the country’s protected areas is vital in our efforts to address the pressing environmental challenges that we face today.
On July 6, 2023, HARIBON Forester and EMPOWER Project Manager Thaddeus C. Martinez, along with his team, introduced the foundation’s Citizen’s Action for Monitoring Ecosystems (CAME) framework to one of its newest rainforestation partners, the Samahan ng Katutubong Alta sa Villa Aurora (SKAVA).
The CAME system is one of the key conservation approaches developed by Haribon Foundation. Launched in 2017, this community-based monitoring and reporting system aids in effectively identifying the status and changes of forest ecosystems by engaging indigenous people and local communities to actively participate in forest protection.
HARIBON’s CAME will help community partners like the SKAVA improve their understanding of the health of their local forest and identify potential threats. To track changes in forest health and identify areas that are in danger of deforestation, partners are trained to identify and record the different species of plants and animals in their area, and measure the size and health of trees.
The data collected by the community will then be used to create reports on the status of the local forest, which will inform the development of conservation plans and advocate for the protection of forests. These reports can also be shared with government agencies and other stakeholders, who can use them to make informed decisions and policies about the environment and its conservation.
Orientation and Community Commitment
The orientation was the first step in the implementation of the CAME program in the community composed of members of the Samahan ng Katutubong Alta sa Villa Aurora, together with the Maria Aurora LGU, Barangay Villa Aurora, DENR and other civil society organizations. During the orientation, Forester Martinez and his team discussed the goals of community-based monitoring, the different monitoring and reporting tools and activities that community members can do, and the resources that will be provided to them.
The Alta community members have shown interest in this initiative and have expressed their commitment to participating in it. “Napakalaki ang magiging benepisyo nito sa amin. Hindi lang sa aming pamilya kundi sa aming buhay komunidad kasi pagka ito’y aming napabayaan, parang pinabayaan na rin namin ang aming sarili, ang aming buhay, ang aming pamilya. Ganun po siya kahalaga para sa amin,” (The [CAME program] will be of great benefit to us. Not only for our families but also for our community life because when we neglect it [forest resources], it's like we have also neglected ourselves, our lives, our families. That's how important it is to us) said Mario, a member of the Alta tribal council.
CAME provides a profound transformation not only in the regions of Maria Aurora but also in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija and Bicol Natural Park where the trainings were also organized. IPs and local communities in these regions are now equipped with the tools and skills to monitor and assess their surroundings. They can now take a proactive role in managing their forests, watersheds, and ecosystems, and this hands-on involvement ensures that resource management decisions are locally relevant and effective.
Further training on this program that employs a user-friendly application such as the Kalikasan Patrol (Ka-Patrol) App. The app plays a complementary role in strengthening forest conservation efforts led by local communities, including indigenous peoples. It also enables partner members to submit monitoring reports promptly, even from remote areas.
Traditional Knowledge in Identifying Species
HARIBON has brought its practice of respecting traditional knowledge by actively valuing and incorporating the wisdom held by our partner organizations (POs). The foundation also strives to create a space that allows for open dialogue, knowledge sharing and mutual learning to create a more inclusive and effective approach to biodiversity conservation that is rooted in the culture and values of the local communities.
The CAME training helps preserve and revitalize the cultural heritage of IPs. It allows them to pass down not only traditional knowledge but also the skills and confidence needed to be stewards of their land and traditions. The Alta tribe composed of individuals who are members of the Samahan ng Katutubong Alta sa Villa Aurora (SKAVA) has nurtured a deeprespect for nature over countless generations. They reside along the rivers of Aurora Province spanning across the areas of Bayanihan, Decoliat, Dianawan, and Villa Aurora (Maria Aurora), Dianed (Dipaculao), and San Luis (Diteki and Ditaylin). With their rich cultural traditions rooted in environmental wisdom, they have inherited survival practices that preserve their lands and its invaluable resources. They thrive with the bounty of the coastal waters, rivers and the forests. The tribe’s expertise and knowledge of the terrain and animal behavior, allows them to coexist harmoniously with the diverse wildlife that roams their area (Ethnic Groups Philippines, 2023).
Similarly, they also have a long history of using ancestral knowledge to identify the plants and animals in their living environment. This knowledge guides their way of living and survival from finding food, creating medicine, to using what’s in the forests as building materials. One common practice of identifying species is observing the plants and animals in their environment, paying attention to their physical appearance, behavior, and habitat; listening to the sounds that animals make, using their sense of smell to identify different plant species (UN DESA, 2021).
Other EMPOWER partner organizations of HARIBON, such as the Sooc Sagip Gubat at Buhay Organization (SSGBO) Inc., Maluyon Indigenous Christian Farmers Association (MICFA), Nam-Namma Farmers Association, Samahang Kababaihan, and SMMMBV, all recognize and value the traditional knowledge held by local communities about their natural environment. These organizations understand that the wisdom and insights passed down through generations hold great value in understanding and conserving the biodiversity within their respective areas.
Benefits of Traditional Knowledge in Modern Conservation
The CAME system can help integrate traditional knowledge into forest monitoring with HARIBON and the local government. Data gathered can be more accurate and relevant in providing better solutions and in making more effective forest management strategies. Additionally, through their observations, members of the local communities can gain insight into their surroundings and become aware of the destructive environmental activities that harm their forests, leading to a loss of wildlife and endangering their food security.
This newfound awareness will eventually enable them to adopt more sustainable and selective practices. CAME is also a valuable tool for HARIBON’s IP partners to develop a better understanding of the use of technology in conservation. And as partners of HARIBON in forest restoration, the Alta community will be provided with livelihood incentives that will help meet their basic needs and improve their quality of life.
The monitoring and reporting system brings advantages to knowledge, practices and quality of life of indigenous peoples (IPs) and local communities, not only for the PO partner in Maria Aurora but also to other local communities in EMPOWER project sites in the Pantabangan Caranglan Watershed Forest Reserve and Bicol Natural Park.
Benefits of CAME for Local Communities
NGCP has funded this project as it understands the important habitats that surround its power lines. Thus, it has extended its hand to collaborate with local organizations and local communities in the area to ensure the safety and sustainability of these habitats.
“Binigyang pondo ng NGCP lahat ng ‘yan,” said Martinez. “Kapag hindi magiging stable ang ecosystem kung saan nakatayo yung towers, magkakaroon tayo pare-parehas ng problema. Sa ecosystems, kapag ang kagubatan ay hindi intact, magkakaroon ng soil erosion, pagguho ng lupa, at hindi lang iyon, kinakailangan ring mabigyan ng benepisyo ang mga community o barangay kung saan nakatayo ang towers.” (NGCP provided funding for all the efforts. When the ecosystems surrounding the tower sites are unstable, we will all have the same problem. Inside ecosystems, when the forest is not intact, there will be soil erosion, landslides, and not only that, there will also be a need to provide benefits to the communities or barangays where the towers are located.)
This partnership is a testament to the commitment of not only HARIBON and NGCP, but also of the communities in working together to conserve forests.The best champions to protect biodiversity are empowered local communities that are committed to forest restoration initiatives.
Volunteer Today! Take a Stand for Conservation
For the many native species that live in our forests, habitat protection and preservation are crucial. We at HARIBON are dedicated to protecting biodiversity and have created a number of programs to do so.
Our initiatives are divided into different areas, each of which addresses a particular component of habitat conservation. You can help safeguard these ecosystems and the animals that depend on them by supporting our work.