Involving youth through heritage education in the conservation of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, Philippines

Publicado: 05 Octubre 2020
Última edición: 14 Octubre 2020
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The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras located in the mountain areas of Northern Luzon, were inscribed in the World Heritage (WH) List under criteria (iii), (iv) and (v) in 1995, as an organically evolved, living cultural landscape of outstanding universal value. Produced by the Ifugao ethnic group, the terraces are tangible testimonies of intergenerational transmission of their Indigenous worldview which represents harmony between humankind and the environment. In 2001, the property was put in the WH List in Danger due to deterioration caused by extreme weather conditions and socio-cultural changes, notably outmigration, loss of Indigenous knowledge and erosion of customary social institutions. The Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo), a grassroots non-profit organization, is partnering with local and national governments, and scientific institutions for raising youth awareness on the interlinked cultural and natural values of the Rice Terraces through heritage education enabling their conservation.


Sudeste Asiático
Scale of implementation
Bosques tropicales de hoja perenne
Buildings and facilities
Campos de cultivo
Ecosistema urbano
Ecosistemas de agua dulce
Ecosistemas forestales
Humedales (pantano, turberas)
Río, corriente
Selva baja caducifolia
Conocimientos tradicionales
Institucionalización de la biodiversidad
Poblaciones indígenas
Seguridad alimentaria
World Heritage
Lluvia errática
Incremento de temperatura
Cambio estacional
Usos conflictivos / impactos acumulativos
Desarrollo de Infraestructura
Falta de acceso a financiación a largo plazo
Falta de oportunidades de ingresos alternativos
Cambios en el contexto socio-cultural
Falta de conciencia del público y de los responsables de la toma de decisiones
Deficiente gobernanza y participación
Desempleo / pobreza
Sustainable development goals
ODS 2 - Hambre cero
ODS 4 - Educación de calidad
ODS 8 - Trabajo decente y crecimiento económico
ODS 10- Reducción de las desigualidades
ODS 11 - Ciudades y comunidades sostenibles
Aichi targets
Meta 2: Valores de biodiversidad integrados
Meta 4: Producción y consumo sostenibles
Meta 10: Ecosistemas vulnerables al cambio
Meta 15: Restauración de ecosistemas y resiliencia
Meta 18: Conocimiento tradicional


Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines


The main challenge is the poor state of conservation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces that has been linked to culturally-insensitive public policies and inadequate planning, which do not take into consideration the natural and human dimensions for conserving them. The terraces’ deterioration is due to several factors, including environmental (extreme weather), social (outmigration, loss of traditional knowledge, erosion of customary social institutions), and economic (subsistence agriculture, lack of alternative income). The conviction of SITMo is that the conservation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces is largely dependent on the continuity of the Ifugao Indigenous knowledge system, which mastered the natural environment creating a unique landscape and a distinct way of life. Hence, the work focuses on youth education, in order to pass on the traditional knowledge, based on interlinked natural and cultural values, and that would allow the sustainable development of Ifugao Indigenous people.


Local communities in Ifugao, Ifugao youth and Ifugao community at large

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

In order to develop a sustainable strategy for the conservation of the Rice Terraces of Ifugao, there was a need to acknowledge the value of the Indigenous Ifugao culture. The rice terraces as heritage, are the product of hundreds of years of traditional knowledge and intergenerational transmission of a particular worldview. Developing partnerships between local activist groups like SITMo and the government (BB1), and scientific institutions that can continue research and back local traditional knowledge as a resource for biodiversity conservation (BB2) is instrumental for developing a curriculum that integrates Ifugao culture in the educational system (BB4). The establishment of a multi-functional community centre like the Indigenous Peoples Education Centre (BB3) creates the space and platform for a sustainable collaboration between partners, local communities, and continuous advocacy for the conservation of the terraces and Ifugao culture.


Coordinated efforts of national, provincial and municipal governments, international funds and local communities participation have succeeded in removing the Rice Terraces from the WH List in Danger in 2012. Yet, the terraces are still in a vulnerable situation. SITMo promotes investing in education to raise awareness of heritage values in order to achieve sustainability. So far, concrete social and economic impacts are:

  • Educational system change: Culture is mandatory for the education department. Traditional knowledge is included in WH conservation, and Ifugao culture, history and language are integrated in the official curriculum.
  • Raised awareness: heritage value of the terraces becomes a daily life discussion of Ifugao people.
  • Acquisition of additional funding for advocacy, awareness raising and conservation activities. 


Maya Ishizawa

The overall goal of the SITMo is to help improve the economic status of rice terraces farmers as a way of effecting continuity and conservation of the terraced landscape. SITMo always believed that conservation of the terraces is primarily anchored on the economic relations of people and the cultural landscape. While the terraces were constructed at a time of relative isolation of the Ifugaos, its economic function remained constant through the generations and through all the socio-political upheavals its history has gone through. Rice became the center of the cultural development of the Ifugao. Now, the terraces are left to an aging population of farmers whose traditional knowledge has no one to pass on to. An aging farmer said, “The remaining terraces you see are mere shadows of what we had in our childhood. During our time, people came together to work the fields. Each is expected to help in the stone walling, the planting, the harvesting. Our old priests prayed the rituals and offered sacrifices to the gods, the same gods our ancestors prayed to. The community gathered to work, to celebrate, to help each other. The seasons can bring down a terrace wall, too much rain, too much sun, we had those during our time - but we keep putting them back, stone by stone, paddy field after paddy field. We had to keep the terraces alive, we need to flood the pond fields for the next planting season. It’s what we did, just as the ancients taught us". 


 In our youth meetings, one teenager summarized all their concerns: “As young Ifugaos, we have the responsibility to take care of our heritage. Our rice terraces, our forests, the values and the Indigenous knowledge that come with all these things. Yet we are also children of the modern times. While our elders tell us to take care of the land, it is no longer enough to sustain us. Our population is getting bigger but the land is not getting any wider. While we want to keep our culture as Ifugaos, we also need to adapt to the realities of the modern times".


By comparing and assessing where the young and old are coming from, we realized that it doesn’t have to be a choice between staying put and moving forward. Culture has to change for it to survive yet it doesn’t mean totally leaving behind tradition. Compromises are necessary for culture change and conservation to work. Ifugao culture is what we have now. It can either change towards total forgetfulness of the past or the past adapting to the present. (Marlon Martin, SITMo)

Contribuido por

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Marlon Martin Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo)

Other contributors

ICCROM-IUCN World Heritage Leadership