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Building Learning Alliances: Manila Symposium

On 30 July 2015, UNU-IAS in cooperation with Ifugao State University held the Science-Policy Forum on the Sustainability of the Rice Terrace Systems (Hani and Ifugao): Building Learning Alliance in Manila, Philippines. Following an earlier event, the forum focused on the traditional knowledge of Ifugao and Hani indigenous people about water resource management. It built upon a UNU-IAS research project, Developing Ecosystems Based Adaptation Strategies (supported by the Asia Pacific Network on Global Change), which explores adaptation strategies for enhancing the resilience of rice terrace systems to climate change.

In the keynote speech, Senator Loren Legarda of the Philippines spoke about the importance of indigenous knowledge and practices as well as the role of other stakeholders in the sustainability of Ifugao rice terraces. Subsequent speakers discussed recent conservation efforts, capacity building projects for local communities, scientific quantification of environmental processes, field monitoring instruments for climate projections and impact assessments, among others.  

Comparisons were made between Hani and Ifugao rice terraces and ― finding commonalities in the impacts of climate change, market and tourism demand, water availability and the disappearance of culture, among others ― the speakers emphasized the need for increased dialogue between the two communities as well as support from policymakers. In particular they called for greater involvement of the legislative branch by generating bills that support mechanisms benefiting the local communities.

The panel discussion established the need for two frameworks on building learning alliances: a.) a framework for a formal institutional arrangement, including scientific committees, that allows academia to continuously provide input to policy-makers, and b.) a framework to guide applied field research as incubator projects for potential upscaling and actual policy implementation. The discussion revolved around transdisciplinary research as an iterative process, as well as environmental justice and equity through payment for ecosystem services. The potential involvement and willingness of industries was also brought up by a member of the audience. The discussion also stressed the need to build learning alliances not only between the two world heritage sites (Hani and Ifugao Rice Terraces), but also with non-tourist destination rice terrace systems in the Cordilleras, and in other parts of Asia. The need for training and capacity-building of local farmers through initiatives of the academia was also highlighted.

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Building Learning Alliances: Manila Symposium

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