Press Release

New Report: Climate Risk Assessment of the Ifugao Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Local and international researchers first to address the Ifugao Rice Terraces climate impacts in conjunction with risks to local community values

Luzon, Philippines June 26, 2024—A new climate risk assessment for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras has been published by the Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) Philippines as part of their participation in Preserving Legacies, a global climate adaptation initiative supported by the National Geographic Society and the International Council on Monuments and Sites. The new report summarizes the results from a series of locally-led, community-focused climate risk assessment focus groups and a workshop held in 2023.

The Ifugao Rice Terraces represent an outstanding example of human-environmental harmony and interaction. Located in the Philippine Cordillera mountain range on the northern island of Luzon, the Rice Terraces, carved by ancient Ifugao communities are a marvel of engineering and hydrology that have survived because of a vibrant, living Indigenous culture. The rice fields are central to traditions: communal rice planting, sowing, weeding and harvesting rituals bind villages together in a distinct way of life.

Built and maintained by the Ifugao, the terraces and wider landscape are at the center of a vibrant and rich cultural tradition which includes both tangible and intangible expressions. It is a living landscape, rich in history and tradition. The terraces are under threat from a range of factors including increased precipitation and storminess combined with social and economic pressures on the local communities.

This study is unique because of its dual focus on Indigenous knowledge and climate science, merging traditional wisdom from local communities and modern scientific methods by climate scientists and developing adaptive strategies that are culturally relevant and scientifically sound.

Key insights include:

  • The Ifugao Rice Terraces are confronted with the multifaceted effects of climate change. Their tiered configuration and dependence on meticulous hydrological regulation make them particularly susceptible to large shifts in rainfall, temperature dynamics, and extreme meteorological phenomena such as intense typhoons, thunderstorms, increased temperatures and prolonged droughts. These pose imminent risk of soil erosion, reduced crop yield or crop loss, landslides, and structural damage to the terraces. This threatens their ecological integrity, agricultural productivity, amplifies existing vulnerabilities, and can jeopardize the sustainability of this cultural landscape.
  • Their traditional values and indigenous knowledge systems make them moderately resilient. However, they will need additional support from the government to develop infrastructure, and develop technical capacities to build more robust adaptive strategies and sustainable management practices to preserve ecological resilience and secure the livelihoods of the communities that call the terraces home.
  • Producing a climate vulnerability assessment of the Rice Terraces heralds a shift towards genuine community engagement in climate resilience efforts. By involving communities as active participants rather than passive subjects, the assessment fosters a sense of ownership and agency among our communities in shaping our climate resilience strategies.

Full report available upon request.

Quotes

“As a cultural landscape, the rice terraces will continue to evolve in response to environmental changes. The key to their resilience and continuity lies in integrating indigenous knowledge with modern climate science.” Marlon Martin, Head of Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMO)

What I appreciate about this project is the very local lens communities employ to articulate the global problem of climate change. This work, expertly led by Ifugaos, reveals a worldview that leverages and protects nature. It offers millennia of tried and tested sustainable practices that should contribute to the global conversation. Locally, the Ifugaos have used climate science and traditional wisdom as a cause for better legislation and a sustainable, locally adapted way forward. Imagine similar initiatives scaling up across the globe, protecting heritage, strengthening community, and building resilience to climate change.” Tina Paterno, Projects Manager, Preserving Legacies

“As dire scientific reports and devastating local news stories show the consequences of climate change action coming decades too late, the Preserving Legacies Ifugao is a brightspot of community resilience and adaptive strength. The report, and comprehensive process that led to it’s publication, showcases the importance of Indigenous leadership in mapping community values, assessing climate risk, and acting to safeguard places of cultural significance.” Dr Victoria Herrmann, Director of Preserving Legacies and National Geographic Explorer

“Indigenous peoples are custodians of many of our world's most special places. Unfortunately, these peoples and places are at increasing risk from changing climates. These changes risk both the livelihoods and also the living traditions of communities. The Preserving Legacies risk assessment supported a locally led evaluation of these risks by the Ifugao and for the Ifugao. Centered on local knowledge systems, it illustrated the resilience and adaptive capacities of the community in the face of considerable challenges.” Dr William Megarry, ICOMOS Focal Point for Climate Change and Queen’s University Beflast

About Save the Ifugao Rice Terraces

Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement (SITMo) is a federation of individuals and civil society organizations that work for the sustainability of the Philippine Rice Terraces Ecosystem. Its vision is to ensure that the Ifugao Rice Terraces continue to be a rich source of food security, cultural heritage, and biodiversity for present and future generations. It exists to safeguard the Philippine Rice Terraces World Heritage Site as a cultural landscape and a globally significant agroforestry system through movement building.

About Preserving Legacies

Preserving Legacies safeguards the world’s natural and cultural heritage against the impacts of climate change. As the bridge between heritage site custodians, climate scientists, and communities, they’ve created a scalable framework for scientific, values-based capacity-building, risk assessment, and adaptation implementation. From iconic places like Petra in Jordan to more locally-renowned ones like Sceilg Mhichíl in Ireland, they have trained 30 site custodians in just one year and are on a mission to save every site. Their partners include National Geographic Society, International Council on Monuments and Sites, and the Climate Heritage Network. Learn more about their #ClimateCustodian work and movement at heritageadapts.org.

About ICOMOS

The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is a non-governmental, not for profit international organisation, committed to furthering the conservation, protection, use and enhancement of the world’s cultural heritage. With over 11,000 members, 110+ National Committees, 31 International Scientific Committees and several Working Groups, ICOMOS has built a solid philosophical, doctrinal and managerial framework for the sustainable conservation of heritage around the world. As an official Advisory Body to the World Heritage Committee for the implementation of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, ICOMOS evaluates nominations and advises on the state of conservation of properties inscribed on the World Heritage List.

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

About Climate Heritage Network

The Climate Heritage Network (CHN) is a voluntary, mutual support network of government agencies, NGOs, universities, businesses, and other organizations committed to tackling climate change and achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Mobilized in 2018 during the Global Climate Action Summit and launched in 2019, the Climate Heritage Network works to re-orient climate policy, planning, and action at all levels to account for dimensions of culture - from arts to heritage.

GENERAL MEDIA CONTACT If you are a member of the media with an inquiry or interview request, please call during regular business hours or email pressroom@ngs.org (202) 857 7027 EMILY KELLY Communications Manager, Impact Communications ekelly@ngs.org

Media Contact

General Media Contact
If you are a member of the media with an inquiry or interview request, please call during regular business hours or email
pressroom@ngs.org
(202) 857 7027
Emily Kelly
Communications Manager, Impact Communications
ekelly@ngs.org
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About The National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content.

To learn more, visit www.nationalgeographic.org or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.