Ethnoecology of the Manupali Watershed

  The Manupali Watershed is a storied landscape where waves of migration--from the native Talaandigs to the Dumgats "from across the seas", to lowlanders from other parts of the island--have formed and are forming a shifting patchwork of subsistence and commercial production and extraction strategies.  There is a rich heritage of knowledge about agriculture and sustainable use of the environment that continues to shape decisions about soils, water, and plants.  Yet, there is increasing pressure on the land and biological resources around the watershed.  One way to address this concern is to understand how development can be grounded in local constraints, opportunities, and strengths, not the least of which is the possession of cultural traditions and knowledge that made possible in the past a more sustainable level of exploitation and equilibration with the environment.  The  Ethnoecology workplan aspired to elucidate these mechanisms and enable people to reach deeply into their cultural memory, draw out beliefs and practices that can promote sustainability in resource use, and strengthen each other's sense of place, of self-determination, and of accountability.
    In Phase I of SANREM (Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management), the Ethnoecology of the Manupali Watershed workplan gathered basic information on resource management practices around the watershed through sociodemographic and historical analysis, human activity grids, cognitive (or local, hand-drawn) maps, thematic apperception tests (TATs), ethnobotanical surveys led by local experts, and memory banking of local beliefs and practices associated with culturally relevant plants.  With the collaboration of the local community, we translated the rich legacy of indigenous knowledge and technologies into more action-oriented initiatives, including the codification of tribal laws pertaining to the environment, particularly ancestral domains, set up the local herbarium based on the results of a series of ethnobotanical surveys, established in situ collections and communal gardens in schools and community centers such as the Talaandigs' Tulogan, organized a community theater that staged local epics and legends with environmental messages, trained the women in tissue culture, and trained the youth in memory banking the agricultural knowledge of their elders.  The research conducted in Phase II focused on three aspects: soils, water, and biodiversity, emphasizing the human dimensions of the use and conservation of these resources.  In addition to complementing the more biophysical characterization and analysis of these resources, the results were inputted into local and national conservation and development plans to make them more compatible with, and responsive to, community needs and aspirations.

Philippines photo gallery

Click on a thumbnail below to find out more.