Aimed at developing a watershed protection framework tangible to both the Indigenous Cultural Communities (ICC) and to the National Power Corporation (NPC), Upper Agno River Watershed Area Team (UARWAT) seeks partnership with the Indigenous Peoples (IP) of Karao and Ekip in Bokod, Benguet.
Forty-eight IP together with representatives from the Barangay Local Government Units, SNIPO, KETRM, EIFF, and MLGU-Bokod, responded to a workshop on Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) Resource Management organized by the UARWAT on June 22.
Josephine Tayoco, UARWAT Community Relation Officer presented the progress report of the IKS study which the participants verified and corrected during the group dialogue and open forum. This research on IKS in the Management and Protection of Watershed Resource is an inception of UARWAT's Program on IP which includes the goal of preserving their existing traditional forest resource management called Chontog.
The Chontog are indigenous forest/watershed practices such as the tongil/halpag (karao/kalanguya) or selective pruning for firewood materials, binadibal/balibal or terracing by using clay and weeds, mandebdeb or suppression of fire using indigenous materials, among others.
According to Tayoco, the Upper Agno River Watershed Reservation is a home to many ICC as a large portion of the watershed was covered by a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title by ethnolinguistic groups, not only of the ikaraos and kalanguyas but also of the ibalois, kankanaeys, and iwak.
The Ikarao and Kalanguya tribes of Karao and Ekip are regarded as one of the most intact in terms of managing their natural resources as testified by their maintained mossy and pine forests, added Tayoco.
We see IP as effective guardians and efficient managers of the watershed, thus we at the Watershed Department, are more than willing to empower them by providing them capability-building and livelihood trainings, said Onofre S. Castro, UARWAT Section Chief.