Non-Timber Forest Products Exchange Programme

Earth Day 2019: Strengthening the participation of women in protecting the world’s species

April 22, 2019

“All living things have an intrinsic value, and each plays a unique role in the complex web of life.”

In an unprecedented manner, human activity is directly linked to the destruction and rapid reduction of fauna and flora on Earth. We are now facing harsher climatic conditions that cause further destruction not just to the environment but also to human lives. Having upset the balance of the ecosystem, we now bear the sole responsibility of correcting the damages we have caused.

The women of Iponan Higaonon Organization (IHO), an indigenous organization in the Philippines, have taken it upon themselves to start with small yet significant steps towards correcting our negative impacts.

In 2012, Tropical Storm Sendong devastated Cagayan de Oro city. This has caused massive flooding and destruction of resources especially in Barangays Tumpagon, Pigsag-an, and Bayanga. Because of the calamity, many lives were lost, farms were destroyed, and livelihoods were affected. According to experts, Sendong was the strongest cyclone to ever hit the area. It was speculated that the destruction and denudation of forest areas have worsened the impacts of the disaster.

Bai Rose Undag, an indigenous leader actively empowering women through planting projects. She shares her experience in addressing the needs of the community and the environment

This has motivated the women of Iponan Higaonon Organization to mobilize themselves and protect the ancestral lands that they have been stewarding for generations. Aside from which, the women also understood the importance of passing on their culture and traditional way of life to the next generation.

Bai Rosalya Maestre manages her own nursery of indigenous trees. IHO uses her seedlings for their reforestation efforts. Photo by Michelle Dagsaan

Understanding the value of indigenous trees in preserving the balance of ecosystems, the women of IHO have decided to plant more species that are of greater benefit to their forest ecosystem. Through the help of NTFP-EP, they were able to restore the natural landscape of their ancestral lands. The project has given them security against the possible impending repeat of the devastating effects of a cyclone as strong as Sendong such as flooding and landslides.

Seeing the impact of the work they have done in their area, the group became more inspired than ever to become examples to other communities and its members to be more involved in the protection of their environment.

Today, understanding the positive effects of their efforts, the indigenous women of IHO felt empowered to continue their efforts in preserving their ancestral lands to protect them from the devastating effects of calamities. This can be seen in the active involvement of the women in protecting their ancestral lands.

Article by Michelle Dagsaan and Bae Mercy Wabe, Higaonon women from Iponan Higaonon Organization (IHO). The organization is a grantee of the Pastor Rice Small Grants Fund (PRSGF). For more information on access to the grant, click here.