Ifugao Rice Terraces, Philippines
The ancient Ifugao Rice Terraces (IRT) are the country's only remaining highland mountain ecosystem featuring ingenuity of the Ifugaos and a remarkable agricultural farming system which has retained the viability as well as efficacy of the 2000 year-old organic paddy farming. The continued existence and viability of the rice terraces is a manifestation of strong culture-nature connections, marvellous engineering systems, innovation and determined spirit of the Ifugaos to maximise use of the mountainous lands for food production.
The rice terraces are supported by indigenous knowledge management of muyong, a private forest capping each terrace cluster. The muyong is managed through a collective effort and under the traditional tribal practices. The communally managed forestry area on top of the terraces mostly contains about or more than 264 indigenous plant species, mostly endemic to the region. The terraces form unique clusters of micro-watersheds and are part of the whole mountain ecology. They serve as a rainwater and filtration system and are saturated with irrigation water all year round. A biorhythm technology, in which cultural activities are harmonized with the rhythm of climate and hydrology management, has enabled farmers to grow rice at over 1000 meters.
Aside from food production, the IRT paddy farming allows protection and conservation of significant and important agricultural biodiversity and associated landscapes including promotion of tourism through its aesthetic value. In 1995, five terrace clusters in the Ifugao province were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites because their spectacular landscapes expressed conquered and conserved harmony between humankind and the environment. The Ifugao Rice Terraces have also been dubbed as a "Living Cultural Heritage Site".