Lumad youth to lead environment protection in Northern Mindanao

Stephen J. Pedroza
Lumad youth to lead environment protection in Northern Mindanao
Young leaders from Northern Mindanao will be trained on how to manage resources in places where the water flows – from the mountains to the rivers down to the seas

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines —  A youth camp is set to train young Lumad in managing natural resources and raising environmental awareness in their communities.  

Participants of the event dubbed “Ridge-to-Reef Young Leaders Camp” will be selected from resettlement and riverside barangays of Cagayan de Oro City and Lumad settlements in Bukidnon.

“[There] will be a good mix of young indigenous people from the uplands, disaster survivors formerly living in riverside communities and also students from the city proper,” said Xyla Mercedita Gualberto, the project coordinator for the Ridge-to-Reef Young Leaders Camp.

The project is driven by a great sense of urgency for a long-term mechanism that will protect and preserve ecosystems and resources from the ridges of Northern Mindanao down to its watersheds and ultimately to Macajalar Bay, a major fishing ground in Misamis Oriental. This camp hopes to teach the young about ecological conservation through first-hand experience.

“Their learning will not be purely theoretical but also experiential. We will bring them to the very places where the water flows, from the mountains, to the rivers down to the seas,” Gualberto said, who derived the concept of the training from the participatory zoning course of Xavier Science Foundation’s Institute of Land Governance.

“This way, they will have greater appreciation of the interconnectedness of the ecosystems and they will have deeper learning,” she shared.

The leaders will undergo workshops to enhance their knowledge in grassroots planning, local land governance, ecosystem conservation, and ideation for their information, education and communication (IEC) projects, which will range from customary environmental campaigns and trainings to upbeat concerts and film presentations.

Gualberto emphasized that the IEC outputs of the youth groups will be based on their own contexts and issues close to their communities.

Experts in the fields of resource management, ecosystem services sustainability and multimedia production have been tapped to train the participants who will eventually ripple their learning to fellow millennials.

Need for protection

During the first phase of the camp in December, the youth leaders will converge in Miarayon, Talakag at the foot of Mt Kalatungan, one of Bukidnon’s prized giants.

Harboring diverse species of flora and fauna, Mt Kalatungan has been identified as part of a “Terrestrial Biodiversity Corridor” in the Greater Mindanao with “Extremely High Critical” conservation priority.

The protected area of Mt Kalatungan, which prominently stands 2,824 meters above sea level (known to mountaineers for having the sixth highest peak in the country), is the recipient of the Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) project of XSF and Xavier University Research and Social Outreach.

This rehabilitation project, built on research and community collaborations, has introduced to Northern Mindanao a “rewarding mechanism” where there exists “the seller” who protects and provides ecosystem services to “the buyer” who benefits from these intangible products.

The inaugural year of the PES project reaped promising results and engagements amid the challenges of a paradigm shift to what is known as an “emerging financial tool for environmental conservation.”

“We want to continue what we have started, but this time with emphasis on youth leaders,” said Evans Yonson, project director of Ridge-to-Reef Camp.

EXPERIENTIAL CONNECTION. The Ridge-to-Reef Young Leaders Camp is driven by a great sense of urgency for a long-term mechanism that will conserve ecosystems and resources from the ridges of Northern Mindanao down to its watersheds and ultimately to Macajalar Bay.

Yonson is a Development Communication professor at XU and social marketing supervisor of Valuing Ecosystem Services Together (VEST) project, an offshoot campaign of PES which enabled different sectors in the region to participate in the rehabilitation of Mt Kalatungan and the sustainable provision of ecosystem services.

During its run, VEST helped solicit the help of businesses, cooperatives, academic institutions, religious organizations, and households in Cagayan De Oro City to become “buyers” of the various ecosystem services offered by the tribes inhabiting and caring for Mt Kalatungan.

Cagayan De Oro City acts as the catchment basin of the region’s upstream bodies of water, and serves to gain from the protection of Mt Kalatungan. In effect, being the catch basin of the waters from the hinterlands of Bukidnon, riverbank communities of Cagayan de Oro City would bear massive casualties and significant damage to property during strong typhoons.

Yonson hopes to achieve the same kind of active involvement from the youth in the Ridge-to-Reef Camp.

Its second phase, which consists of the IEC training and team monitoring sessions with mentors from the XU DevCom Society, will happen in January. Implementation of the IEC projects in the participants’ respective communities, comprising the last phase, will be held in February.

The project will culminate with an exhibit at the Centrio – Ayala Mall on March 1 with representatives from the US Embassy in Manila, which supported the project through its Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Seeds for the Future Grant Competition. It is one of the 18 winning projects across the ASEAN region, tackling Southeast Asia’s challenges on education, environmental protection, civic engagement, and economic development.

Yonson believes that the Ridge-to-Reef Young Leaders Camp can provide the vehicle to forge a partnership between young indigenous peoples and city dwellers for a single cause.

The call for online applications to the leadership camp, which will be held from December until February 2016, will start on November 1. –


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