The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Philippines Country Director, Mr. Alessandro Marini, welcomed the policy recommendations in the implementation of development projects for upland and indigenous people’s communities, not only in the region but in similar ecosystems nationwide. Said policy inputs were articulated by Asst. Regional Director (ARD) Stephanie F. Christiansen during the virtual Visibility Forum on Best Practices and Lessons Learned from the Cordillera Highland Agricultural Resource Management Project (CHARMP) on 11 January 2022.

ARD Christiansen emphasized the following policy recommendations which include the institutionalization of consent-giving mechanisms by indigenous peoples’ communities through their local cultural systems and processes such as community consultations and dialogue using traditional relationships among stakeholders; adoption of integrated approach in planning and management promoted by the ridge-to-reef concept; and rights-based approach in resource use to ensure equitable sharing of benefits considering the role of the upstream communities in protecting the natural resources and providing environmental services.

She added that programs and projects with high distributional impact should be prioritized to promote development in depressed areas such as isolated, upland communities.  She also called for the institutionalization of participatory process in the project planning, implementation and monitoring cycle to include the establishment of barangay project monitoring and evaluation teams.

In response, Mr. Marini said that these policy inputs are very relevant in IFAD’s program planning and development strategies such as their program assistance in Mindanao.

ARD Christiansen highlighted the uniqueness of the region in its geography and cultural set-up as the context and fundamental considerations in regional policy recommendations. The same reasons sustain the continuing advocacy for autonomous governance in the Cordillera. She also expressed that these policy inputs could be considered in the formulation of the National Upland Agriculture Development Framework by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

She cited the key role of the Regional Development Council and its relevant sector committees such as the Sub-committee on Agriculture, Watershed and Environmental Management Committee, and the Committee on Indigenous Peoples Concerns, among others, in advocating these recommendations to improve land tenure rights and sustainable resource use. She also mentioned that the best practices and lessons learned from the project are aligned with the Cordillera Declaration of Principles on Environmental Governance (DPEG) that the Council adopted in 2014.

The CHARM Project was implemented in the Cordillera through the DA from 1997 to 2021 with assistance from the IFAD. It aims to help reduce poverty in rural indigenous communities in the region.

The forum gathered policymakers, practitioners, researchers and advocates for a policy dialogue that seeks to further advance the agenda of sustainable development for upland farmers and indigenous communities in the country.