USAID's support to Mt. Kitanglad indigenous peoples recognized in Bukidnon

         On Nov 9, during the culmination on the three-day 21st ‘Aldaw ta Kitanglad’ celebration in Bukidnon, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region 10, recognized the technical assistance provided by USAID's Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) Program to the indigenous peoples (IPs) living in Mt Kitanglad, a protected area declared as an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2009.

The IPs have been partners of the DENR and the local government units (LGUs) in the area in managing and protecting the forests and biodiversity in the 47,000 hectare park that is home to the Talaandig, Bukidnon, and Higaonon tribes. The IPs have organized a 400-strong group of volunteers, called Kitanglad Guard Volunteers (KGV), who work with the DENR and the LGUs to regularly patrol the remaining natural forests in the park. The KGVs, along with the local DENR and LGUs have been trained and coached by the program in implementing the nationally adopted Lawin Forest and Biodiversity Protection System. IP patrollers are now involved in the formulation of forest conservation area plans, patrol planning, and actual conduct of patrols. IP patrollers observe threats and respond to these, protecting the forest and their sacred sites within the Heritage Park. Like their DENR counterparts, the IPs used the CyberTracker app during patrols. The KGVs, so far, are the biggest and strongest IP partners supporting DENR in forest protection. USAID’s B+WISER also supported the efforts of the IPs in Kitanglad to document their traditional natural resources management practices so that these could be incorporated in the way the park is being managed. These traditional practices are now documented in a book that would be published within the year.