Strengthening Conservation Partnerships with Indigenous Communities | WWF

Strengthening Conservation Partnerships with Indigenous Communities

Geographical location:

Asia/Pacific > Southeast Asia > Philippines


Indigenous people make up a significant proportion of Philippine society. Living in some of the most biologically diverse areas of the Philippines, these communities have traditionally worked to conserve the natural resources around them on which they often depend for their livelihoods.

This project aims to organise a conference of WWF staff and indigenous people to gather together knowledge and experience of traditional conservation and management systems.


Indigenous people in Philippine society include 110 ethno-linguistic groups found in about 1.5 million hectares located in various parts of the archipelago (National Commission on Indigenous People - NCIP 2007).

Within their ancestral territories are community conserved areas (CCAs) consisting of natural sites, resources and species habitats. These areas are conserved in a voluntary and self-directed way by indigenous people and local communities. This conservation practice - profoundly intertwined with local strategies for livelihoods and with the spiritual and material values of local cultures - is the oldest on Earth. Due to centuries-long isolation, they have developed systems of resource management contributing to social and ecological harmony and to the maintenance of biodiversity in these areas.

However, traditional systems in resource management are being eroded by destructive forces such as cultural assimilation by dominant groups, loss of oral traditions, colonisation, out-migration and in-migration, exodus of younger generation to cities, inappropriate educational systems and market imperatives undermining community institutions. Over time, encroachment by outsiders on their ancestral lands has led indigenous people to seek refuge in the forest and coastal margins - most often in areas of remaining biodiversity. They also have generally fallen behind the mainstream population in terms of socio-economic development and remain vulnerable to inappropriate development interventions.

WWF Philippines will organize a 1.5 day conference for field staff to gather site experiences that use traditional management systems of indigenous people in promoting conservation. Project managers in 5 sites will present case studies on their site experiences. Partners from indigenous support organizations will be invited to present papers on their experience of conservation projects, react to presentations and participate in an open forum.

Target audiences are WWF field staff and indigenous people representatives. WWF staff from relevant Malaysian and Indonesian sites involved in the Coral Triangle Network Initiative (NI) will also be invited to learn from these experiences. Partners from the Palawan indigenous people support groups, Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID) and NCIP will be invited.


1. Contribute to a better understanding among WWF field staff of the importance of traditional management systems and tenurial security of indigenous people in promoting biodiversity conservation.

2. Generate broader learning on best practices for collaboration with indigenous people, particularly in relation to the Coral Triangle NI.

3. Raise awareness of the WWF Statement of Principles on Indigenous People and Conservation and validate a Philippine country statement.


The conference will bring together key stakeholders to promote better understanding of traditional management methods used by indigenous people. A better understanding will also facilitate support for these communities and help them address threats to their livelihoods.


WWF Philippines organized the WWF-Indigenous People Policy Forum in October which was attended by around 45 people.

Representatives from the indigenous groups of Sibuyan-Mangyan Tagabukid, Molbog tribe, Iraya Mangyan, Mangyan Alangan and Palawan Tagbanua were present. National non-governmental organization (NGO) support groups from the Philippine Association for Inter-Cultural Development (PAFID), Environmental Law Assistance Centre (ELAC) and the Palawan NGO Network Inc (PNNI) were also represented.

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