rlgm collaborative land management 600pxTwo women on a canoe fish at some portion of Lake Kilobidan.

In the Philippines, the GIZ project Responsible Land Governance in Mindanao (RLGM) supported partners in making public lands managed by national agencies, local governments and communities –including indigenous cultural communities – become oriented towards sustainability and conflict sensitivity.

In Agusan del Sur, RLGM promoted the concept of Collaborative Land Management (CLM) that focuses on common-pool resources as a sustainable mechanism for conflict-sensitive, gender-sensitive, and climate-resilient land management. In 2022, the RLGM pilot tested CLM in Lake Kilobidan and has benefitted about 45 families ever since. The CLM approach supports the lake community’s livelihood by teaching them to create floating gardens using invasive water hyacinths as soil medium so that vegetables and reforestation would be possible the whole year.

“We are thankful that this project reached our homes in Kilobidan, because, through it, we were able to learn new ways of developing our livelihood. The project team really immersed themselves here to see how we live through daily challenges and how to address them. For this, we are very grateful and we hope this will be sustained,” says Elenna D. Montes, Head, Audit Committee, Katibuan tu Mangingisda tu Kilobidan (KMK, Group of Fisherfolks in Kilobidan).

Lake Kilobidan sits along the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS), one of the most ecologically significant wetlands in the Philippines. The marsh covers about 40,000 hectares and stores more than 15% of the country’s freshwater resources in the form of swamp forests. It acts as a "giant sponge" that soaks up excess water from a yearly rainfall of over four meters, thereby protecting downstream cities and towns from devastating floods. The AMWS is also one of Asia's most important transit points for migratory birds that spend part of the year in the marsh to breed or just escape the chilly winter winds of Northern Asia.

In recent years, flooding in Lake Kilobidan has intensified and lasted longer. During the monsoon season, much of the farmland along the lake is covered by water, making it impossible to grow crops. Even when the floods recede, vegetable farming is still restricted as the land remains waterlogged. This prevents the locals to feed themselves and generate income. Another challenge is the presence of water hyacinths that block the waterways, crowd the lake itself, and damage fish nets. Fishery, which is the primary source of local livelihood, is severely impacted.

rlgm collaborative land management 600px 2Fishermen navigate their way along the hyacinth-filled lake.

As part of project support in addressing the water hyacinth invasion, the RLGM and its partners taught the community to create floating gardens by using water hyacinth as a floating soil medium. As a result, vegetable farming and reforestation of bamboo and endemic trees are made possible all year round.

“Many positive changes happened from this collaboration. It was a very enjoyable experience that opened our minds to a lot of possibilities. We have started dreaming again about a bright future for our family,” Mr. Jeffrey Capacillo, KMK Public Information Officer, said.

Despite the RLGM Project coming to a close in mid-2023, stakeholders keep engaging in a dialogue and undergoing the necessary steps to achieve collective agreement in managing Lake Kilobidan, a common-pool resource. The dialogue on CLM provides a platform for a locally driven management structure wherein the community steers the management of the lake, both for lake ecosystem conservation and livelihood services. However, the process has also revealed the need for follow through activities, through the local government partners, which would support the community in its newfound role in managing Lake Kilobidan.

“For a long time, we have been waiting for this kind of support and assistance to address our needs here in Kilobidan, and we are hopeful that this is the answer to our prayers,” Jobert Flores, Head of Environment Committee, KMK-BOD, said.

Looking forward, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resource Office (PENRO) of Agusan del Sur would replicate the process of establishing a collaborative management structure in other barangays within the marsh. PENRO confirmed that the RLGM CLM concept truly had empowered the community to make suitable agreements and policies for managing and regulating the activities in the lake. This approach had never been introduced yet in the marsh and they were grateful for this pilot-testing experience. PENRO would propose a budget from the provincial government to replicate and sustain CLM with the communities.

Commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in May 2018, and implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the RLGM Project partnered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), the Department of Housing, Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD), selected local governments, and other relevant national agencies and civil society organizations in supporting the development of a binding definition of land-use zones for public lands and forests, and corresponding rules on land use. (GIZ Philippines)

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