Women and the sustainable management of nature at the local level in the Philippines

workshop philippines

By Angelique F. Ogena

I met Raquel and Donna in a workshop back in May. Both women hold local government positions instrumental to the sustainable management of the Naujan Lake National Park (NLNP). In the workshop, local conservation practitioners, such as Raquel and Donna, were trained on how to sustainably manage NLNP. Part of their work was to develop conservation and income-generating programs for their respective municipalities, which is part of Biodiversity Finance Initiative’s (BIOFIN) localization activities. 

BIOFIN work in this area is attempting to generate financing for biodiversity conservation by mainstreaming the Philippine Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (PBSAP) Priority Programs into sub-national work and investment plans, enhancing current and proposed plans, programs and projects, applying the BIOFIN methodology, and testing finance solutions at the local level. 

The localization is taking place both in Occidental and Oriental Mindoro provinces, and municipalities in Oriental Mondoro surrounding the NLNP were selected as pilot sites. BIOFIN seeks to close the financing gap for biodiversity conservation by developing a methodology to quantify financing needs and piloting solutions to increase investments.

The Naujan Lake National Park is the fifth largest lake in the Philippines covering 22,548 hectares, 24 barangays, and four municipalities. Located in the northeastern part of Mindoro Island, it is recognized as one of the six sites in the country that are listed in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance.

First declared as a protected area in March 27, 1956, NLNP is an initial component of the National Integrated Protected Area System (NIPAS) established through Republic Act No. 7586 in 1992. 

The protected area harbors 613 plant species, 72% of which are indigenous. At least two plant species are endemic to Mindoro Island, while 37 species are endemic to the Philippines. Fourteen species are included in the The National List of Threatened Philippine Plants and their Categories and in the 2012 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Four species are in the Critically Endangered category, two in the Endangered category, and seven in the Vulnerable category.

NLNP is also home to several water birds, mammals including the Philippine endemic musky fruit bat and an endangered freshwater crocodile. The lake itself is known for several fish species, two of which are classified as globally threatened (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) i.e., Stenogobius sp. (Critically Endangered), Puntius hemictenus (Vulnerable). 

Among the major issues in NLNP are the conversion of forests for agricultural use and the booming population of park occupants. These activities cause siltation and pollution to the lake which affect the integrity of the park’s natural resources. Addressing such issues presents a strategic opportunity for women to take part in managing protected areas. 

The role of women in the sustainable management of protected areas is indispensable. Several studies have found that incorporating gender as a tool for protected areas and natural resource conservation and sustainable use ensures that women’s and men’s traditional rights over resource use in protected areas are not diminished with the development of projects and programs and strengthens a vision in which men and women can develop the same or complementary activities in relation to nature, and increases opportunities for sustainable activities, such as those women have traditionally carried out or in which they have a particular interest, among many others.

"Women have a critical role in biodiversity management. Emphasis should be given to women such that they should be partners with men in promoting any kinds of activities relating to the Naujan Lake protected area.)” said Raquelita “Raquel” M. Umali. 

While many roles of women in natural resource management are not visible, they play a large part. They are innately community leaders, organizing events and pass on environmental messages to other members of family and communities. Women also often manage household natural resources such as plants and fuel wood for example on a daily basis. “If we want to achieve the real development in our area, we need to invest on women. The strength and dedication of women can transform the future generation” said Donna Angeline C. Valdez, Provincial Project Development Officer of Oriental Mindoro.

The on-going localization work of BIOFIN in Oriental Mindoro, particularly for the municipalities inside NLNP will result into concrete conservation plans that are supportive of the country’s national biodiversity targets. Women in conservation, such as Raquel and Donna are vital not only in the planning phase, but also involved in the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of these programs.

Angelique F. Ogena is the Information and Communications Assistant, Biodiversity Finance Initiative, Philippines