Healthy watersheds need everyone’s help, agrees International Fund for Agricultural Development

Everyone with an interest in a watershed has to be involved for its protection to be effective. Deceptively simple, this finding from the Philippines is now being globally promoted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development


From 2008 to 2012, under the Rewards for, Use of, and Shared Investment in Pro-poor Environmental Services, Phase 2 (RUPES 2) project, the municipality of Lantapan, located within the Manupali Watershed in Bukidnon, the Philippines, became an action research site for the World Agroforestry Centre and partners. The lessons learned are now being highlighted in a book published by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD): Moving up innovations to scale: lessons from IFAD-supported development interventions in the Philippines.

Among the key lessons learned from RUPES 2 was that for payments-for-environmental-services schemes to be sustainable, the different needs and expectations of key stakeholders needed to be considered. In order for both the sellers (upland communities) and the buyers (lowland communities and multinational companies) of environmental services to benefit from a scheme, mutually acceptable terms needed to be established, and to avoid conflicts and build trust, the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved needed to be clearly defined. It was also important for the local government to be involved because they could act as an intermediary while at the same time representing the interests of the upland communities, especially during negotiations.

Caroline Piñon, Christine Marie Habito and Rodel Lasco, researchers from the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines, contributed a chapter on the lessons from expanding payments-for-environmental-services schemes in Lantapan in the southern Philippines. The chapter discussed how establishing such schemes improved the security of farmers’ livelihoods and reduced poverty in upland communities while protecting and rehabilitating the watershed.

pineapple plantation Bukidnon Philippines

One of many pineapple plantations in the lowland communities of Lantapan, Bukidnon. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre/Amy Cruz

In recent years, Lantapan’s farm and forest land had degraded owing to the expansion and intensification of agricultural production. Multinational corporations were occupying prime lands with banana and pineapple monocultures while smallholders were being forced towards marginal areas in the uplands and forests.

Yet upland communities in Lantapan were among those in the best position to protect the environment, including sources of water, such as springs and rivers. Thus, the RUPES 2 project set out to research schemes for rewarding upland communities for taking care of the sources that provided water to downstream users.

One of their key findings was that to facilitate the involvement of all parties, a working group comprising partners from the local government and other government agencies should be formed to conduct an integrated watershed assessment, facilitate negotiations for rewards and payments for environmental services, and implement and monitor agreements. Further, a targeted communications strategy helped everyone involved in a scheme to better appreciate and understand the concept of environmental services and rewards for sustainable watershed management. On the technical side, stakeholders from local government units were advised to be further trained in use of environmental modelling in integrated watershed assessment so that decision-making and negotiations were better informed. And finally, direct mentoring and hands-on practice, as opposed to traditional lectures, were found to be more effective for teaching new technical approaches.

The World Agroforestry Centre has been working in Southeast Asia since 2002 on researching and developing schemes that provide rewards for environmental services, starting with the Rewarding Upland Poor for the Environmental Services that they provide (RUPES 1) project. Co-funded by IFAD and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, the project had sites in China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Viet Nam. RUPES ‘has been maintaining “learning landscapes” for over a decade to discover ways of helping poor smallholders’ improve their livelihoods while conserving natural ecosystems and the services they provide to the planet’, said lead RUPES researcher Beria Leimona in earlier blog post.

RUPES 2 ended in 2012, but the schemes in Lantapan are being further refined through the Climate-smart, Tree-based, Co-investment in Adaptation and Mitigation in Asia (Smart Tree-Invest) project, co-funded still by IFAD and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. Smart Tree-Invest aims to improve the livelihoods and resilience of smallholders by reducing their vulnerability to climate change. The project works with female and male farmers in selected vulnerable areas in Indonesia, Viet Nam and the Philippines to help create local solutions to cope with climate-change risks in collaboration with governments, development agencies and the private sector.


Read the book

Duque-Piñon C, Habito CM, Lasco RD. 2014. Reaping the rewards: payments for watershed services. In: Moving up innovations to scale: lessons from IFAD-supported development interventions in the Philippines. Manila: International Fund for Agricultural Development. p. 63–72.




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This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry'

Amy Cruz

Amy Cruz is the communications officer for the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines. She is developing an integrated communications strategy for the Philippine program, scripting and editing videos and promoting projects through various media. Her other interests include social media, writing and photography. She has a Bachelor of Science in Development Communication, major in Science Communication.

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