The World Bank/WBI’s CBNRM Initiative
Case Received: February 6, 1998
Author: Ron Krupa, c/o Cuerpo de Paz, Quito, Ecuador
The Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) continues to establish programs of community development, wildlife management, reforestation, and environmental education in southern Mindanao, the Philippines. The extension teams are Filipino with some assistance from external consultancies. The thrust is the use of advocacy and social involvement in conservation. This case study focuses on the primary approach originally formulated for attempts at saving the Philippine eagle by the author who no longer has any formal association or involvement with the PEF. The conservation strategy based on an emotive design, however, is as relevant today as when it was first formulated during the authors 15 year commitment to the Philippine eagle program from 1977 to 1991.
Case Identification: Initial conditions
The Philippine Archipelago consists of over 7,100 Islands currently populated by approximately 75 million people. Once rich in timber resources and biodiversity they now retain isolated pockets of rainforest in remote areas. 30 million hectares of rainforest have been reduced to less than 5 million hectares in less than 75 years. Timber exploitation began in earnest at the turn of the 20th. Century when expatriate logging companies were granted timber concessions. By 1977 the Philippines had experienced radical reductions in forestry resources and biodiversity. The Marcos oligarchy piloted the exploitation of the rainforests by granting concessionary rights to friends and family who formed partnerships with the expatriate companies and modern logging practices rapidly depleted the timber resources. There were few agencies actively seeking remedies to alleviate the pressures on the forestry resources and attendant biodiversity. International aid agencies working in concert with non-governmental agencies were practically non-existent and those that attempted interventions quickly assumed it was a wasted effort and literally wrote off the Philippines as a lost conservation cause. The Asian Development Bank and the Philippine government were systematically altering the watershed potential of the rainforests to provide hydroelectric power, fresh water facilities, and land needs for the people. The lumber and pulp industry rapidly depleted the rainforest, dislocated tribal communities and seriously threatened biodiversity. This was exacerbated by local timber exploitation and land clearing for cultivation by indigenous communities supported in some part by anti-government insurgent groups and autonomous political campaigns by religious factions. What a wonderful opportunity this presented to forge a sustainable conservation effort.
The Change Process
The Philippine Eagle Conservation Program (PECP) was established in 1977 as a co-administered effort between the government and the private sector to attempt intervention strategies to mitigate the exploitation of the forestry resources by focusing on a flagship species, the Philippine Monkey-eating eagle Pithecophaga jefferyi. The PECP focused its attention on Mindanao Island where remained strategic rainforest enclaves supporting viable eagle populations and the biodiversity to support them. The PECP was financed by the Marcos government through the Ministry of Natural Resources/Bureau of Forest Development and the Marcos Foundation, a seeming anachronism when it was his government responsible for nearly all the timber exploitation.
When a peoples revolution toppled the Marcos regime and brought Corey Aquino into government the Ministry of Natural Resources authorized the formation of the Philippine Eagle Conservation Program Foundation (PECPF) in 1987, a non-governmental agency to manage the conservation plans for the Philippine eagle. The PECPF pioneered intervention strategies to alleviate the relentless exploitation of the forestry resources by engaging the Filipino people in programs aimed at altering forest use practices by pioneering sustainable conservation models. The major forces behind this thrust were the Minister of Natural Resources, Sonny Dominguez, and a group of dedicated political and business personalities comprising the Board of Trustees of the PECPF.
The first center for eagle propagation and information dissemination was located inside Mt. Apo National Park on Mindanao Island formed initially by the Philippine government as a place to keep captive Monkey-eating eagles for rehabilitation and release. A raptor expert from the United States was assigned to this center in 1977 by Films and Research for an Endangered Environment (FREE Limited), a group of expatriates tasked to film the life history of the eagle, study its biology, and attempt captive propagation of the eagle. When FREE Ltd. finished its filming work and left the country the raptor expert approached the major funding institution, the Marcos Foundation, to continue biological studies and attempts at captive propagation in which they agreed.
Staff assignments were divided between Philippine Bureau of Forest Development (BFD) personnel and counterparts from the private sector hired by the raptor expert. The public/private arrangement was necessary because the captive breeding program needed to be monitored on a full-time basis. Although the Philippine government was officially responsible for the Philippine eagle, an endangered species, they kept to schedules where absences from the program were chronic and disruptive observing all official holidays and government assigned working hours. The Filipino staff from the private sector were chosen for their dedication and sense of responsibility exhibited by working long hours in isolated conditions. These were people selected for their ability to interact with indigenous communities and portrayed a significant interest in the conservation philosophy being crafted to solve the problem. Academic prodigies, although approached for involvement, were not interested in physically challenging field assignments or working long hours for little pay. In emerging financially autonomous societies this is a standard deficiency since academic personalities from these countries seek positions of authority and are prone to be found in academic settings or behind desks. This is simply a cultural reality and continues for the most part to this day.
The PECP was crafted to merge science and compassion recognizing the huge symbolic significance of the Philippine eagle. The key issue here was the use of the Philippine eagle as an emotive trigger to attract the attention of the government and the Filipino people to the root causes responsible for forest destruction. The working conditions were harsh and isolated, the remnant patches of rainforest containing eagle populations were located in remote mountain regions of four Islands; Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. The program sought to locate the nesting sites of the eagle, retrieve captive eagles for forming a genetic pool for captive propagation (if they could not be released), craft environmental education programs, and engineer community development strategies around the nesting sites.
Our strategy sought to locate local authorities who provided information about an area under study. Lengthy discussions were conducted by PECPF staff members trained in investigative strategies.
In this manner the veracity of the presence of eagles was initially validated prior to field verification by the PECPF team. From this beginning we could determine a course of action to protect the nesting sites and the eagles themselves. Education campaigns using a film produced by FREE Ltd. about the life history of a family of eagles presented in the local dialect was the entry point to engage further the assistance of communities and individuals who had direct contact with the eagles.
When nesting sites or sightings of the eagle were verified this became the launching point to initiate a campaign to secure the safety of the eagles and engage in development activities to assist communities who directly affected the birds and destroyed the forests. Every activity of interest was written up in reports and supplied to the media who took an active interest in the save the eagle campaign. The number of press releases, radio programs, and television productions each month was used as a verification indicator to the success of the save the eagle campaign. The PECPF staff would actively engage in media campaigns to gain interest of politicians, potential donors, and the general public in supporting the program. The media events were not based on public forums aimed at high rhetoric used to impress public officials and education directors, which appears to be the standard norm in today's conservation agendas. They were written from actual field experiences of PECPF staff engaged in the outreach programs or environmental education efforts at the eagle center. They came form the heart, not the head, and the heart felt emotive responses were the keys to encourage environmental sustainability. It is a universal language best understood by people living in concert with the land and guided by the heart.
The communities the PECPF approached for involvement in development programs were situated within the buffer zones and boundaries of national parks or timber concessions. Attention on the eagle was a key to success in saving forest reserves sufficient to maintain populations of the eagle and attendant biodiversity. The eagles need a contiguous territory in excess of 100 square kilometers of advanced second growth and primary rainforest for survival. The people living in these remote areas where eagles live are very poor living on the edge of survival, not owners of the land and are suspicious of any encroachment on their domain by outsiders. Some targeted communities were well established cultural pockets of different ethnic groups visibly ignored by the government. Community members tend to trust their own people, people who understand their language and lifestyle. The staff of the PECPF were welcomed into these communities and constructive dialogues guided by community members, who were the main contributors in the planning process, established the criteria for future development programs and conservation guidelines. These sustainable models were then readily accepted by other communities and the success story continues to this day under the guidance of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF). Though the name has changed to better accommodate current realities the basic development philosophy has remained unchanged.
People respond to emotional triggers and when they are presented in a positive manner the response for future participation in program activities was greatly enhanced. The Filipino people began to identify with the eagle, and the pride factor enhanced our success potential in sustaining eagle populations and forest resources. This is certainly not a new concept. The use of flagship species to promote conservation objectives has been in existence for a long time and the World Wide Fund for Nature has benefited admirably from their use of Chinas Giant Panda. Numerous other examples exist; the Timber Wolf, the California condor, the Florida Panther, the Bald Eagle – but few if any engage in symbol identification and emotive campaigns to encourage various interest groups in harmonizing a unified effort for species and habitat conservation. They may start in this direction, to gain sympathy and support, but then science and academics enter the picture and the harmony destabilizes into conflicting factions because the arguments shift to specialized dialectics only the scientists and academics understand. The general public are summarily relegated to nuisance factions, apparently unworthy of involvement and participation, and communication is severed. The PECPF, on the other hand, encourages all parties to participate and seeks a consensus solution based on a marriage of emotion and science.
Dirt poor indigenous people who hid from authorities in remote forested areas because their activities were deemed essentially illegal because of their slash and burn agricultural practices were suddenly in the limelight due to their presence in eagle territory. Legal authorities, prodded and aided by the PECPF, responded positively to these subsistence farmers by granting rights of land use or crafted programs to aid these indigents as well as grant legal protection for the forest resources around the nesting sites. This occurred primarily because the authorities, likewise, responded to positive press and also became identified with public perceptions about the eagle and wanted to be part of the success story. In 1993 the Philippine government proclaimed the Philippine eagle as the national bird because the people wanted this symbol of national pride.
The Lessons Learned
This emotive stimulus triggered by advocacy was the primary key to the success of programs tied to the eagle story. The developing world is still groping for recognition where pride and other emotional factors play a major role in their worldview. It is the sheer numbers of landless indigents who are primarily responsible for environmental decay. Until we craft programs that respond to their fears and needs we stand little or no chance of maintaining environmental reserves. The answers must come from them and only when those who seek to aid them start to listen, really listen, then the battle for the environment may be won. The people who will continue to pioneer these strategies of advocacy and social aspects of conservation are those individuals who maintain a passion for the environment, and the millions of poor people who have a vested interest in the resources. Unfortunately the scientific and technological approaches to conservation have taken precedent over all other strategies and are guided by major institutions from the financial and academic sectors. Special dialectics are formulated to address the problems associated with community development and the target communities never really comprehend the strategies being developed to aid them. They are essentially manipulated into accepting sustainable schemes due in part to their naivete and cultural openness of welcoming visitors into their communities.
It became clear a balanced approach between science and compassion was and continues to be the key to the success of the Philippine eagle program. The Monkey-eating eagle's symbolic success story can be replicated by recognizing a similar symbol exists in every conservation effort and can be harnessed to generate a significant socio-political response for the conservation management of natural resources. The rational approach creates interest but does not deeply affect the psycho-acceptance response necessary for social change. People do not naturally respond to dry conservation themes tied to ecosystems. There is no value in it and significantly challenges their need to use resources they need for basic survival. Give them a theme they can emotionally grasp and take pride in, present it in a repetitive form they can accept, and eventually a synergistic wave will flow and carry them to a conservation nirvana. It is here we will win the war for the environment.
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Update: Environment. Winter 1997. The John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation. World Environment and Resources Program. Number 16.
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