The site

The site is known as the Ikalahan Ancestral Domain, which covers 38 000 ha in Nueva Vizcaya plus about 10 000 ha in Nueva Ecija. The entire area is mountainous. It is located approximately at latitude 11° N and longitude 122° E, with elevation from 600 to 1717 masl, with average rainfall recorded at over 4000 mm per year and temperatures between 8 to 24 ⁰C. Rainfall ranges 3000 to 5000 mm per year. Much of the area is forested, mostly with Dipterocarp species although the western edge is largely pine. Some of the forests are primary but most are secondary. Broad areas in the east are barren because of logging by people from outside the region several decades ago.

About 90% of the population are from the Ikalahan tribe. Five percent are from other indigenous tribes, primarily Ifugao, Ibaloi and Kankana-ey, while the rest are Ilocano and Tagalog. Interrelations are good. Most families practise subsistence swidden farming although a few have begun to plant commercial, high-value vegetables.

The Kalahan Educational Foundation (KEF) is a community-based organization established in 1973 by the Ikalahan tribal elders to protect the communities from possible eviction by land grabbers. The foundation was used as an instrument to rally the indigenous people to protect their rights. KEF’s goals were to promote education, protect the environment of the Ikalahan people and their ancestral domain, provide sustainable forest-based livelihoods, and improve watersheds and biodiversity. Through a memorandum of agreement signed by the KEF and the Bureau of Forest Development, the forest government agency in the 1970s, the ancestral domain rights claim of the Ikalahan over 48 000 ha was recognized and nearly 15 000 ha within the ancestral domain was designated as the Kalahan Forest Reserve. In 1999, through the Indigenous People’s Rights Act  1997, the Ikalahan were able to strengthen their claim. On 21 April 2006, the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title was finally presented to the Ikalahan. 

The issues

In the past, each family was allowed to cultivate anywhere, especially in forests where the soil was still very fertile. This resulted in widespread burning and conversion of forested areas to farmlands. Although the Ikalahan were observing fallow periods to regain soil fertility, the time needed for successful rotation was 15 to 18 years or even longer. As the Ikalahan population increased, the traditional farming system required more land for cultivation, resulting in continuous reduction of the forested area. As well, encroachment by non-Ikalahan owing to intermarriage and selling of CADT rights threatened the stability of the Ikalahan culture and conservation efforts.

The Ikalahan ancestral domain is an ecologically sensitive area with rich biodiversity. It is also a very important watershed for three important river systems. The Kalahan forests recharge the aquifers which benefit downstream farmers but the Ikalahan caretakers of those forests were not even able to recover their costs in protecting and maintaining the source of these services. The Kalahan forests also sequester huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

Environmental services and the people involved

Environmental services

Carbon, water, biodiversity

People who provide the services

Ikalahan indigenous people

People who benefit from the services

Voluntary carbon market, REDD+, hydroelectric companies

People who act as intermediaries between the providers and the beneficiaries

Kalahan Educational Foundation

The Ikalahan Ancestral Domain is an important watershed, a rich biodiversity sanctuary, and a source of various environmental services to its immediate and lowland communities. Within the Domain are three important river systems that are important irrigation and drinking water sources for downstream communities. The Kalahan Forest Reserve within the Domain has high flora and fauna diversity. It has the potential to serve as a corridor between important protected areas and critical watersheds of Talavera and Pantabangan-Carrangalan to the southeast, and the Lower and Upper Agno river basin to the northwest. Its strategically located, high floral diversity could serve as a corridor for migrating and endemic birds.

A key environmental service the Kalahan Educational Foundation was examining was the Kalahan’s potential for carbon storage and sequestration. The Foundation collaborated with various bodies, such as RUPES, University of the Philippines Los Baños and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, in order to prepare the community to engage in the carbon market. The community required additional support for protecting their forest and, at the same time, in providing for their livelihoods, as these two activities tended to contradict one another.

The Foundation mediated between the community and various organizations conducting projects within the Domain, including RUPES. The RUPES team, along with other agencies, were able to help the community towards their goal of conserving the forest by training them in the skills needed to manage the forest themselves.

The Foundation aimed to enter the forest reserve into the carbon market by preparing and collecting data to meet the rigorous requirements of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). However, based on the results of the rapid carbon stock appraisal that RUPES conducted for the reserve in 2010, the RUPES team recommended that the Foundation focus instead on entry into the voluntary carbon market.

Water quantity and quality were also very valuable environmental services that the Kalahan could offer. Negotiations with a hydroelectric company to build a power plant in the Kalahan began in the first half of 2012.

The rewards

RUPES focussed on the development of a carbon sequestration payments mechanism for the Domain, helping the communities surrounding the Kalahan Forest Reserve to prepare to enter the international carbon market, particularly, through training and searching for potential buyers.

Potential buyers included bird-watching groups, churches, students, foreign tourists and public and private organizations. The rewards’ mechanisms would operate through the people’s organizations within the Domain, which already provided educational, medical and other services plus employment.

In 2012, a project idea note was developed for presentation to carbon buyers. It was created through the ‘Connecting Ikalahan to the voluntary carbon market’ project, funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The note was distributed at the National Environmental Services Market Fair on 12 April 2012, an event jointly conducted by the FAO project and RUPES.

During the fair, the Foundation met with a hydroelectric company interested in building a power plant in the Kalahan. Negotiations about the project and payment mechanisms are underway.

The Kalahan is also considered eligible to enter into programs based on the ‘Reducing emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, conservation, sustainable management, and enhancement of forest stock’ concept (REDD+), which could cover the whole Domain rather than just the forest reserve. 

Other schemes covering watershed services and biodiversity are also being developed.


RUPES will continue to assist the Foundation to search for buyers for their environmental services, particularly for the carbon. The project idea note can be presented at national and international forums. Dialogue between the Foundation and the hydroelectricity company will also be supported.   


  • Kalahan Educational Foundation

The Kalahan Education Foundation is a people’s organization founded by the Ikalahan tribal elders in 1973 to protect the community from possible eviction from their forest land. It promotes the economic, physical, mental, social, good governance, moral and spiritual development of the indigenous people within the Ikalahan community.

Contacts for more information