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UNESCO Participates in the World Heritage Volunteer Programme in Ifugao, Philippines



As part of the 2014 World Heritage Volunteer Programme, a youth action camp with the theme “Action for Sustainability” was organized by the Youth for Sustainable Development Assembly (YSDA) with the support of UNESCO World Heritage Centre from 7 to 18 July 2014 at the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras in Kiangan, Ifugao, the Philippines.

The objectives of the programme were to: (i) initiate a direct action to help the local community rehabilitate the rice terraces (ii)  promote cultural exchange, especially in intercultural learning, solidarity and friendship among volunteers and local people, and (iii) increase the volunteers’ understanding on the issues of cultural heritage preservation. YSDA was also supported by David Raigal and Kastadinka Todorova from International Initiatives for Cooperation (IIC), a non-governmental-organization based in Bulgaria, in facilitating the educational and team-building sessions for the volunteers.

The camp had brought together more than 34 local and international youth volunteers from different backgrounds to work together to support the rehabilitation of the Nagacadan Rice Terraces (and Bae Rice Terraces) in Kiangan, Ifugao. One of the volunteers from the Philippine, Bryan Joseph E. Matillano, who worked in the Leyte Normal University, Tacloban City as the Assistant Professor stated that,”I am joining this World Heritage Project and happily working in the the Nagacadan Rice Field despite of what happened after typhoon Haiyan in my hometown to show my resilience.”  

The workshop provided a number of learning opportunities for participants including a number of field activities at the Nagacadan rice field to (i) support the conservation of the rice terrace walls through surveys, measurements etc (ii) strengthening the foundations of the wall through the clearing of terraces, stone-walling, and mud-walling; and (iii) terrace management though supporting the harvesting of rice with the farmers and signage posting for the Open Air Museum. Intercultural activities, such as visit to the Traditional Ritual of Communities in Nagacadan, International Cooking Evenings and traditional performances, were held to enrich the participants’ knowledge of the diverse culture of the area.

Jerome Q. Neyra, the Deputy Executive Director of Philippines National Commission for UNESCO expressed his support to this activity saying,” We are happy to see youth organizations like YSDA is working together with the local government and relevant stakeholders in the conservation of the world heritages. This activity will bring positive side of the community as they will be more aware on the importance of world heritage conservation for everybody, and thus it give them more pride and ownership to the heritage close to their homes. “

The youth camp in Ifugao is one of 54 selected “World Heritage Volunteers (WHV) 2014 – Action for Sustainability” projects at 53 World Heritage sites in 33 countries. Sixteen projects are being conducted in Asia, including those in the Philippines, Indonesia, India, China, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and Vietnam. These projects provided challenges to young people to go beyond borders, share cultural differences, and work together in order to preserve cultural and natural sites and raise awareness amongst local communities to care about their heritage. The projects were aimed to equip youth volunteers with basic preservation and conservation skills through integrated hands-on trainings and workshops.

Apart from joining monitoring missions in Kiangan, Ifugao, UNESCO Jakarta in coordination with the World Heritage Centre will also conduct monitoring missions to other World Heritage Volunteer Projects in Borobudur and Prambanan temple compound in August 2014. These projects are managed by Dejavato Foundation and Indonesia International Work Camp (IIWC).  

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Photo credit: YSDA (Youth for Sustainable Development Assembly) and Diana Setiawati