Protecting forest of life in a time of crisis

Courtesy of Higa-onon tribe

The life of higaonon tribe is interconnected to the sacred forest. We are nothing without it. The elders said that " nature destruction is the tribes extinction" 

The Philippines is a global biodiversity hotspot, yet only 4% of native habitat remains. With two grants over the past 18 months, the Higa-onon tribe on the island of Mindanao has been able to protect 120 hectares of primary forest that is both exceptional and sacred. 

The site is a rare example of primary karstic forest with incredible value for biodiversity conservation. Hundreds of caves provide homes for bats and swifts, and the remaining forest is home to colugos, tarsier, possibly Philippine Eagle, and a huge number of reptiles and amphibians, some of which may be undiscovered. 

In 2019, a mining company had laid claims on the forest, considered sacred to the tribe, and they said they had only a matter of weeks to negotiate a purchase and protect the property. They discovered QRFN via a web search, sent our program manager an e-mail, and after some back and forth and due diligence (including a site visit by one of our expert advisors, Dr. Jan Schipper, who happened to be in the region), we made the first grant. Within days the tribe had secured the 50 hectares.

The Covid-19 has brought about additional challenges and the tribe has witness increased destruction of the forest by outside interests as owners sell off parcels. The tribe has, however, been able to protect the parcel secured by the first donation and earlier this month the QRFN Advisors agreed to award a second grant, which will secure another 70 hectares of sacred forest for future generations.

 Jan Schipper 

Authored by Carly Vynne Baker