Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program culminates with 100 meisters

After six years of implementation, the Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program (ISMTP) concluded its second phase through the 6th graduation ceremony held on November 27, 2020 at the Ifugao State University (IFSU). Nineteen new graduates were conferred as Ifugao Rice Terraces (IRT) meisters that totals now to 100 alumni of the training program. The ceremony coincided with the Centennial Year of Ifugao State University.

In her message, IFSU President Eva Marie Codamon-Dugyon applauded and challenged the new graduates to be proactive in the conservation and sustainable development of the IRT and their communities. On the other hand, JICA Hokuriku Center Director-General Mr. Kazuhiko Kikuchi congratulated the graduates being the most memorable batch as JICA completes its partnership program with ISMTP. “ISMTP is a remarkable one, for having a human network between and among the locals and the people in Noto, Japan towards sustainable development of each GIAHS,” he said in his virtual message.

Funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-Hokuriku, ISMTP is a pioneering program that follows a Training Model Framework on Human Capacity Building. The framework ensures optimum outputs from the trainees through a series of lectures, workshops, skills trainings, field exposures, the conduct of research projects, and mentoring. Subjects taught include heritage conservation, sustainable tourism, sustainable agriculture, conservation entrepreneurship, forest management, among others utilizing GIAHS, Sustainable Development Goals, and Satoyama concepts. ISMTP is collaboratively implemented by Ifugao State University, UP Open University, and the Provincial Local Government if Ifugao in the Philippines through the Ifugao GIAHS Support Committee and JCA Hokuriku in Japan.

One of the strengths of ISMTP is mentoring trainees to conduct a research project that is essential in Ifugao Rice Terraces revitalization. Each trainee is paired with a mentor who is an expert in a specific field to provide technical guidance throughout the year and beyond the training program. This element of ISMTP is included to guarantee the sustainability of the research-projects and outputs.

“I was an ordinary weaver in Kiangan, Ifugao, Philippines. But with the Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training Program (ISMTP), it greatly contributed to understanding my passion in weaving as an important integral component in the conservation of the Ifugao Rice Terraces (IRT) as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) Site,” said Stephanie S. Ayahao, an alumna of the ISMTP.

As the ISMTP ends, it leaves a legacy of contributing to the conservation of the IRT through its human capacity building activities and research projects. Among the concrete research-projects conducted by the meisters include Agricultural Technology, Crop Science, Pest Management, Forestry, and Biodiversity; Tourism, Economics, Indigenous Peoples Education, and Health; on product development of food and pest management; on social studies particularly on Tourism Management, Solid Waste Management, Economics, Museology, and Policy Assessment; on culture, and Indigenous Food, Indigenous Knowledge including Arts and Crafts.

With 100 meisters equipped with their deeper understanding of IRT and research projects, they are now an additional force in the continuing work on the conservation of the Ifugao GIAHS Sites. The meisters are organized through the ISMTP Alumni Network is an offshoot of the program to ensure the continuing collaboration and implementation of research projects that are needed in the GIAHS Sites.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the graduation was live-streamed for all partners and some graduates who cannot attend the graduation ceremony. // report from Jude C. Baggo