As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, Kanazawa University has started working on a project helping to conserve the world-famous Ifugo Rice Terraces in the Philippines from further degradation. It is believed that the World Heritage site is at risk because few local people understand what is entailed to keep the terraces pristine.
Kanazawa University initiated joint training sessions with the University of the Philippines and Ifugao State University. The spectacular rice terraces in the northern Philippine island of Luzon were created some 2,000 years ago. But an exodus of young people to the cities left the area with few people to preserve the complicated agricultural system, making it difficult to find successors for the older generation who can no longer work in the fields.
The terraces located in remote areas of the Philippine Cordillera mountain range in Ifugao province cover about 20,000 hectares, making them among the world’s largest. The sight of tens of thousands of terraces built on mountain slopes at elevations of between 700 meters and 1,500 meters are so impressive that the site became known as “stairs to heaven.”
The rice terraces were inscribed in 1995 on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list as “Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras.” But soon after that the terraces fell into a state of dilapidation as land development projects expanded in surrounding areas and local people spent less and less time attending to the delicate agricultural ecosystem that makes the site the marvel it is today. As a result, the terraces were included on the List of World Heritage in Danger by the agency in 2001. However, thanks to subsequent conservation activities by the local administrations and universities, the terraces were removed from the danger list in 2012. But there is still more work to be done and more local people are needed in order to continue to take care of terraces.
Kanazawa University has now decided to set up a three-year to train local people interested in learning and acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge on how to sustain the rice terraces.