Palawan Agrobiodiversity Hot Spots under Threat

Author : Dr. Dario Novellino 



 Between July and September 2009, a mission organized by the Centre for Biocultural Diversity (CBCD), University of Kent, England and the Philippines-based Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW), through the support of The Christensen Fund, traveled to Southern Palawan in the Philippines. The mission was led by Dr. Dario Novellino (CBCD researcher), who has spent over 20 years on the island. Palawan is part of the UNESCO “Man and Biosphere Reserve” program and hosts 49 animals and 56 botanical species found in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

 The mission’s actual ‘matching’ of collected GPS data to photographs shows that the concession areas of two mining firms overlap with precious watersheds in the Gantong range, which provide potable water to the local indigenous communities and lowland farmers. At an altitude of about 500m the mission reached indigenous settlements inhabited by very traditional Palawan having limited contacts with the outside. Their sustenance totally depends on the available forest resources and consists of a heterogeneous economy wherein swidden cultivation is integrated with foraging and the collection of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). These indigenous people are the custodians of a remarkable agrobiodiversity, they name and recognize at least 20 varieties of Colocasia esculenta, 20 of Ipomoea batatas, 16 of Dioscorea alata, 15 of Manihot esculenta, five of Zea mays, and more than 60 varieties of upland rice (Oryza sativa). They believe ‘rice’ has a ‘human-like personality’ and, according to the local mythology, it originates from a human sacrifice. Currently, ALDAW and Survival International are campaigning for the cancellation of mining concessions in Palawan biocultural diversity hotspots.

 Copies of the geo-tagged reports are available on the following link:

For more information contact Dario Novellino on