In a collaborative effort to foster cross-border knowledge exchange, GIZ, through the project “Enhancing Climate Resilience in Thailand through Effective Water Management and Sustainable Agriculture (E-WMSA)”, a joint initiative between United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and The Royal Irrigation Department funding by Green Climate Fund (GCF), organized a four-day learning visit in the Philippines from November 28 to December 1, 2023 for a delegation of 14 Thai representatives. The group, comprised of officials from the Royal Irrigation Department, representatives from the Office of National Water Resources, and water user group representatives from Phitsanulok province, engaged in a comprehensive exploration of the GIZ Philippines’ Ecosystem-based management and ecosystem services valuation in two river basins in the Philippines (E2RB) project. The focus of the visit was the successful implementation of Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) in the Ilog-Hilabangan river basin. Partnerships with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and a network of relevant governmental agencies, private sectors, and local communities have made this initiative a success.
The learning visit’s overarching objective was to facilitate knowledge exchange and discussions with local practitioners and stakeholders. The discussions revolved around implementing EbA measures in a participatory manner, addressing operational challenges and opportunities in implementing in water resource management. It will consider adapting concepts and processes from the experience of the Philippines to be applied to the context of the E-WMSA project’s pilot area in Phitsanulok, Sukhothai and Uttaradit provinces.
The initial part of the program encompassed a series of information-sharing sessions covering diverse topics, from upstream forest deforestation to restoration through the establishment of local conservation areas (LCA) to midstream challenges posed by agriculture expansion. The initiative encourages planting local flora along the riverbanks to prevent erosion, creating buffer zones between protected areas and urban/ agricultural lands to reduce sediment and chemical contaminants into waterway. There is a CSR project through district water producer for environmental conservation by empowering indigenous youth groups in the upstream to restore forests. Additionally, efforts to restore mangrove forests in downstream areas address coastal degradation while creating sustainable income for local communities. Participants engaged with representatives at both national and local levels, including the River Basin Control Office (RBCO) and DENR, along with municipal and Barangay (village) leaders. Interactions extended to a social entrepreneur, ensuring a holistic understanding of the project’s impact on diverse stakeholders.
The final part and a standout feature of the learning visit was the first-hand exploration of EbA measures in water management, spotlighting a native Filipino plant, the Miagos bush (Homonoia Riparia). This green infrastructure plays a crucial role in stabilizing riverbanks and mitigating the effects of typhoons. To reach the site, participants experienced bamboo rafting along the midstream of the Ilog-Hilabangan, promoting eco-tourism as an initiative to generate alternative income for local communities.
Towards the end of the learning visit, Thai participants noted the presence of a similar plant, the Miagos bush, in the Yom-Nam River basin. Remarkably, it was observed that this plant can thrive under both flood and drought conditions, predominantly in rocky soil conditions due to its roots.
However, the context of the Philippines is different from Thailand. It is necessary to understand the context of the area before identifying a suitable EbA measure to apply. Additionally, the community should benefit both in terms of income and biodiversity that occurs.
The insights gained from this learning visit highlight the importance of inter-agency collaboration and policy support in addressing the effectiveness of water management. The shared knowledge and experiences will undoubtedly contribute to the development of more robust and effective strategies for mainstreaming EbA into grey infrastructure to build resilience against climate change impacts.
“In my farm, there’s a plant called ‘Ton Krod’ with roots resembling those of a mangrove tree. This tree serves as a nursing ground for fish. Once abundant in the canals and the Old Yom river, its number has significantly decreased due to canal dredging. I believe there’s potential for restoration.” said Mr Samsak, water user representative. ■