Leyte town adopts ‘ridge-to-reef’ approach to rural development

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A “ridge-to-reef” ecosystem approach to rural development has been adopted in the remote town of Inopacan in Leyte, which is now a model of a food-secure town where farmers plant jackfruit, dipterocarps and grow tilapia.

The socioeconomic development at Inopacan, Leyte, is being approached in a different light by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca). Inopacan is a third-class municipality with a mere 20,000 population.

Instead of identifying development sites based on political classification, a Searca project is developing Inopacan based on its topography—farm areas, forests and water bodies.

“The project focuses more on the agro-ecological systems of a potential project site. It is being delineated based on predetermined ecosystem  using the ridge-to-reef approach or landscape continuum,” according to Searca rural evelopment experts.

This ecosystem-based concept follows Searca’s model called “Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development “ or ISARD.

ISARD’s projects in poverty-stricken areas aims to enable the poorest of the poor get out of poverty, according to Searca Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. At the same time, these communities should contribute to environment conservation.

The ISARD project in Leyte is in partnership with the Visayas State University, Visayas Consortium for Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Program (ViCAARP), and Inopacan’s local government unit.

The ridge-to-reef model raises success potential of a poverty alleviation project as communities may be easily asked to participate in development activities.  The activities may be community organization, nursery establishment, fish pond development, tree planting, or farming.

Under the ridge-to-reef concept, local government unit-partners are tapped when these are around a “watershed or microwatershed, lake ecosystem, including its tributaries”.

The concept also determines choice of beneficiaries based on landscape ecologies of upland, lowland, coastal and marine ecosystems, including ecotones.

Searca’s ISARD projects get small grants for technical assistance; institutional development and capacity-building; knowledge management; and linkaging and networking support.

“Geographic Information System  mapping and Experts Systems developed by ViCAARP will also be deployed to support the project and growers in their decision-making processes.”