The Wild File 2016

The Wild File 2016:

10 years. That is how long the Cordillera Conservation Trust has existed this year, 2016. And what a ride it has been. When a few friends got together 10 years ago we wouldn’t have ever imagined that our tiny little organization would have gone this far or lasted this long. 10 years ago we sat in a small café, talking about dreams of what we could do, Ben Muni, Robeliza Halip, Francis Alipio, and Orlando Apostol. It has been that long since then and so much has changed from the organization that was born 10 years ago to the organization that we are today.

Along with the change in the organization is the change in the environment we are working in, no longer are the Cordillera mountains the remote region it once was, the mountains have opened and it’s people no longer the remote villagers that were once so isolated by their terrain. More of the younger generations are educated and upwardly mobile as well as rearing to learn and explore; the proliferation of mobile smart phone technology as well as the Internet has allowed a free flow of information to and from even the most remote of village’s. Movement has also changed, roads are no longer rough and un-surfaced, and travel times to and from remote villages cut to a fraction of what it was 10 years ago -no longer are the people of these mountains content with living out their entire lives in their small hamlets in the ridges and valleys but there has been a push for many to explore their boundaries, look across to the cities like Baguio and La Trinidad and further out and create different opportunities for both themselves and their communities. The movement from subsistence to modernity is in full swing and we have been witness to this movement over the last decade. This is the new reality we live in today 10 years after we founded this organization and as such we seek to respond to these new conditions accordingly and more appropriately attuned with the needs of the times.

Solar Lanterns Distributed Courtesy of One Meralco Foundation

At the end of each year for the past 10 years I have been tasked with writing out the Forest Building report, chronicling the work that was done by the Cordillera Conservation Trust and while much of our work for the past 9 years has been about expansion and even greater and more work done, each year often topping the last over the last decade, this year has been about re-focusing our work and resources towards areas that matter as well as realizations about our organization’s strengths towards adventure development and building on those.

Since 2015 we have started realigning our work towards Wild Space development, essentially creating opportunities through adventure travel and mountain tourism development for local communities to access the economies that can be provided by their local wild spaces to provide for their families and livelihoods. We realized in 2014 that our 3 adventure events, The Cordillera Challenge and Epic Mountain Bike races as well as the Cordillera Mountain Ultra trail run have the effect of not only creating value for the organization but also enormous value for the local community in terms of wild landscape development, promotion, and conservation. They have become the primary drivers for conservation in the areas where we work and we utilize them now as our tools in order to craft a development path appropriate to our changing times.

Wild Jobs: over the last year through our 3 events we have been able to create over 500 jobs for mountain guides, trail maintenance crews, race marshals, cooks, homestays, porters, transport jobs, Foraging suppliers, etc… -most of these jobs were created in areas not on the tourist map but extremely important ecologically due to their locations within the mountains such as: Dalupirip in Itogon, and Labey in Bokod and Tublay along the Agno River Basin, Sagpat and Lubo in Kibungan, Boklawan and Taba-ao in Kapangan and Naguey and Pasdong, Atok along the Amburayan River Watershed.

 

Wild Economies: while jobs are directly created during our events the value of each event extends past the jobs that we create directly to the economies that are created around the wild spaces, this in fact is the larger value for the communities which are created from the conservation of the wild spaces.

This is through a few main areas: Transportation, Accommodations, Food, and associated services. There is a wild value chain that is created from conservation and adventure that allows community members from all classes as well as skill sets to access the intrinsic economy from the mountains that is tied to conservation. We estimate that each event generates a wild economic value for the villagers from PhP250,000 to PhP500,000 and these are not simply fees paid to the government but money that goes directly into the hands of homeowners, individuals, and small businesses. This wild value chain extends further down to their suppliers as we encourage the use of local goods for produce and ingredients from the immediate vicinity as well as to utilize local produce from the forests such as Paco Ferns, Forest Mushrooms, and River Fish further extending the value chain down the line even to the hunters and foragers as well as reinforcing the value for conservation as each component of the value chain relies on pristine ecosystems to thrive.

Wild Mushrooms

 

This wild economy often persists past our events as the awareness generated during the event extends throughout the year with more adventure tourists, mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners, visiting the wild spaces and creating economies around the mountain based on adventure and conservation. We further evolve these value chains by continuous training through our partners like the University of Baguio that helps us with our homestay development program.

 

Part of the wild economies is also the development of The Good Roast premium coffee which has allowed us to provide coffee farmers that have been beneficiaries of our Roots and Shoots programs the opportunity to sell their high quality Arabica Coffee beans at fair trade prices as well as raise the quality and status of local Arabica coffee in the country as well as the South East Asian region.

For 2016 we estimate the Wild Economy created by our work to be anywhere from PhP500,000 to PhP1Million for the different communities in which our adventure events are held and R&S Coffee Nurseries were built. All of which from adventure and conservation development in little known areas where the total tourist arrivals constitutes 90% from those that are brought in by our adventure events.

 

Wild Media Value: much of our work in 2016 also consisted of creating awareness that places of great natural beauty exist. For this our metric is the Wild Media Value that was created by our work in the mountains. While we have long espoused the value of social media in creating this value for the wild spaces we also acknowledge the value of traditional media in making known that these places exist, they are important, and they must be protected. Over the last year we are proud to say that we generated an estimated 10-15 Million  worth in media value both through traditional media such as Smile Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Go Run Asia, Grid Magazine, and Asia Trail Magazine,  allowing us to tap into an international audience and of course our social media channels of which our engagement now peaks at over 10 million a year in terms of social media reach per and 20,000 FB followers we have now created an entire community that cares deeply for the wild spaces of our mountains.

In total we have brought over 1000 adventurers, Mountain Bikers, Hikers, Trail runners into the wild spaces this year, again in areas not normally on the tourist trail driving the adventure economy into some of the poorest areas in the mountains that need this development the most.

We also premiered the GRID EXPEDITION at the Singapore Eco Film Festival making the little red dot and the international Environmental community aware of the work that we do in the region.

Our new partnership with Google has also allowed us to map out with the Google Trekker the route of the Cordillera Mountain Ultra, creating greater value for this important mountain landscape preserving for history an image of this wild space for future generations. 

 

 Wild Landscape Conservation: Through both our Mountain Biking events and trail running as well as Landscape Walks program we have been developing routes that are now commonplace for many adventurers allowing the wild spaces to continuously provide for the needs of the local communities as it is used for adventure. Our Cordillera Mountain Ultra route is now a 50km circuit trek which can take participants 3 days to go through and is one of the most beautiful treks one can do in the Cordillera Mountains, members of the UP Mountaineers just recently walked through in 3 days this entire route, proving that it is indeed a viable trekking route and one of the most pristine in the country. Our Cordillera Challenge MTB and Cordillera Epic 3 day stage race has now created fixed routes in Tublay, Kapangan, Kibungan, Atok, and La Trinidad that are regular fixtures for mountain bikers –providing year round adventure visitors to these off the map areas. Our Landscape Walks program in it’s second year has now mapped 80 Kilometers of Trails in Kibungan and Bakun which will hopefully create a trekking economy for this remote area in the coming years.

What does creating all of these routes have to do with conservation? We prefer to think of them as carrots and drivers for conservation, as we are not a regulating agency or an organization with unlimited resources –thus what we try and do is to create the conditions for which conservation will be the favored choice of development over others through our events as well as associated work. Adventure travel and trail and route development of footpaths and mountain biking routes not only creates these conditions but also makes this development path a viable economic option to pursue for many of the local government units we work with each year.

Partnerships: each year we would like to give credit as well to our partners who have made the work that we do possible, without their support much of our work would not have even moved from the idea board to reality. Our partners have also allowed us to extend our reach not only locally but across Asia as well as Internationally. Among the partners we would like to thank this year are the following:

 

    1. The Municipality of Kibungan
    2. The Municipality of Tublay
    3. The Municipality of Kapangan
    4. The Municipality of Itogon
    5. One Meralco Foundation
    6. University of Baguio School of International Hospitality and Tourism Management
    7. Ultra Aspire Philippines
    8. Suunto Philippines
    9. Tailwind Nutrition
    10. GRID Magazine
    11. National Geographic Adventure
    12. SMILE Magazine
    13. Messy Bessy
    14. Squeezy Sports Nutrition
    15. Chamois Butter
    16. GoRun Asia
    17. Asia Trail Masters
    18. Vietnam Mountain Marathon and Vietnam Mountain Bike Marathon
    19. The Magnificent Merapoh Trail Race
    20. The Genghis Khan Festival
    21. Adrenaline Multi-Sport Group

 

While the mountains have changed significantly over the last decade we at the Cordillera Conservation Trust have by now established ten years of consistency and an unwavering commitment to the conservation and sustainable use of the outdoors. 10 years of consistent passion and innovation for our wild spaces is where we are today as an organization. And as we face the changes we now see in the mountain region and it’s people you can be sure that we will continue this commitment through the next decade of our organizations life, constantly innovating solutions to issues that affect the mountains and it’s people.

If you notice this year, the report is now called “The Wild File” as it seems a more appropriate title for the work that we have now evolved to do –Keeping it Wild.

See you all in the mountain in 2017!

JP Alipio

Chief Forest Builder