PAMANA awarded grant from U.S. National Science Foundation

by Dr. Paul Watts
May 14, 2012

During the 2010 PAMANA Congress, PAMANA decided that the number one organizational priority would be 'best practice transfer' or taking what has worked in our most developed member sites and transferring it to our least developed sites. Since that time PAMANA facilitators Marivic Pajaro and Paul Watts have been looking for ways and means to do just that.

In 2011 PAMANA was awarded a modest grant to facilitate food and water security focused on 4 remote communities in the San Luis municipality of Aurora province. This activity helped us to consider how we might best match our organizational needs to the funding priorities of partner agencies. One of many possibilities that we pursued was a project that would focus on research into the best ways to link traditional fisherfolk knowledge with larger scale biodiversity considerations.

In mid-2011 we decided to pursue a larger grant and settled on a proposal which required finding partners currently funded through the U.S. National Science Foundation. We engaged Drs. Doug Medin and Megan Bang, nationally renowned for their work on learning through aboriginal communities as it relates to environmental understanding and management. We entered a several-month long process of proposal building that was completed in November 2011. We were indeed thrilled the first week of May to be informed that our proposal was one of only 41 projects (481 applied globally) selected to receive funding from the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) Program administered by the U.S. National Academies (

The project will be administered by the Philippine based NGOs HARIBON ( and DALUHAY ( and has two levels of research:
1. The Action Research component will reach out with a best practise effort to about 60 PAMANA members as well as less developed fisherfolk communities across the Northern Philippine Sea Marine Bioregion and within Aurora Province.
2. The Education Research component will focus on an application of what is called the Cultural Consensus Model.

Below is a summary of our winning proposal. Perhaps by the time we hold the 2012 Congress (not yet scheduled) we will be in a position to define new steps forward for PAMANA!

Grant Title: Pathways for Indigenous Knowledge Engagement on Marine Biodiversity Conservation.

The Philippines is a global priority for the conservation of marine biodiversity. The country is also highly dependent on marine resources with more than one million people directly dependent upon the fisheries sector. The long-term relationship and dependence of local people on their resources justify their involvement in conservation and management (IUCN 2000). The proposal proponents consider that local people using indigenous knowledge are capable of solving many environmental challenges, particularly if supported by their jurisdictions. In the Philippines, moving from an exclusive top-down approach to include a bottom-up approach for coastal resource management has become widely accepted as governments decentralize. Even so, local people remain marginalized on issues surrounding natural resource conservation and management. Larger geographical scale concepts such as biodiversity may be somewhat beyond local knowledge systems and require targeted learning strategies. The pathways to engaging indigenous knowledge concerning resource management and biodiversity conservation require a collaborative approach. We will address the related need for a cross-cultural understanding of cognition regarding environment and biodiversity in fisherfolk cultures. The proposed study builds upon fisherfolk social knowledge systems; historic and contemporary cultural profiles as well as consideration of economic and political institutions and practices for linked communities. Defining aspects of fisherfolk culture will be based upon the Cultural Consensus Model (Romney et al. 1986). Action Research will follow the applied fisherfolk format utilized by Pajaro (2010). The current knowledge base indicates that Philippine fisherfolk communities develop through a process of allocating and distributing rights over specific resources and places. These actions tend to reconfigure divisions and alliances between and among village members and other non-village social actors who wager their interests on visions of community and conservation (Guieb 2009). PAMANA, a national alliance of community-based coastal resource managers, generally represent a more informed subculture of fisherfolk. Our training of community coordinators or trainers will focus on experts identified by this group. The Philippine Local Government Code authorizes municipal local government units to manage territorial waters up to 15 km. from the shoreline. However, PAMANA advocates tenurial rights down to the smaller community or barangay (smallest political unit) waters within municipal waters. This is the target level of impact in the proposed project. The current collaboration with the PAMANA group of citizen scientists is also based in part upon their international recognition as a prototypical grassroots alliance of Ecohealth Practitioners (Anabieza et al. 2010) based upon PAMANA’s focus on both human and environmental health. Our goal is to develop protocol for expanding the ecohealth lens to encompass biodiversity conservation within a wide range of fisherfolk communities and to assist them through best practice transfer to be more engaged in their own future sustainability.

The project is also intended to facilitate the development of community-based science curriculum for the first Philippine bioregional or biodiversity based Bachelor of Marine Science at an academic institution in Aurora Province, northeast Philippines.

The research will have three levels of geographical, cultural and jurisdictional focus:
1) The 120 PAMANA membership communities, with emphasis on 4 of the 6 biodiversity-based Philippine marine bioregions;
2) Selected fisherfolk communities identified through a collaborative and constitutionally based approach within the North Philippine Sea marine bioregion;
3) Selected fisherfolk communities within Aurora Province. Training and information dissemination will focus on the fisherfolk as partners in research. Our budget request is for P150,000 over three years, with the action research activities scaled down from a larger approach to fit within this possible funding framework.