Cross-section of an Ifugao pond-field (Adapted from Conklin 1980: 16 / Source: Stephen Acabado)

The people of Ifugao region is famed for their skills in building World Heritage’s marvel – the ricefield terraces that  were painstaikingly carved out of rugged mountainous terrains.  But how did they do it despite lack of formal training and technology as we have today?

In this article we will look into how the Ifugao approaches the building of rice terrace, maintenance and it engineering principles.It is based on Nurturing Indigenous Knowledge Experts’s rice terrace construction and maintenance.

How do they build Ifugao rice terraces?

According to Guimbatan who studied the Ifugao approaches to terrace building said they usually observe the agricultural cycle, evaluate topography, vegetation, water resource, and availability of building materials.

Then plans the land use, irrigation and drainage channeling. The works must be done from July to October in time for the planting season in November to early December.

Because water supply is very much needed during and after the construction of a ricefield, it is the main consideration when selecting a construction site.

The indigenous rice variety (Tinawon) require that the field be inundated throughout the cropping season just as the pondfield needs to be filled with water the whole year round to stabilize the slopes or to prevent erosion.

Soil type should also be suited for rice production. In the Kiangan area, farmers prefer two types of soil, namely: clay (pidot) and loam (mahalibukag). Furthermore, the terrain is also considered as this affects the ease of construction and maintaining the paddy.

For instance, very steep slopes are very vulnerable to landslides and render it difficult to clean its walls. The terrain also affects the area of the paddy.It is observed that where the slopes are steep, the paddies are narrower and where the slopes are gentler, the paddies are wider.

Unfinished construction work and repair are done quickly in the early planting season when the seedlings are prepared for transplanting.Thereafter, irrigation are maintained and terraces are guarded from possible erosion from the planting season to harvest season.

Eroded terrace parts and slumps caused by sudden rainstorms are only repaired after harvest season. After harvest, evaluations begin again and the cycle continues.

Coming soon, the follow up article on engineering principles of rice terrace Part 2.