THE PALAYAN RICE TERRACES OF THE IFUGAO

LOCATION | Philippines

TYPOLOGY | Terracing
SYSTEM | Palayan (Terrace)
PEOPLE | Ifugao

Living amongst the highest mountains in the Philippines and calling themselves the ‘sky-people’, the Ifugao are masters of terracing slopes up to seventy degrees in steepness. Constructed from mud-and-stone, the terracing which is fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above, is considered to be an eighth wonder of the world. Developed over two thousand years ago in the land-locked Cordillera Mountain Range on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, this ecosystem is the country’s kidney, filtering the rainwater from tropical pine forests at the top of the mountains, running the water through villages and then terraces, known here as palayan, and eventually dispersing it through the lowlands and grasslands towards the ocean. The Ifugao system purifies water for both the small villages in the Cordilleras, and for the major cities downstream. The Ifugao rice terraces serve as an innovative model of extreme terraforming that irrigates, purifies and provides a platform for community-driven ecological rice farming.

Illustrations by Christianna Bennett and Despo Thoma

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© 2019. Julia Watson Studio

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