Masungi Georeserve wins top prize in Water Changemaker Awards

Published January 26, 2021, 2:55 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz

Youth-led conservation group Masungi Georeserve has won first place at the inaugural Water Changemaker Awards for its efforts to protect and restore the Upper Marikina Watershed from large-scale threats, such as quarrying, land trafficking, and timber poaching.

(Masungi Georeserve)

Global Water Partnership (GWP) chair Howard Bamsey said Masungi Georeserve’s story is an “inspiring campaign for watershed restoration and reforestation led by the next generation of water changemakers.”

The winner, which was chosen from 350 nominees, was announced at the Water Anchoring Event of the Climate Adaptation Summit on January 25.

“It is heartening to see the youthful idealism, hard work, and unwavering bravery of our team recognized especially through a most challenging time. Masungi and our restoration projects are under threat by destructive interests. It is a battle between conservation or extraction, between restoration or the plunder of our forests, and between the future we want and the future we are being forced to accept,” said Masungi Georeserve Foundation project manager Ann Dumaliang.

“We continue to urge our leaders to make the right decisions for the Filipino people. We also continue to engage and dialogue with different sectors, governments, local communities, and indigenous groups to join this movement and make a stand,” she added.

Climate policy expert Tony La Viña cited the award as a “great recognition” as he has seen the Masungi Georeserve as a model for climate adaptation and mitigation action as well as an effective way of protecting and enhancing forests and landscapes.

The GWP said the award was launched to make visible the teams and organizations who shape water decisions that build climate resilience. 

Winners and finalists of the awards were evaluated based on four criteria: extent to which the initiative has contributed to climate resilience and water decisions, magnitude and longevity of change, depth of learning through crisis, and breadth of collaborations with stakeholders. 

The jury was composed of Bamsey; Barbara Buchner of the Climate Policy Initiative; Johannes Cullmann of the World Meteorological Organization; Klaus Leroch of the Austrian Development Agency; and Patrick Verkooijen of the Global Center for Adaptation.

The Masungi Georeserve is a globally acclaimed conservation and geotourism project that has protected historic limestone formations and hundreds of plant and animal species for more than twenty years. 

In 2017, it entered into a landmark partnership with the national government to restore and rewild 2,700 hectares of degraded land around the limestone formations using innovative financing and resourcing approaches for biodiversity conservation. 

To date, the project has enabled the planting of 60,000 native trees, rescued 1,000 hectares for reforestation, established 12 kilometers of monitoring trails and stations, and engaged 100 local park rangers.