Banaue Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces are artificial terraces for rice farming that are situated in a  Province of Ifugao of the Philippines. Local people spent centuries reshaping local mountains and creating pools of water necessary for the cultivation of rice. And in case you were wondering local grow their crops without Genetically Modified Organism (GMO).


Location: Province of Ifugao Map


The terraces that cover a large part of the province are an example of the comprehensive landscape design by humans. For probably 2000 years, the mountain slopes have been terraced with retaining walls at an altitude of 700 to 1500 meters and irrigated for the cultivation of rice and vegetables. All surfaces up to a slope of 70 ° are used. The walls are the only pre-colonial stone buildings in the Philippines.

The construction and maintenance of the terraces are still subject to the traditional rules of the indigenous Ifugao. Private forests (Muyong) are maintained above the fields to ensure the water supply. No terrace can stop the flow of water to the next lower level, the entire amount of water is evenly distributed by dams, ditches and bamboo tubes in common ownership. The retaining walls, which are on average two meters high, follow the contour of the site and consist of quarry stones. Behind them, the ground is first filled with rubble, into which channels for drainage are inserted. A highly compacted layer of earth follows approximately one meter below the final ground level. The top 20–30 cm are then the muddy, heavily plowed arable soil.

All terraces are traditionally family-owned. Property rights are subject to the rules of tribal law and are enforced by holy men (Mumbaki).

The rice terraces were declared a national treasure in 1991, and the Ifugao Terrace Commission began to preserve them in 1994. In 1995, UNESCO declared five individual areas a World Heritage Site:

two areas in the municipality of Banaue (Battad and Bangaan),
in the Mayoyao township,
in the municipality of Kiangan (Nacadan)
and in the Hungduan Township.


In 2001, the rice terraces were entered on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger. With the decreasing interest of the Ifugao in their traditional culture, the rice terraces are also increasingly neglected. More and more farmers are only cultivating the area as a show for tourists, with the irrigation systems and flood protection increasingly using concrete structures that take no account of the traditional systems. The central organization of the World Heritage Site via the Terrace Commission also leads to conflicts of interest with the local administrative structures that do not directly benefit from the income from tourism. The Ifugao World Heritage Office, located in the province, has been responsible for the administration since 2006.