Terracing: An Environment-Friendly Approach to Agriculture
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Terracing: An Environment-Friendly Approach to Agriculture

Terracing, an environment-friendly agricultural approach, is demonstrated best in the Philippines' rice terraces. It is well known as one of the wonders of the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Learn more about this wonderful work of man which is in harmony with nature.

Terracing has been a way of life of the farmers in Banawe, Ifugao in the Philippines. This farming method has evolved through time as an adaptation to a mountainous geography, and it is a sustainable farming technique that persisted even to the current generation.

What Is Terracing?

Terracing is a system of agriculture commonly practiced in mountainous places. It is a very effective soil conservation practice applied by farmers to prevent runoff of nutrients from the soil. The soil is leveled and supported at the slopes by a dam of stones or mud to prevent water from flowing freely downhill. 

The common crop planted in the terraces is rice. The steps in rice farming include paddy preparation, planting, transplanting, growing, harvesting, and preparing the grain. During the early stages/steps, rice requires adequate amount of water. In each of the terraces, water is contained by the pioneers of terrace farming through painstaking work of carving the mountains to build a complex system of dams, sluizes, channels and bamboo pipes that keep the whole groups of terraces adequately flooded. This is the case of the Banaue rice terraces in the Philippines, a 2000-year old complex of terraces known as the eighth wonder of the world.

Banaue Rice Terraces

Banaue rice terraces in the Philippines.

Eighth Wonder of the World

What makes the Banaue rice terraces a world wonder? Just like the remarkable build of China's great wall, the complex and extensive system of terraces was built largely by hand by the early ancestors of the indigenous people in the Philippines. Allegedly, if the steps are put end to end, it would encircle half the globe.

It took a long time and industry to build the structures high up in the mountains. The terraces are approximately 1,500 meters or 5,000 feet above sea level and cover 10,360 square kilometers or 4,000 square miles of mountainside. The rice terraces are fed by water from well preserved forests.

The structures can still be found in the provinces of Kalinga, Apayao, Benguet, Mountain Province and Ifugao, and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old farmers plant rice and vegetables on the terraces because an increasing number of Ifugaos do not find farming an appealing occupation. They choose to provide hospitality services to tourists wanting to see the place. The quality of the terraces is gradually declining, made much worse by the recent El Niño, that brought drought to the place.

Terracing as a sustainable form of agriculture is gradually deteriorating due to changing values of people as a result of modernization. Aside from this phenomenon, the growing effects of global climate change and deforestation worsen its condition. It would take a great deal of effort and reshaping of values to bring back the great wonder that man created in trying to address his need for food.


National Geographic Society, 2008. Lesson plans: the rhythm of rice production. Retrieved on April 23, 2010 at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/lessons/15/gk2/rhythmrice.html.

Wikipedia, 2010. Banaue rice terraces. Retrieved on April 23, 2010 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banaue_Rice_Terraces.

World Heritage Site, 2010. Rice terraces of the Philippine cordilleras. Retrieved on April 23, 2010 at http://www.worldheritagesite.org/sites/riceterracescordilleras.html.

©2010 April 23 Patrick A. Regoniel Terracing: An Environment-Friendly Agricultural Approach

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Comments (1)

Fabulous article, the picture of the Banaue terrace is amazing ! We have a smaller version of that in Bengal and Assam but not as intricate as this one...