The Banaue Rice Terraces (Filipino: Hagdan-hagdang Palayan ng Banawe) are terraces that were carved into the mountains of Banaue, Ifugao, in the Philippines, by the ancestors of the Igorot people. The terraces are occasionally called the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. It is commonly thought that the terraces were built with minimal equipment, largely by hand. The terraces are located approximately 1,500 metres (4,900 feet) above sea level. These are fed by an ancient irrigation system from the rainforests above the terraces. It is said that if the steps were put end to end, it would encircle half of the globe.
Locals up to this day still plant rice and vegetables on the terraces, although more and more younger Ifugaos do not find farming appealing, often opting for the more lucrative hospitality industry generated by the terraces. The result is the gradual erosion of the characteristic “steps”, which require constant reconstruction and care. In 2010, a further problem encountered was drought, with the terraces drying up completely in March of that year.
Anthropologist Otley Beyer has estimated that the terraces are over 2000 years old, but several researchers dispute this and contend that they were built much later. Nevertheless, rice is an ancient ancestral crop of the Philippines, having been carried by Austronesian migrations into the islands since at least 1500 BCE (3500 years ago).
Current threats to the terraces include the giant earthworms (“olang” in Ifugao) of the genus Pheretima or Polypheretima elongata which are blamed for causing damage to the terraces, as well as rodents of the genus Chrotomis mindorensis, and snails.
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