Ayyew-Ubbo-Vermiculture: Indigenous women’s augment mechanism


EDITOR’S NOTE: In support to the people’s campaign to reduce, recycle, reuse our own waste; your newspaper, as of this issue is running a series of articles on efforts or how a group of organized women in Baguio City are contributing to this endeavor and somehow are also putting their penny’s worth into mitigating the effects of climate change in the wider global environmental situation. This is the third article of an 11 part series. With minor editing these articles are reprinted from the Chaneg March 2015 Special Issue with the permission of Chaneg, the official publication of the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC).

The intensifying whip of poverty among urban poor women and their families in Baguio City, necessitates a self-driven and sustainable model for economic augment that blends viable indigenous practices and an appropriate technology. This model is called ayyew-ubbo-vermiculture that evolved from a joint conceptualizing of SAMAKANA, organizations of urban poor women in Baguio and the Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC).

It is an enhancement of earlier initiatives of CWEARC and SAMAKANA employing vermiculture since 2006. Integrating the indigenous practice of ayyew to the vermiculture technology began in 2009. In 2012, the innovation was enhanced further with ubbo, another indigenous support mechanism.

Resilience in a harsh economic landscape

Indigenous women who migrated from interior villages of the Cordillera region at different times end up in urban poor communities. They seek every possible way to survive, engaging in physically-draining economic activities, from dawn to late evening. They go home with minds in turmoil, not only because of income uncertainty but by the threat of shelter demolition.

Most of indigenous women migrants to Baguio City end up as ambulant vendors of fruits and vegetables. They position themselves in the City’s public places as they cannot afford the rent of a market stall. The City’s Anti-Peddling Law treat ambulant vendors as illegal and public eyesores hence are always driven with force by the City’s Public Order and Safety Division (POSD). Some urban poor women engage into pig raising for cultural and economic reasons. The concern for sanitation however became a hindrance for pig raisers. The City’s health and sanitation office has become more stringent on household level pig-raising in the City. This hinders indigenous households in urban poor communities from earning additional income and in their right to pursue their indigenous knowledge and practices which form part of their integrity and dignity as a distinct people. Every possible way to tide-over their families is curtailed.

Indigenous women who migrated from interior communities in the Cordillera bring along their good practices in the ili (villages). Among these practices are ayyew and ubbo. These practices are significantly helping them survive the urban economic landscape.


Ayyew is an indigenous practice among Igorots of Mountain Province that frowns on being wasteful. It promotes the practice of sharing, impresses concern for resources and care for Mother Earth hence encouraging prolonged use of resources through recycling and re-using. It is a value that promotes a need-based utilization of resources and a viable form of waste reduction. Food wastes serve as forage for domestic animals. Biodegradable wastes including animal manure, serve as fertilizer. Non-biodegradables are recycled as containers, plant receptacles, rugs, and sent to the villages to serve as scarecrows. On the other hand, outgrown clothing, shoes, school supplies, among others are shared to neighbours, relatives, and other families who still need the items. The concept or value of ayyew is a common practice of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera with their own respective terms. In some parts of Ifugao, they call it ayyuka; some tribes in Kalinga call it aynga or keynga; the Ibaloys of Benguet call it kasefa.


Ubbo is a traditional support system among Kankanaeys in Mountain Province of pooling and reciprocating labor to hasten the work in the whole cycle of agricultural production. Again, it is a common practice of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera which is referred as ugfo, innabuyog, abbuyog, alluyon and baddang. .


Vermiculture is the utilization of worms like the “African night crawlers” that has a voracious characteristic of feeding on biodegradable wastes. They convert the said wastes into complete fertilizer and pesticides.

Indigenous practices at work in the City

In an urban landscape where economic survival is harsh for rural migrants, the practice of ayyew serves as a socio-economic survival. Urban poor women roam in the city public market, and trading posts to collect fruit and vegetable wastes. Pig raisers bid for food wastes from restaurants and food centers. They buy and sell old newspapers, empty bottles, and other scrap materials. The practice of ayyew helps reduce the City’s wastes. Unfortunately, this practice remains invisible to the City government.

Figures from the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) states that Baguio City’s solid waste generation ranges from 120-160 tons daily in 2012; 40% of it are biodegradable and kitchen wastes, 26% are recyclables, and 34% are residuals. The city government is spending 20 million pesos monthly for hauling the wastes to the lowlands. Without ayyew at work in the city by the migrant women, the accumulated wastes can exceed the CEPMO figures.

The Ayyew-Ubbo-Vermiculture model

The project entitled “Enhancing the Practice of Indigenous Knowledge in Support to Socio-Economic Survival of Indigenous Women in the Urban Setting” brought viability of an augment mechanism of SAMAKANA. CWEARC led the project in collaboration with SAMAKANA and Innabuyog, alliance of indigenous women’s organizations in the Cordillera region. The goal is a strengthened appreciation of indigenous knowledge particularly the practice of ayyew and ubbo among indigenous women in urban poor communities in support of their economic survival. The success is measured by the adoption of this self-driven initiative at the barangay level. The project aims to incorporate the initiative with the barangay waste management program. Specific measures of success are the number of practitioners, the volume of vegetable needs augmented by families of practitioners and support mobilized from community stakeholders.

In order to achieve the objectives, the project was designed to conduct orientation on household waste management using the alternative model; conduct of a series of trainings on vermiculture and backyard gardening; setting up of collective gardens; dispersal of vermi worms; sharing of insightful stories through dialogues, study visits, practitioners assembly and advocating the practice with barangay local government units and other community stakeholders. At the end of the project is a publication of good practices and lessons learned that will serve as an advocacy tool.

The initiative got a two-year support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) through their Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF) from June 2012 to 2014. The model was piloted in three indigenous women groups, in two urban poor communities in Baguio namely, Purok 27, San Carlos, Irisan and Pinget, and Ambiong, a farming community in La Trinidad, Benguet. #nordis.net

Click here for first part (Ayyew: Her initiative in support to socio-economic survival and waste management)
Click here for the second part (Ayyew: Learning and innovating from actual practice)

Click here for next part (Ayyew: Up close with Ambiong practitioners)

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