MANILA — As part of the ongoing partnership between Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP) Foundation and MISEREOR on “Building the Resiliency of Indigenous Communities on Climate Change Adaptation,” the 4th Adaptation Learning Highway (ALH) was held in the Philippines last March 17-19.
The community visits and interaction with indigenous communities of the Philippines provided the indigenous peoples’ and government representatives from Thailand, Philippines, and Nepal productive sessions of exchange of knowledge and experiences where they gained common insights and lessons about adaptation in the face of climate change. Host organization Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services Inc. (CorDisRDS) facilitated the travel to the communities of Kayan in Tadian and in Sagada, Mt. Province.
Besides the sharing of knowledge and experiences, the three day event that involved 55 participants aimed to strengthen cooperation, collaboration and solidarity between indigenous peoples’ organizations and government agencies, and develop and implement an action plan per country taking off from the Philippine context and experiences in their respective communities.
High spirited and enthusiastic after the long travel from their respective countries and adjoining provinces, the participants were warmly welcomed by host communities East and West Kayan. On Day One, Kayan’s demographics and its present situation were shared by the elders who noted the changing values, sensibilities and waning indigenous principle and practice of ob-obbo (spirit of community cooperation) that go with economic and environmental changes. Stressing the primacy but diminishing appreciation of the indigenous practice especially in times of disaster and calamities, an elder challenged the participants, especially her village mates to revive ob-obbo as the custom of shared responsibility, mutual assistance and cooperation to mitigate the impact of disaster, may this be natural or human-made, or a social malady.
Kayan’s agricultural system is tremendously impacted by climate change that farmers lament the drastic shift in the physical qualities of their land heavily dependent on rainfall and natural water sources. With the altered agricultural calendar, there has been a gradual switch to individual farming where once collective and communal labor was dominant in the entire process of subsistence agriculture. Water shortage caused by longer dry spell has put a stop to collective management of rice fields as individual farmers seek land to till where there is water source for irrigation. Climate change has ended the practice of holding rituals before planting and harvesting. Traditional rice varieties are being replaced by new varieties that are not rain-dependent, but prone to pests, thus needing pesticides that harm the soil. To mitigate this, the locals turn to organic elements.
Discussion on early warning system stirred the participants’ interest as it still provides an opportunity for the community to forge unity and concern for each other and safeguard their village against any form of disaster. The visit to the sugar cane crushing site offered a model of basic technology and human perseverance and synchronized labor to produce semi-processed sugar which is a primary need of the community.
Sharing of experiences by the Thai and Nepalese participants underscored similarities, differences and variations of some agricultural practices, land and resource management, customary laws and community values. Recommendations were offered as alternatives.
A solidarity night that showcased indigenous songs and dances from all the participants and a dinner of local delicacies formally and successfully concluded the Kayan community visit.
From Kayan, the ALH participants travelled to the town of Sagada on Day Two where an interaction with the indigenous elders transpired. There was keen interest in the comparative study of customary laws and state laws in varying degrees of influence and enforcement with regard to resource management and conflict settlements. The question and answer forum clarified further how the dap-ay, which is the physical and socio-political center of a Kankana-ey community, is maintained as the traditional governance system and how it influences the community in the face of changing times and outlook that affect culture and the transfer of indigenous knowledge.
On Day Three, to give the participants a broader perspective and appreciation of the situation of indigenous peoples in some countries in the Asian region, resource persons and experts presented overviews and highlights of experiences of indigenous peoples in their countries: Jill Carino, AIPP Executive Council Member, Philippines; Kulsuwarak Pooyee, Inter-Mountain Peoples Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT), Thailand; Raju Bikram Chamling, NGO-Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NGO-FONIN), Nepal; and Prem Singh Tharu, AIPP, India. Mr. Saranyawit Thodsieng, government representatives from Thailand spoke on “Conflict Resolution in Natural Resource Management and Community Management: How the government of Thailand is involving community in planning and implementing the policy;” and Mr.Rom Raj Laminchhane from Nepal, their Local Adaptation Plan for Action: its implementation, challenges and lessons learned.
Community representatives from Abra, Philippines Ms. Ranetha Barney and Mr. Amado Tal-odan shared their experience in improving palay production; Ms. Nirmala Ghalan Tamang, an indigenous woman leader from Churiyamai village, spoke on Women’s Economic Empowerment in a community in Nepal; an assistant headman from a Pakia village in Thailand, Mr.Wichai Khongamonphanashared shared about his successful venture into agroforestry. These were all enriching contributions to the conversation on the economy, resource management and adaptation of indigenous communities.
The three-day learning highway provided a new map of perspectives by diverse communities to pursue and implement their plans in the face of increasing challenges brought by socio-economic developments. The indigenous peoples’ common experiences, traditional knowledge and innovations are valuable lessons that guide them on their concerted action to building resilient and adaptive communities in the time of climate change. All the sessions of day three were facilitated by Mr. Lakpa Nuri Sherpa and Ms. Pirawan Wongnisithaporn of AIPP. # nordis.net