By CWEARC (PR)
BAGUIO CITY — The Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC) released its study entitled Cordillera Indigenous Women: Pursuing Indigenous Knowledge for Food Sovereignty. This is the first of a series of reports on this topic with case studies conducted in traditional agricultural communities in Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga.
This first report discusses the indigenous knowledge in agricultural production and resource management pursued by the Gubang and Binongan women of Bangilo, Malibcong and Lenneng, Baay-Licuan in Abra province respectively.
The study shows that the traditional diverse food production with wet rice farming as the main and supported by swidden farming and backyard gardening, gathering of forest and aquatic food resources, have made indigenous women and their families to withstand local food insecurity and rural poverty in some way supported and supported by various remedies like wage labor and seasonal migration.
Locally produced rice is barely enough from 3-6 months. New varieties of rice have been introduced in these communities however, local farmers would still insist on cultivating the traditional varieties as the latter is of much better quality (fuller and heavier for the stomach, aromatic and tastier, poison-free) despite longer maturity period of 1-2 months compared with new varieties. New varieties require agro-chemical inputs which is an additional expense . What local farmers did with new rice varieties is to let these adapt with the local conditions and avoided use of chemical inputs. Support mechanisms such as reciprocal labor (alluyon or pul-as) make work easier particularly for the local women. The study also noted of indigenous resource management systems like the lapat that ensures sustainable and equitable use of forest resources and the use ofbodong (indigenous socio-political institution among the Tingguian, Kalinga and other tribes in the Cordillera that sets bilaterial agreements/relationship of two tribes) for resources in boundaries with their immediate tribal neighbor like in the case of Gubang tribe in Malibcong with the Mabaka tribe of Kalinga.
As the study confirms, indigenous knowledge persists in these communities, it being useful to the peoples’ survival. Factors contributing to the weakening or disintegration of indigenous knowledge are food and economic insecurity or rural poverty, cash economy which encourages commercialisation, consumerism and individualism and aggravated by the climate crisis. Appreciation and continued practice is also influenced by education and religion. While the local women are able to adapt and establish other remedies, the study points out government’s responsibility in supporting these survival practices and strategies like improving irrigation facilities, developing appropriate technology and subsidies for pest control and intensification of traditional rice production.
In the light of heightened situations of food and economic insecurity, climate crisis and rights violations, the study concluded that viable indigenous knowledge has helped communities better survive.
The study urges indigenous peasant women and their communities to strengthen and revive waning indigenous knowledge and practices which are useful in food production and resource sustainability, use these knowledge and practices as well in defending the remaining community resources and in establishing wider unity among indigenous peoples from forces of resource aggression. According to the study, persistence and revitalization of indigenous knowledge has to go beyond individual and sporadic initiatives but has to be pursued at community levels and women as the main practitioners have an important role to play.
Copies of the study was launched on 22 April 2012 during the Baguio Environmental Summit in observance of Earth Day and Cordillera Day in Baguio City. # nordis.net