Even during the precolonial period, indigenous communities in the country are no strangers to sustainable farming as it is in harmony with nature and reflected in their collective traditions and culture. Multi-cropping, where other varieties of rice, crop, and medicinal plants are planted side by side, has long been practiced by indigenous communities as it is the key element to maintain and sustain their diverse diet, health, and cultural narratives.
But during the 60s, the onset of the Green Revolution implemented by the late President Marcos Sr. incapacitated farmers, particularly indigenous farmers and their traditional farming methods by treating them as passive recipients of agricultural projects that were mostly foreign and profit-maximizing and above all environmentally destructive and unsustainable.
Today, indigenous farming communities still bear the brunt of these negative consequences implemented by the duty-bearers that are supposedly tasked in upholding their right to self determination- be it in economic decisions, agricultural production, and management of their ancestral domains.
With the looming catastrophe brought by climate change slowly unraveling in front of us and becoming further indeniable, indigenous communities found themselves in a paradoxical position dictated by big corporations hiding under the guise of “corporate responsibility” to the environment. Indigenous communities who are the first to bear the consequences of climate change navigate themselves around the band-aid solutions to climate change by these “green” corporations ultimately getting the short end of the stick when it comes to genuine rural development.
In Panay, nine Tumandok farmers who were members of MASIPAG staunchly opposing the highly environmentally destructive construction of the Jalaur Mega Dam in Iloilo were massacred. In Quezon, Dumagat farmers experience the continuous violation of their right to land with the construction of Kaliwa Dam within their ancestral domain.
Lumad farmers in Davao Occidental on the other hand can no longer practice multi-cropping since the planted genetically modified crops endorsed by PhiliRice and IRRI under the rationale of food security prevents local and indigenous crops from sprouting. Moreover, the rampant militarization in their ancestral lands where state agents act as private security guards of private developers and companies who want to plunder their resources such as the Tampakan open pit mining.
In Northern Luzon, indigenous Ifugao rice Balatinaw, a key ingredient in making many heritage foods in the indigenous community, is facing extinction with the proliferation of GMO rice seeds in the area.
With the observance of International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples that aims to spread the protection and promotion of the rights of the indigenous people, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko Para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG) enjoins everyone in urging duty-bearers of our country to genuinely uphold the indigenous people’s right to self-determination and to stop all forms of development aggression in the ancestral lands.