Last week our network, Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-Unlad ng Agrikultura, in partnership with the Ateneo de Davao University’s School of Business and Governance organized the National Climate Conference of Farmers, Scientists and NGO’s. It was an occasion to celebrate the anniversary of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, the message of his holiness in protecting our common home—the planet called earth.
Although many of us are familiar with climate change, only a few have a deeper understanding of it. Of course, we cannot expect the misinformed media outfits can accurately discuss climate change.
To cite an example, there is an erratic documentary which featured Filipino actor Dingdong Dantes explaining climate change. The answer of Ms. Zamboanga candidate in the recent Ms. Earth pageant gained ruckus, and was clearly a manifestation for the need of the common people to engage more in discussing climate change. Therefore, I saw the conference as, indeed, timely.
We were honored to have scientists, advocates, farmers and indigenous people as our resource speakers who made the healthy exchange of ideas possible during the conference.
Our national coordinator, Dr. Chito Medina provided the technical details on climate change, emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), ozone depletion and so on. While UP Prof. Kim Gargar of Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao discussed the impacts of climate change in the context of the country’s poverty situation which made our people most vulnerable to the impacts of disasters. Beyond its environmental aspect, climate change is also a political and social concern.
Meanwhile, the current trend in demonizing the progressive organizations provided blatant lies against those people who stood for their rights, amidst the adverse effects of climate change and disasters, from Typhoon Pablo to the brutal dispersal of farmers in Kidapawan City.
The sharing from the Lumads during the conference was enlightening, debunking the malicious accusations that the Lumads and farmers are “lazy” people; and that they are too dependent on the government’s dole-out. In fact, there are communities that are far-advanced in terms of climate resiliency. Allow me to re-share the experience of the Lumad community in White Kulaman, a village in the northern part of Mindanao, which Datu Isidro Indao shared during the conference.
White Kulaman is a lumad- community of Manobos, Kulamanons and Tinunanon tribes in Kitaotao town, province of Bukidnon. This Lumad community cultivated the fertile soils of the Arakan Valley, providing food and the people’s basic needs through generations. Like the fertile soils of the Arakan Valley, the Lumads in White Kulaman have a rich history of building a sustainable community, from the defense of their ancestral lands to the formation of cooperatives and even climate resilient farming system.
The Lumads of White Kulaman defended their lands from development aggressions projects of both local and foreign companies. These include the Japanese Company in 1997, Malaysian Company in 2000, Mosher a banana plantation company in 2010 and recently the mining company Agusan Petroleum (AgPet) owned no less than the President Benigno Aquino III’s uncle, Danding Cojuangco.
Through the years, the Lumads proved their deepest understanding on the importance of their ancestral lands. For them land is life.
Communal culture was still intact with the Lumads in White Kulaman, thus, the concept of cooperative was easy for them to understand and to apply in practice. They established a cooperative in 2005. They provide prices of goods for the community similar to that in the grocers at the urban center 26 kilometers away from their community. With honesty and perseverance, their cooperative grew bigger, requiring them to improve their management skills. The cooperative has served as a venue for them to learn basic accounting and book-keeping.
Along with their cooperative, their communal farms also improved as they acquire farm animals, such as horses and carabaos, goats, cows, pigs and poultry. The Lumad people are hardworking. They barehandedly and painstakingly worked for almost a month to establish a fishpond for Tilapia fish along a tributary.
During the recent drought, the Lumads of White Kulaman were prepared as early as 2014. In fact, they have already grown climate resilient crop such as cassava, yam and taro. Some crops were grown near the streams so that water source can readily be available.
They sold a horse to raise an additional capital for their irrigation project and to purchase additional seeds of upland rice in preparation for the drought, they planted “panuig” (annual upland rice) seeds in August 2014.
However, despite their preparations, El Niño has still affected their community by the second quarter of 2015. They pushed to lobby for rice subsidy from the local government of Kitaotao and succeeded to clinch 1,000 sacks of rice from the local government as immediate relief, while they wait for the time when they can harvest their “panuig”.
But before daybreak on August 26, 2015 the community of White Kulaman was disrupted by around 200 air-borne police and military, arbitrarily arrested community leaders, accusing them as rebels calling their communal farms as “NPA farms”. On that fateful day, the Lumads of White Community evacuated and sought refuge in the lowlands. During that week they were set to harvest their “panuig”. Indao said their cooperative has already purchased new sacks where they would put their harvest.
As I mentioned earlier, climate change is both a social and political concern. Let it be known that in a remote community of tribesmen in Kitaotao Bukidnon people can surpass the challenges of climate change, through climate resilient farming systems. But despite the people’s efforts to adapt to the changing climate, some are still hounded by the prevailing climate of impunity in our society.