Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Where Peasants Are Kings: Food Sovereignty in the Tagbanua Traditional Subsistence System

Academic journal article Austrian Journal of South - East Asian Studies

Where Peasants Are Kings: Food Sovereignty in the Tagbanua Traditional Subsistence System

Article excerpt

Food sovereignty is predicated upon the rights of communities to determine culturally meaningful methods of agricultural cultivation in order to ensure the security of their diets and their lifeworld. The article provides an ethnographic study of two Tagbanua indigenous communities in the province of Palawan, Philippines, and analyzes the relation between swidden agriculture and food sovereignty. Traditional swidden farming is an integrative system that defines social relationships, structures a spiritual belief system, and builds a fundament of the Tagbanua identity. As a cultural praxis, it is also central to the manifestation of food sovereignty within the market system, constantly being challenged by internal exigencies - as opportunities for cultural reproduction are limited by changing lifestyles - and external interventions from both private and public sectors. The article discusses how the Tagbanua subsistence cultivation system serves as the main mechanism through which indigenous cultural communities assert their independence from the market system, thus establishing local control over food and food production systems.

Keywords: Indigenous Peoples; Philippines; Poverty; Seed Sovereignty; Subsistence Farming; Swidden Agriculture

Ernährungssouveränität basiert auf den Rechten von Gemeinschaften, kulturell bedeutsame landwirtschaftliche Methoden zu bestimmen, um ihre Ernährungsgewohnheiten und Lebenswelten zu sichern. Der Artikel bietet eine ethnografische Studie von zwei indigenen Gemeinschaften der Tagbanua in der philippinischen Provinz Palawan und analysiert die Beziehung zwischen Brandrodungsackerbau und Ernährungssouveränität. Der traditionelle Brandrodungsackerbau ist ein integratives System, das soziale Beziehungen definiert, spirituelle Glaubenssysteme strukturiert und ein Fundament für die Identität als Tagbanua aufbaut. Als kulturelle Praxis ist er außerdem zentral für die Manifestation von Ernährungssouveränität im Rahmen des Marktsystems, der sowohl durch interne Notwendigkeiten - aufgrund der begrenzten Möglichkeiten für kulturelle Reproduktion durch sich verändernde Lebensstile - als auch durch externe Interventionen des privaten und öffentlichen Sektors herausgefordert wird. Der Artikel diskutiert, wie das Subsistenzsystem der Tagbanua als zentraler Mechanismus dient, durch den indigene kulturelle Gemeinschaften ihre Unabhängigkeit vom Marktsystem geltend machen und dadurch lokale Kontrolle über Nahrungsmittel und Nahrungsmittelproduktion ermöglicht.

Schlagworte: Armut; Brandrodungsackerbau; Indigene Gruppen; Philippinen; Saatgutsouveränität; Subsistenzlandwirtschaft


In the Philippines, rice policy and public investment on agriculture had been mostly dedicated to lowland, irrigated areas, whereas upland rice ecosystems have largely been left untouched. Consequently, upland farmers relied solely on traditional cultivation methods and varieties to maintain rice production (Dayanghirang, 2011). As rice production pressures increase with population growth, rice exports, the loss of agrarian land to real estate development, and the invariable poverty of farmers, policymakers have been turning their attention to the uplands. This article is an outcome of a research and development project that took place in the frame of the Upland Rice Development Program (URDP), which was launched in 2011 and draws on the Palayamanan Systems Approach1 and the integration of traditional agricultural systems. In particular, it aimed at sustaining the seed sources for traditional upland rice varieties through the establishment of community seed banks and the promotion of sustainable farming practices. The program has focused its efforts on the eradication of swidden or slash-and-burn agriculture (Philippine Rice Research Institute, 2011) because it is perceived as unsustainable given the rapidly growing population (Rambo, 2009; Suarez & Sajise, 2010). National policy promulgated by programs like the URDP envisions a future for upland farmers driven by growth in production, preferably through modernization and mechanization (Corong & Cororaton, 2005). …

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