There is a growing trend for farmers to return to their heritage crops for food security. In Brgy. Gumitan, Marilog district, the Matigsalug women have consciously maintained their indigenous practice in rice seedkeeping, knowing that they possess varieties passed on from past generations. Although this tradition is just for their own subsistence, this practice has enabled them to survive drastic weather changes and pest infestations.
In the hinterland village of India, in the Niyamgiri hill range in southern Orissa, one of the vulnerable tribes called the Dongria Kondhs, once possessed many varieties of heirloom seeds. But like all other tribes in the world, they started losing their self-sufficient food systems when the forest became degraded due to unrestrained logging and to government subsidized high-yielding paddy in the late 1990s. From a diverse indigenous farming system, which is similar to our own, the Dongrias gravitated toward rice monoculture, losing numerous landrace strains in the process. Instead of having enough food to sustain their needs, these farmers found themselves going hungry as they began to farm for commercial purposes.
We find similarities in the situation of subsistence farmers across Asia. Yesterday, the Department of Agriculture in the region said that with the dry spell this year, they are initiating a farmers’ celebration showcasing drought mitigating technologies such as production of Off-Season Mangosteen production, drip irrigation, and other product displays and exhibits of organic vegetables; poultry and livestock.
DA information officer Noel Provido acknowledged the resiliency of the farmers and said the event will feature climate-resilient crops that are alternative staple foods.
The indigenous way of farming has to be sustained and supported at this time of extreme weather changes to learn from the indigenous ways of farming for food sustainability.