T'Boli indigenous community faces an uncertain future

July 5, 2014
by 
Danny Gillis, Animator for the Atlantic Provinces

A group of twelve Development and Peace members from the Prairies and the Atlantic provinces, accompanied by two staff members, are on a solidarity trip to the Philippines. They will be visiting eight Development and Peace partners and some of their projects in the capital city of Manila, in southern Mindanao and on the islands of Leyte and Samar – where Yolanda (the Filipino name for Typhoon Haiyan) first made landfall on Nov. 8 last year. We invite you to follow their adventures and learnings as they travel through the Philippines for the next two weeks.

Development and Peace supports the agrarian reform program of the Catholic bishops’ National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA-Caritas Philippines), which in turn supports numerous farming and ecological projects such as those promoted by the Social Action Centre of the Diocese of Marbel on the island of Mindanao. Our group visited Marbel for two days this week to learn about the work of the Social Action Centre (SAC).

During a two-hour hike up a mountainside to visit the indigenous village of Dungkoong, we had a chance to visit a demonstration farm supported by the SAC. The farm is located on hilly terrain exactly like the land which area farmers own. On it a variety of staple food crops, including upland rice and cassava, are grown alongside vegetables, peanuts and numerous fruit trees: coconut, mango, cacao among others. Smaller trees and shrubs like banana, rubber and palm are planted to stop hillside erosion and begin the process of terracing. The farm’s tree nursery is growing enough native species of trees to plant 70 hectares a year. Farmers come to the demo farm to learn about intercropping and contour farming techniques and can also earn a wage by planting and caring for saplings from the tree nursery.

Upon reaching Dungkoong we were met by musicians, dancers and villagers who had come out to welcome their Canadian visitors. The village is populated by people of the T’boli indigenous tribe. During the Marcos dictatorship, the forests of Marbel were cut down and the timber sold to foreign countries for profit to those close to the government.  The people who suffered the most from this destruction were the indigenous people of Mindanao.

With the destruction of their forests, the T’boli can no longer rely on what was their traditional hunting and gathering lifestyle. They have to make the great leap into an agricultural economy if they hope to keep their land and make it productive. The SAC staff who accompanied us on our climb have just recently started working with the people of Dungkoong, assessing their problems and working with them to find solutions.

In a community meeting, the community leaders explained that one of their greatest problems is water supply. Their drinking water travels two kilometres from a mountain spring through a 1-inch diameter hose to arrive at an uncovered reservoir. They say if they could acquire 2-inch gauge tubing and a more sanitary reservoir system, their water problems would be solved. However, a project proposal submitted to the government has already been turned down.

With the help of the SAC and the continued support of Development and Peace, we hope that the T’boli people of Dungkoong can live in dignity and face their future with confidence.