As part of its effort to learn from the ground up, the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty held its first Asia Convening Workshop in Banaue, a town of rice terraces of the Cordillera Region in The Philippines, from 23 to 28 January 2012. Organized and hosted by Tebtebba, the meeting brought together 43 people among scientists, researchers, NGOs and government staff from 13 countries, with 17 indigenous communities represented. Participants exchanged ideas on how to ensure food sovereignty, conserve and enhance agrobiodiversity and protect local food systems, in accordance with the cultural practices and worldviews of indigenous peoples, including rotational cultivation and pastoralism. Their discussions resulted in the joint drafting of the Banaue Declaration, available below.
Participants reiterated the continuing importance and relevance of shifting cultivation in food security and the sustainable livelihood practices of millions of indigenous peoples and its role in biodiversity conservation. Regretting the lack of understanding of many mainstream development workers, researchers and policy makers of the value of shifting cultivation, participants lauded rotational agriculture as a flexible, dynamic, low carbon emitting, energy efficient and sustainable production system that also enhances resistance to pests and diseases. Acknowledging the wide diversity and evolving nature of shifting cultivation practices in Asia, participants expressed concerns that such systems, and their associated foodways, will be marginalised and potentially lost unless indigenous communities are freed from repressive policy directives and given the power to make their own culturally appropriate decisions regarding their agricultural practices.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Executive Director of Tebtebba and former Chair of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, says “In this new millennium, Indigenous Peoples will play a significant role in providing solutions to the global crisis in terms of environment, natural resource management and sustainability. That is why the value of their knowledge system must be internationally acknowledged”. On this basis, participants agreed on the need to promote the dialogue between science and traditional knowledge.
Participants discussed lessons learnt and good practices, particularly those resulting from initiatives at the grassroots level. Over the last two years the Indigenous Partnership – with the support from The Christensen Fund and Slow Food – promoted local food festivals, which were recognized as effective entry points to share ideas, identify agrobiodiversity knowledge holders as well as to initiate networks of interested indigenous communities. It was noted that these initiatives provide excellent opportunities to document agrobiodiversity and these should not be lost. Forthcoming food festivals will prove good occasion to strengthen this approach.