Feed 10,000 people in one month-this is the goal of Datu Victorino Saway of the Talaandig Tribe of Bukidnon.

Known as “Datu Vic” or “Datu Migketay” in his community, he is an elder and leader of the Talaandig at Lantapan, Bukidnon. After 20 years of leadership, he simply came up with a realization that true governance is about securing food sovereignty. He expounds by saying that one cannot be called a leader if you cannot feed your people. To stay true to this ideal, he pledges to plant and harvest food with his own hands in a project dubbed as “Feed 10,000 Journey”.

The “Feed 10,000 Journey” was officially launched last 14th of October 2014 as part of their celebration of Talaandig Day and Indigenous People’s Month. He describes this effort as revolutionary as it aims to stand against conventional farming and food systems, which he brandishes as “instruments of colonization.” Indigenous communities often experience oppression as giant, multinational companies encroach on their ancestral domains, converting vast and rich forest-ecosystems into open monocropped fields. Dependency on these profit-driven entities for subsistence removes not only our connection to our land but to some extent, our identity as a nation.

The “Feed 10,000 Journey” is based on these principles:  

Food for people, not profit – One of the premises of this effort is that one toils the land for food and not for profit. Supporting conventional farming systems go against this by feeding the economy that profit s from farmers’ hard earned yield. Organizations, local government officials and individuals who pledged and committed to support this would need to produce and harvest food for their community-what Datu Migketay refers to as the community which we are accountable for. To ensure the integrity of one’s work, he suggests that one uses no or the least capital, building on Filipino’s ingenuity and innovativeness. 

Valuing farmers – being a farmer is not an easy task. It requires labor, perseverance and commitment. By committing to a 2-hour farming duty so that you can achieve your target, you live knowing that you are contributing to the nourishment of your community. Why only 2 hours? He believes in work and life balance, saying that for one to live in dignity he or she needs to have ample time to do other activities that contributes to his or her well-being. 

Promoting diversity – Breaking away from the traditional concepts and images of farms and farming by re-introducing smallholder farming. This constitutes the practice of inter- and multi-cropping combined with the promotion of local and indigenous seeds. It’s also based on involving your most immediate community: your family. In this way, it respects the biological diversity of local ecosystems at the same time, creating a practice that involves everyone. 

Building knowledge and skills – Datu Migketay stresses the need to dig deeper in our lumad na kaalaman or local knowledge. He emphasizes that techniques should build on our tradition and culture. Technology that intends to dismiss or break this should not be introduced in the community. 

Working with nature – So much of their identity is rooted in in their beliefs to the existence of highest God called Magbayaya and the spirits that guard and protect nature. These beliefs are engraved even in their traditional farming cycle. When they establish a farm, they need to perform Talabugta. During harvesting, it is the Ibabasuk ritual. For thanksgiving, they perform Pamamuhandi (pasasalamat). As farming clearly is an important aspect of Talaandig’s life, it is integral that it’s free from oppressive and invasive technologies such as abono or chemical inputs and genetically modified organisms which undermines their belief system. 

Joan Meris is with the mass mobilization department at Greenpeace Southeast Asia-Philippines

*Photos courtesy of Kawalowan Daulug Lleses Saway