by Danica Marie Supnet

Editor’s Note: Danica Supnet is the lead climate policy analyst of ICSC. She was in Ifugao with colleagues from the Climate Finance Team on March 2-4, 2021 to conduct focus group discussions with local stakeholders. The activity is part of the Multi-Actor Partnership (MAP) initiative, aimed at enabling more effective climate and disaster risk financing and insurance responses. Apart from the Philippines, MAP covers Laos, Sri Lanka, Malawi, Madagascar, Senegal, and the Caribbean.

This is the second of three blogs on the MAP fieldwork. The first blog can be accessed here.

While we were in Ifugao, my teammates and I had one goal in mind — to identify steps to set up MAP in the Philippines by working closely with local communities and learning about their experiences on the ground.

Banaue, Ifugao is one of the areas covered by the local focus group discussions we are conducting in the Cordillera Administrative Region under MAP, focusing on the agriculture sector. We met with local officials of Barangay Uhaj and the Niwakat Puntanoman People’s Organization. This activity was organized by our partners from the Benguet State University (BSU) and Pansigedan Advocacy Cooperative (PAC).

Photo (c) Danica Supnet/ICSC

Partnerships like these can easily be formalized on paper, but there are other aspects that are vital to take into consideration, including local behaviors and practices.

Culture and family are priceless possessions that Cordillerans take pride in, and these values are where their concept of adaptation and risk management, more so their perspective on climate and disaster risk finance insurance (CDRFI), are rooted in. CDRFI is a risk transfer mechanism that deals with financial loss and damages wrought by climate change and disaster impacts. Through MAP, we hope to financially protect Cordillerans and more communities at the frontlines.

Ifugaos mostly work in the agriculture sector as farmers of their own lands or shared within the community. The Ifugao province, especially the town of Banaue, is known for its rice terraces that are mainly planted with heirloom rice and harvested only once a year. At times, to augment their income, the farmers also engage in commercial farming and gardening (vegetable planting), wood carving and blacksmithing. They are well aware of climate and disaster risks; as they say, the weather is always a consideration when planting. Typhoons destroy their farmlands. Heavy and continuous rainfall massively affects soil capacity to absorb run-off water, stalling the growth of crops.

As our conversations with community members continued over coffee and rice cakes, they shared more interesting details of their practices in adapting to climate and disaster risks:

Photo (c) Danica Supnet/ICSC

1. Referring to the “bayanihan” system of the Ifugaos and their cooperative labor groups, local concepts “uggbu” and “baddang” show that a collective and community effort is key to the community’s adaptation practices.
“Uggbu” and “baddang” translate to the very essence of forming a multi-actor partnership in their own perspective. As a post-disaster intervention, the whole community offers to help its affected members – it can be in the form of clearing blocked roads, destroyed houses and eroded farmlands – which is always paid back in the form of goods and assurance that help is always there when another member is in need. As part of their household preparation for impending disasters, families store goods that will not only cover the needs of their household, but provide for other community members. They store food such as rice, sweet potatoes, and native preserved meat called “kiniing”.

Photo (c) Danica Supnet/ICSC

2. Although the community seems mostly patriarchal, the men emphasized that women should not be boxed within their homes.
As they say, women have more roles in the rice fields than men – they are leaders in planting and harvesting, as well as cleaning and drying of crops, while men are usually in charge of cutting the crops. Unpaid care work is not a problem for Ifugaos because they have solidarity within their families and community. “We work together and divide roles whether cooking, maintaining the households, and taking care of the children,” they shared. In times of disasters, and when facing life and death situations, the community responds together regardless of gender.

3. In terms of financial needs, Ifugaos value family history and hardships more than monetary value.
Those of us living in urban areas may wonder if economically, Ifugaos’ income are enough to support the needs of their family and the community, especially during tough times. They have their jars, gangsa or gongs, and rice fields that they inherit and which they will also pass on to future generations. In times of financial difficulty, they do not intend to sell these “assets” despite their monetary value. They value the hardships of their ancestors in acquiring these possessions — “why sell these if our ancestors didn’t?”. They turn to their relatives for financial support and they have a means of saving finances through community cooperatives. In times of disasters, government response is expected, but they do not mainly rely on these programs. Often, the programs are observed to be inaccessible due to tedious documentary requirements. Morever, some programs become available too late to make a positive impact (months, even years after the disaster).

4. The essence of their MAP are interventions and coping strategies that are rooted in culture and the traditions they share within families and their community.
The locals we met had not accessed any form of CDRFI products, even in one of its most common forms – crop insurance. They say that they are open to accessing these interventions and requested to have a set of guidelines, as well as monitoring and evaluation systems where the providers will be present from the beginning up to the end. In their experience, this is the best way of learning and appreciating more of these new interventions. These are local experiences that are least discussed, or worse, least considered when developing risk management interventions in the national context.

Indigenous knowledge and practices are crucial in addressing the negative impacts of global concerns, including climate change. These can support and validate hard scientific facts and evidences, which are critical in developing climate strategies and plans.

This is exactly what we learned during our stay in Banaue and in our interactions with the community. Ifugao knowledge and practices should be perceived as an opportunity to develop new or enhance existing CDRFI programs to address the issues of appropriateness, access, and affordability of risk transfer mechanisms. These are significant elements in the climate governance and finance agenda that we hope to develop for MAP in the Philippines.

Photo (c) Danica Supnet/ICSC