FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PATCH CULTIVATION AND SWIDDEN FARMING PRACTICES
Ernesto Miguel, Ph. D. and Irene Calsiyao
Edited by MARCIANO PAROY JR.
This study was conducted to assess the factors associated with Swidden farming/Patch cultivation practice in Barangay Magao-gao, Pinukpuk. The study was conducted from November 2005-April 2006. It focused mainly on the factors of Socioeconomic, Cultural and Political aspects in the community.
Results of the investigation showed that the factor of culture and tradition is the main reason for patch cultivation in the Barangay of Magao-gao, which obtained the highest mean frequency of 94.6. The socio economic factors on labor, capital and knowledge also showed strong factors.
However, the political factor did not elicit strong reaction from the respondents although there were no clear policies and programs currently implemented in the practice of this system.
Research design used in the study was mainly descriptive in nature where simple random sampling was used to identify respondents. Of the total 109 household members in the Barangay, fifty-five farmers respondent were taken as subject for the study. Structured questionnaire was distributed to the respondents, which was individually explained. The final methods conducted were personal interview to elicit answers from the farmers on matters regarding the outcome of their answers.
The province of Kalinga is located in the northern tip of the Cordillera. Access to the province is difficult, not only because it is mountainous, but also of the poor road condition. The topography of the province likewise restricts mobility within and between the 8 municipalities of the province. There are some barangays, which are still accessible through hiking.
The Province of Kalinga is still governed by their indigenous customs. Since time immemorial, the people of Kalinga have shown strong organizational cohesiveness and solidarity through their indigenous system.
For its agricultural production, the province of Kalinga have only 52% of the total farmlands with irrigation facilities; the remaining 48% of the farmlands are non-irrigated, particularly upper Pinukpuk. Farmers of these non-irrigated farmlands are applying the patch cultivation, or swidden farming.
Magaogao is one of the 23 barangay of Pinukpuk, Kalinga, and considered by the old resident folks as the mother barangay along the Chico River zone. Believed then to be the barter center, it was identified as the first municipal site covering Junction, Mapaco, Camalog, Sukbot, Cawagayan, Pinucoc, and Burayucan – now a part of Balong. Children from the mentioned barangays are the beneficiaries of formal education offered, and it is noteworthy to mention that it was Magaogao that had its first school ahead of the other barangays.
From the seven original Kalinga sub-tribes of the Gamonang tribe occupying the vast and rich 3,666 sq. km. land area, the community has expanded to 649 individuals, now mixed with Ilocanos and Ibanags through affiliations.
What caught the attention and interest of the researcher in the conduct of this study was the practice of patch farming despite some local government efforts in bringing social infrastructures and different associations and cooperatives in the barangay of Magao-gao, aside from its being once the center of communication and barter trade for its neighboring barangays that are now more economically successful.
The study aimed to find out the different factors associated with patch cultivation/swidden farming system practiced by the farmers of Barangay Magao-gao.
1. Identify the different factors associated with patch cultivation/swidden farming in Barangay Magao-gao.
2. Determine which of the different factors are most associated with the practice of patch cultivation /slash and burn.
3. Look into the barangay profile and see its connection with patch cultivation
III. REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Shifting Cultivation, otherwise known as Swidden Farming, is one of the practices of indigenous people living in the upland who are mostly subsistence farmers involved in cultivating food crops in a patch of cleared forest land for a certain period in time.
In shifting cultivation, after a period of continuous cultivation that mostly lasts from 2 to 3 years, the land is left to fallow as farmers shift to other areas to cultivate food crops. The same land will be tilled again after a considerable period has elapsed. The practice contributes to the sustainability of the ecosystem as it renders the land being tilled a period of recovery for it to recoup nutrient lost from a period of continuous cultivation and undergo a period of ecological recovery.
A Kalinga man, as soon as he is matured, desires to start life of his own. The usual and continuous work activities of the Kalinga husband involves preparing the rice terraces and clearing the “uma” for crop planting (Sugguiyao).
The original settlers in the hinterland started cultivating the land areas as soon as they found them. They cleared the forest areas from which they raised rice and vegetables for subsistence requirement.
The research design used in the study was mainly descriptive. Simple random sampling was used to identify the respondents. Of the 109 households living in Sitio Magao-gao, 55 of them or 50.46% were taken as subject of the study. These are the farmering households that practice swidden farming.
A questionnaire was used in gathering data from the respondents. However, this was supplemented by actual field visit of the researchers and observation in the farmers’ field in order to document the sustainability, purposes and major component of the practice. The profile of the Barangay was also included as secondary data for collaboration of findings. Data gathering period was from November 2005 to April 2006. Data gathered in the study were analyzed using frequency, means and percentage.
V. RESULT AND DISCUSSION
Patch Cultivation System
Patch cultivation, common term for “shifting cultivation,” is a deforestation technique used to clear large areas of forest, predominantly in tropical and subtropical areas, for agriculture and other purposes.
In many forested areas in the tropics, the regeneration of mineral component in the ground, after frequent agricultural use, takes a very long time. There is considerable pressure to find new, unused arable land to farm. This land is obtained by clearing expanse of virgin forests and later burning the wood. The formerly used fields are often abandoned or allowed a phase of reforestation before cultivating again; however, it may take years – the most being 7 years for an area to become agriculturally useful once more.
Over time, time huge areas of forests have been destroyed through patch cultivation because an average rural family needs about 25 to 40 hectares of land to be rotated. When the clearing takes place, ashes from the burnt vegetation fertilize the soil.
After 2-3 years of cultivation, the mineral elements of the humus in the soil are extensively exhausted. The growth of weeds increases and further cultivation is unwise and becomes impossible without a new clearing. Depending on the population density of the settlement, the reforested areas are put back into cultivation at intervals. As soon as the forest undergoes serious permanent damage from overuse, it is transformed into sparse landscape of scrub or grassland, which is useful neither as woodland nor arable land. The soil then loses its upper fertile layers.
Productivity of shifting cultivation areas usually declines after the third cropping, hence it is considered to be un-sustainable. This is attributed to factors like erosion, invasion of weeds, and removal of nutrients due to crop production.
The Practice of Patch Cultivation as Farming System in Barangay Magao-gao.
Slash and Burn in Barangay Magao-gao involves several stages of which some are regulated by religious beliefs and practices. Some stages are essential for orderly and effective workmanship, minimizing growth of weeds while controlling pests.
Torba – This is the initial stage of slash and burn where a group of men gathers in the yard of an elder’s house after a good breakfast to do some forecasting on the future of slash and burn farming system. Farmers usually line themselves up in going to the site at around 8:00 o’clock and they usually bang anything noisily to drive away the “idao” – a Kalinga bird for bad omen. They even close their ears so as not to hear the chirping of the bird. Boundaries are indicated and agreed once cutting and felling of big trees started.
Agguma – This means cutting down of shrubs and felling and buckling of trees. After 2 to 3 days when the torba has been devoid of any unfavorable omen, the agguma is started. This is done by the family like the bayanihan system.
Since the dry season occurs in Magao-gao from the month of February to the later part of May, the agguma is usually done from February to the early days of March to allow enough time for the trees and shrubs to dry for burning in the middle of April.
Sogob – Means burn; this stage is usually done on the third week of April when weather is mostly dry and quite warm. Burning is usually done between 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM.
Burning the uma is not simply achieved to facilitate thorough clearing and cleaning of the areas. It is done to minimize weed growth. After burning, the Uma is left for a while or a week before starting with the next stage of Kaingin farming. This is done to minimize the ashes that hinder the farmers to do the next Stage.
Para – Collecting and clearing of unburned tree trunks and their branches for consumption of the farmers in his swidden farming. Tress collected is usually piled.
Kago – Removing stumps of shrubs, cutting and uplifting the superficial roots of trees and uprooting dried vines still sticking from the ground. These are collected and burned to ashes. Although the para is more taxing, the kago occupies the longest period of work in the uma.
Kallid – sweeping the ground; this is done to remove the small twigs, leaves and fine roots on the surface of the ground. This is because they are considered as obstruction to seeding. These loose materials are carried away during heavy rains and are most likely to cover and obstruct seed emergence.
Tallog – uprooting of weeds in the uma, prior to planting in the uma which was exposed for a long duration and was left unattended for awhile. Weeds have started to emerge hence the farmers usually uproot the weeds. It is at this point where the farmers started to plant some vegetable crops particularly those climbing crops at the base of cut trees.
Padong – Fencing. The area of a farmer is usually fenced to protect the crops from animal invasion. The woods that were piled will than be used by the farmers.
Osok – Planting of palay. Two to three days before a farmer plants rice which is the main crop, a bundle of palay previously selected and was put aside intended as planting materials are threshed by foot at home after being properly cleaned. Planting usually starts at the first week of June as the ground by then is soaked from rains. A sharp pointed piece of wood as big as the hand of a farmer is used to bore holes in horizontal and vertical alignment at 8 inches and 1 foot distance depending on the variety used and the slope of the area. By pair, the women usually do the dropping of seeds of five to seven per hole.
Planting should be finished before noon to avoid being overtaken by rain since it would be hard to drop the seed when wet. Seeding usually starts from the bottom up.
Usually after planting, the farmers construct temporary shacks inside the uma as a resting and cooking area. There are instances where the farmers used it as sleeping quarters. The shack is very necessary since it is where the farmers pile up their harvest before it is transported into their respective homes.
Weeding with the use of landok, a small grab-hoe. Weeds are uprooted usually in bayanihan or when they asked their neighbor to help them, and pay them 60 pesos a day. Weeds are not thrown away but instead they are left to decay at the base of the rice and later it becomes as fertilizer. The uma is occasionally visited by the farmers when planting was done.
Barasbas – By September, farmers have to remove the overgrown weeds and twigs from the stump to give way to the sunlight to penetrate the plants. It also a way to drive away the dangao and exposed rats burrows. Farmers have to sleep in their shack and occasionally shout to drive away wild pigs.
Ani – Harvest. Men and women start gathering the panicles using homemade knives especially shaped for the purpose of harvesting upland rice. Harvesting usually starts at the bottom. Bundles of palay are collected and placed in poles hanged to dry. This will be placed later in a shack. It usually takes days for the farmers to harvest an uma – around four days depending on the size of the uma.
Akot – to carry a thing from one place to another. This is the final stage of farmer’s task in doing the patch cultivation and slash and burn practice. Piles of palay are transported from the uma to their respective houses.
Present Situation in Barangay Magao-gao
Magao-gao is one of the 27 barangays of Pinukpuk with an estimated area of 3,666 sq.m. From the seat of the municipality of Pinukpuk, it can be reached at a travel time of 2 hours by motorized vehicles via Poblacion, Tabuk, Kalinga, or through hiking crossing the Chico river during summer. Only 42.2 hectares are utilized from the lower part into agricultural venture for coffee, rice and corn. The Barangay has a total population of 649 with 109 numbers of households. The bigger segment in the population falls under the age bracket of 15-49 years which comprise the labor force of the barangay.
Majority of the people belong to the Kalinga tribe, which composes 75% of the total population. Twenty five (25) are Ilocanos and the rest are Itawes (5%) who are affiliated to the natives of the locality.
With regards to education, 25% have no formal education, 20% had attained elementary level, 20% finished elementary and 22 % had reached the secondary level. Only few, however, have reached college due to poverty in the locality. Students have to go out of the barangay to pursue secondary education.
Economic Situation in Magao-gao
The people living in the community are engaged in farming from which they depend largely for existence. The flat areas of the barangay are developed for palay and corn production Aside from palay and corn, families maintain coffee and fruit plantations. Others are engaged in other livelihood activities such as backyard animal-raising. However, these are on limited scale due to lack of transportation and market outlets.
Resident sell their products in Tabuk, Kalinga – which requires high transportation cost because of the absence of a bridge connecting the Aliog River to Tabuk, Kalinga. Selling price for banana ranges from 40.00 to 60.00 per hundred pieces depending on the variety.
Source of Income
Research in the past revealed that the original Kalinga settlers, driven from their lowland territories by the more powerful ethnic groups, trekked to the mountains in search of a homeland where they could live a peaceful life and establish a community. In their struggle for survival against the harsh realities of life, their first means is to raise the basic staple food (rice) and other crops for a living. They started clearing the forest which is termed as “uma” in Kalinga . This practice remains up to the present as an occupational activity. It requires constant mobility of families within the forested areas in search for additional supply of palay, root crops, legumes, and other vegetable products considered necessary for living and well-being. Extra palay stored for future means a lot to the Kalinga in times of scarcity and is a status symbol besides being used as barter item for other necessities and valuable materials (Sugguiyao).
The findings on income is the highest factor on Swidden Farming in Barangay Magao-gao. The inhabitants’ main reason collaborate with the researchers’ findings. However, after deeper analysis by the researchers on the barangay profile, plus after intensive and persuasive interview, there appears to be a strong indication that the real cause of the farmers’ imposed pressure on the forest resources is migration and population growth. The forested and grassland areas in Barangay Magao-gao used to be pastureland for the original settlers in the barangay. There were only seven families who were not engaged in the practice and who have not indulged themselves in the practice. They have grown into more than 649 individuals or 109 families.
The productive area in the lowland would be impossible to feed the growing population which is still growing – thus, the forest is the best and only way to solve the crisis. As indicated by a United Nations report, widespread poverty is the real situation in the said barangay and environmental degradation is a result of population pressure. The interaction of the two problems influence each other.
As Kalingas seek basic necessities to support themselves, they endeavor cooperatively especially in the practice of swidden farming, not to mention that the practice entails a lot of individuals to perform cutting and felling of big trees.
The Bayanihan system is termed by the Kalinga as “papango.” Kalinga kaingineros always group themselves and decide when to clean the uma up to the harvesting of palay. A more intensive interview was conducted via re-interview of the respondents on labor as big factor in swidden farming to satisfy some doubts of the researchers. It was found out in two ways: first, respondents answered that they can save a lot in swidden farming, wherein labor performed by farmers who do not have uma is much cheaper at a cost of only fifty pesos per task performed in a day. On the other hand, farmers said that cost of labor in the lowland is too high that it would be impossible for them; hence it is more practical in upland farming than in the lowland as manifested by some idle lots in the lowland areas in Barangay Magao-gao since the cost of farming in the lowland is very high.
As presented in the first part of discussion on the socioeconomics of Barangay Magao-gao, the place was left behind in terms of economic prosperity. People are mostly involved in upland farming, there are no other sources of income to augment their meager income from the wealth of the forest.
As soon as a Kalinga man matures and desires to start a life of his own, he sets out to cultivate the uma; only few attained higher education. They learn of the system immediately as they become aware of life. Their parents bring them to the forest farm in performing the swidden farming. They become adept and accustomed in the system; from land clearing to the choice of planting materials, and are also adept in forecasting eventual good harvest.
From simple immersion of the researchers in Barangay Magao-gao, the researchers found out that the farmers are foreign to new techniques of farming particularly in the lowlands where the use of new technologies is widely disseminated by our government.
To the Kalingas, land is considered an indispensable commodity upon which life depends. Considering themselves as the representative and guardian of their natural environment, they look upon their relationship with the land as both social and spiritual. Land to them is a gift of God, freely given- thus man has a right to ownership – for him and his offspring. They clear the forest from which they raise food crops for subsistence requirement. They claim that they are being protected from outside intruders by their exclusive right over the mountain forest .The land, which is already looked upon as a free gift that could be owned individually, is cultivated and made productive by the individual. In the swidden agricultural system in Barangay Magao-gao, the individual does not exercise his right over a piece of land he occupies for the system. He is allowed by some owners as long as he can make it productive, anyway they do leave the place any time the real owner says so.
Cultural Factors Affecting Patch Cultivation
The practice of patch cultivation in the Barangay is part of the culture and tradition learned from their long experience of producing their needs in the remote and fragile upland. Sugguiyao in her book stated that Kaingin or Swidden farming came into existence among the ancient Kalinga settlers as the inevitable imperative to stabilize community life.
They ventured into the system to establish right over their agricultural crops not as stable land owners or of having possession right over specific swidden sites that they put into production. They are mainly there in order to survive, but not to trail those who have been practicing it for years. Although inheritance is executed by Kalinga families, in Magao-gao only those that were utilized for years and have been planted with rare trees are given to their offspring.
Political Factors Affecting Slash and Burn
Although the government has prevailing programs to eliminate this practice, it was found out that these policies are not practiced in Barangay Magao-gao.
It is believed that instead of driving out these farmers in their dappat, government should allow them instead to practice patch farming rather than push them to ultimate poverty.
Government projects, like the Community Resource-Based Management, has made efforts but they have yet to be implemented fully in the said Barangay.
The Barangay council has yet to determine what has to be done since it cannot stop the farmers from practicing it because they cannot find any solution to the farmers’ economic problem. In the final analysis, this factor does not have any significance on the farmers particularly in their swidden farms.
Based on the findings of this study, it was found out that the factor on culture and tradition was the immensely cause of swidden farming in Barangay Magao-gao. However, after an intensive and persuasive interview among the respondents, other factors played a big role in the practice of swidden farming.
Further and deeper analysis of the respondents’ answers, coupled with personal observation revealed that it is an innate characteristics of every Kalinga to indulge in this system. But it is not due to economic reasons presented in the indicators but it is due to the immediate needs of the farmers that have to be addressed.
The Community Based Forest Management of the government, particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, should be implemented in Barangay Magao-gao to educate the farmers on the proper utilization and management of their respective forests.
Van der Ploeg, Masipiquena and Bernardo, the Sierra Madre Mountain Range: Global Relevance, Local Realities.Cagayan Valley Program on Environment and Development Program, 2003
Tags: Tabuk , Kalinga , KASC
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