To own our mountains-A A +A
Monday, September 30, 2013
HOW can you own a thing that you have not internalized as part of your heart and soul? How can you own a mountain, its pleasures and treasures? Unless you become that mountain yourself, your assertions and desires amount to nothing but vandalism.
How could we make a nation of mountain owners own a development project, one that we believe would enhance mountain living? Unless, you are part of that nation that accepted the pain of being its stewards - knowing its pleasures, treasures and the daily tearing it inflicts on your soul, would you expect them to believe in your assertions?
Over the years, development supervisors tell subordinates that unless beneficiaries own-up to a development project, it will fail. The leaders speak with flare about this strategy. I wonder why the talk about the subject in the first place. Overtime, it loses its meaning.
Crucial to the success and attainment of objectives, ownership of a project, its meaning and connection to the lives of a people in a community remain unknown by the project implementers and its beneficiaries.
People judge and learn from leaders not so much from what they say but by what they do. When it comes to development, there is much to say about project strategies and attaining its targets. There is so much to say about a project owned by the people as its interventions emanated, ultimately planned and jointly implemented by the beneficiaries in their quest for enhancing the quality of their living conditions with their supporters and partners. Unless development projects and their interventions connect to the inherent vision of the people about “who they are,” development initiatives fail.
That in my view is why many development interventions in our mountainous region is hardly owned by the people. and why until now, investments have not gained headway in enhancing the lives of the people. The targets which is really crucial to any development endeavour.
Products of a nature-defying generation, we look at development in terms of a plan that comes across as outputs, products and timetables – and a myriad of activities or expenditures, in its totality is actually short-term and artificial intervention. These do not endure as part of “what a community is or the reason-for-being of a people.”
We all know that the Cordillera region is a place populated by indigenous peoples or IPs. What is that about? In nature, a body will always reject a foreign body introduced into its system. Even the transplanting of organs from one body to another takes time and the source and receiver of the organ should be of the same kind. In like manner, we should not entertain development ideas that succeeded in other parts of the archipelago or the globe as true to us. It is not that simple.
A few years ago, I joined DA-RFO-CAR Marilyn Sta. Catalina and her team in an immersion visit in Mompholia, Hingyon, Ifugao during harvest time. We stayed there almost two days and entailed, sleeping, eating and knowing the local folks where they are. By its nature and character, this is quite different from the other field visits that we do. By all means possible, ignore any possibility of “being treated like a member of royalty” on a “state visit.” You live as the people do and that means fetching water or taking a bath on the other side of the mountain if there is no piped-water.
In Mompholia, Director Sta. Catalina encountered some itch on her head and shoulders for carrying harvested palay as the women folks do. She has not done that before or walked on thin paddy banks. It is a universe of its own, relational and caring if you care to ask. So if have not reached that thought, you do well to keep your mouth shut. Unless you understand why people and live as they do, would you promise or entice them a to accept your views on development.
We stayed overnight because harvest start after sunset with rituals led by respected elders. Beyond the butchering of animals for food and sacrifice to the gods, we watched and listened to history, values and morals delivered by the elders in their chants. Parts of the chants was also a lesson in science, about how the people learned to care for the forest as it relates to food production and why they planted the coloured rice in the fields. In Mompholia, individuals, families and clans maintain their own forest, a practice that survived many generations. The rice varieties grown there have not suffered degeneration even if these were planted year in and out for centuries.
No rice has been handled this way, this long and yet their vigour are retained.
Throughout the Cordillera region, several excellent practices remain like the muyong and conservation of heirloom rice – proven practices that make people owners and stewards of the mountain. These practices may defer in name or have variations but are inherent excellent ways of people in community suited to the conditions of the place they live in. If development projects have to be “owned” by the people, it must become relevant to how people perceived “who and what they are.”
Understanding their “reasons for being” starts where they are. It begins our sharing how they feel about current challenges and pressures tearing on their skin, on their psyches.
To sustain the rice terraces as the nation’s tourist destination, development workers must understand how a tribe came to own a mountain of terraced rice fields. It begins with the farmers, not on how funds are to be allocated, utilized and expended to attain targets for rural development like a “Project to Save the Rice Terraces, for instance.
That to me is development in reverse, the reverse of owning a project, even the mountains where we live. If the rice terraces are in danger, it is because the people who own the mountains and the rice fields are abandoning these altogether. Other people benefit from their labours, more than they do. Modern development interventions are “owned” by the people if these are not prescribed but connects, enhances and enriches the rightful beneficiaries were they are and as they are, onwards to a preferred future. Development must not become another pest or disturb the harmonies of local life.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 01, 2013.