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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 102-131

From Opportunism to Resource Management: Adaptation and the Emergence of Environmental Conservation among Indigenous Swidden Cultivators on Mindoro Island, Philippines

International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), No 3, Soi 14, Sookasasem Road, Tambon Patan, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai, 50300, Thailand

Correspondence Address:
Christian Erni
No 3, Soi 14, Sookasasem Road, Tambon Patan, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai, 50300
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Date of Web Publication26-Jun-2009


This article presents the results of a long-term study of adaptive processes among Buhid swidden communities on Mindoro Island in the Phil­ippines. Departing from a discussion of regional variations in adaptive sys­tems, it describes the ongoing technological and institutional transformation of the resource use system in response to increasing scarcity resulting from unsustainable practices under conditions of a virtually open access to re­sources. Through a process of redefining and specifying resource ownership and use rights, the emerging system has come to rest on a distinction between individually and communally owned resources. The introduction of new crop­ping systems and the simultaneous individualisation of swidden land owner­ship led to a more intensive and sustainable land use. While some interior communities have eventually also developed resource management regimes for common property resources, Buhid communities closer to the lowlands are still grappling with the difficulties of establishing and enforcing common property regimes in a context of resource competition with the more powerful migrant settler society. Thus, the article will on the one hand identify condi­tions for and factors at play in the successful institutional and technological transformation found in some communities, and on the other hand it will point at the underlying causes of the prevailing difficulties to maintain common property management, as they are found in other communities.

Keywords: swidden farming, privatisation, common property resources, land rights, ancestral domain

How to cite this article:
Erni C. From Opportunism to Resource Management: Adaptation and the Emergence of Environmental Conservation among Indigenous Swidden Cultivators on Mindoro Island, Philippines. Conservat Soc 2006;4:102-31

How to cite this URL:
Erni C. From Opportunism to Resource Management: Adaptation and the Emergence of Environmental Conservation among Indigenous Swidden Cultivators on Mindoro Island, Philippines. Conservat Soc [serial online] 2006 [cited 2020 Mar 29];4:102-31. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2006/4/1/102/49260

   Introduction Top

THIRTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO, Garret Hardin's article 'The Tragedy of the Com­mons' triggered a still ongoing debate on the nature of common property re­source management. Hardin basically claimed that due to the logic of individual profit-maximising underlying human behaviour, any group of re­source users is trapped in a dilemma that inevitably leads to the degradation, the 'tragedy' of the commons. He concludes his article by stating: '…the commons, if justifiable at all, is justifiable only under conditions of low­population density. As the human population has increased, the commons has had to be abandoned in one aspect after another' (Hardin 1968: 1248). Coer­cive measures enforced by the state or, where possible (like with real estates and other material goods) by privatisation, are presented as the only solutions (ibid.). As Dietz et al. (2003: 1907) have pointed out, Hardin's work has since been proven to be an oversimplification. They write: 'He missed the point that many social groups … have struggled successfully against threats of resource degradation by developing and maintaining self-governing institutions…. Al­though these institutions have not always succeeded, neither have Hardin's preferred alternatives of private or state ownership'.

This article is about such a struggle. It examines how indigenous swidden farming communities in the uplands of Mindoro coped with increasing re­source scarcity brought about by unsustainable land and resource use-a situation that appears to have resulted from an open access situation much like in Hardin's fictive example. Unlike Hardin's conclusion, I argue that the Bu­hid communities managed to bring about institutional changes necessary for a more sustainable land use that did not rest on comprehensive privatisation. Though these changes did include the privatisation of swidden land, other re­sources, such as forests, have become subject to common property manage­ment regimes. While the article will identify conditions for and factors at play in this successful institutional and technological transformation, it will also point at the prevailing difficulties among other Buhid communities' attempts to maintain their commons.

The Buhid of the Upper Fay Valley in Mindoro

The Buhid are one of the six indigenous ethno-linguistic groups of Mindoro island that are generally referred to by the generic term 'Mangyan'. [1] The Bu­hid are an egalitarian segmentary society with small kinship-based communi­ties of only a few (in the research area of the interior an average of nine) who traditionally live in small hamlets or single households dispersed over their mountainous territories. A community refers to its territory as banwknan (the place where one resides) whose boundaries today are fairly well defined. There are 116 such communities with a total population of about 12,000 peo­ple (IPEx/Anthrowatch 2005: 16). The territory delineated as the Ancestral Domain of the Buhid covers 94,000 ha in 13 municipalities of both provinces of the island, i.e. Oriental and Occidental Mindoro (Inter-Peoples' (IPEX)/ Anthropology Watch (Anthrowatch) 2005: 16). [2]

The Upper Fay Valley, where this study was conducted, is located in the centre of the Buhid territory at an elevation between 450 and 1200 m above sea level. The Fay creek [3] is a tributary of the Hayakyan River, which drains west into the Bisanga river. Due to its location close to the watershed separat­ing eastern and western Mindoro, the Upper Fay Valley lies climatically in a transitory area between the marked seasonal climate of Western Mindoro with its 5 to 6 month long dry season and the almost permanently moist climate of Oriental Mindoro.

The study was done during three months in 1985, nine months in 1989 and shorter visits in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002 and 2004. The main research was conducted among nine communities in the Upper Fay Valley. In 1989, they had a total population of 282 persons. Regular visits were made to neighbouring valleys and several weeks were spent during repeated visits to Fanuban community in the Siyangi area in the eastern foothills, to which many families at the Fay have kinship relationships and which is important as an entry point to lowland markets and traders.

Fields and Forests: The Environment

The Fay Valley has been continuously settled for at least 170 years. [4] More than seven generations of Buhid swidden cultivators have transformed the natural vegetation, which originally consisted of moist upland evergreen for­est on the higher and the semi-deciduous forest on the lower reaches of the Fay. Today, primary forests are confined to the headwaters of the Fay and its northern tributaries while the Upper Fay Valley is covered by a mosaic of mostly anthropogenic vegetation, including fields, agroforests, young fallow, secondary forest, patches of residual mature forest, and Miscanthus (M. sinen­sis) and Imperata grasslands.

The Buhid distinguish conceptually between entirely man-made vegetation, i.e. a new swidden field (called nkmay) consisting mainly of domesticated an­nual plants, and vegetation where human control is less and wild or perennial plants dominate. The latter is generally referred to as tklun. The nkmay is only a short-lived, transitory stage in a process of plant succession induced and channeled by humans. As soon as the cereal crop in a new swidden is har­vested and the field is dominated by root crops and other cultigens, it is al­ready classified as tklun. [ 5] All subsequent stages including fallow vegetation up to that of an old, mature secondary forest are classified as tklun. It concep­tually marks the onset of the gradual takeover of the plot by natural vegeta­tion. But tklun cannot be simply equated with 'forest' as reported from other indigenous groups in the region (Novellino 1999). Since recent times, tklun are often also not stages in a largely natural plant succession but are much more heavily manipulated and, through intensive planting of perennial domes­ticates, turned into agroforests. [6] Primary forests are not referred to as tklun, but as furu hlyo (furu = forest, hlyo = wood). [7]

Once the transformation of the original vegetation has occurred, the respec­tive area will be referred to as tklun even after decades of fallow when the secondary forest has become mature and bears no sign of human interference anymore. For an outsider such a forest may be hardly distinguishable from a primary forest. However, tklun rarely reach that stage and are generally char­acterised by a number of plants introduced by humans. Their share in the total biomass and the number of domesticated species found on the plot decreases with increasing age of the vegetation, except for when human intervention continues and a community of plants is established which is dominated by domesticates. The term applied is accordingly more specific. The Buhid may for example speak of a tklun sulian when plantains dominate. Tklun at all stages is an important source of food and other resources.

Regional Patterns of Adaptation: Variations of a Basic Theme

The Buhid practise a form of agriculture commonly called swidden cultiva­tion, shifting cultivation, or slash-and-burn agriculture. The former derives from the Old English term 'swidden', meaning 'burnt clearing' (IFAD et al. 2001: 24). Swidden and shifting cultivation are far more neutral terms than slash-and-burn agriculture which, while originally rather descriptive, has now become value-laden, reflecting the widespread prejudicial view that it is a de­structive and wasteful form of agriculture. Throughout this article, this term is therefore avoided.

It has been estimated that globally up to one billion people practise swidden cultivation. They live in tropical and subtropical countries and belong to at least 3000 different ethnic groups (ibid. 24ff). The concrete manifestations of swidden cultivation are as diverse as the people who practise it. In simple terms it can be described as a form of agricultural which is characterised by:

  1. An alternation between a short span of cultivation and a comparatively long span of fallow (mostly bush or forest fallow),
  2. The regular, in most cases cyclical shifting of fields, and
  3. The removal of the natural vegetation, normally - though not in all cases - by use of fire.
Like all swidden systems, the agricultural system of the Buhid is character­ised by the succession of a comparably short period of cultivation with a long fallow. The Buhid of the Upper Fay Valley usually cut two new swidden each year. In 1989, the total land area cut annually averaged 0.30 ha per household. The two field sites were chosen for their suitability for specific crops. Wher­ever access to land permits, the Buhid tend to cut a swidden on locations with red clay soil suitable for rice (daga urzingan, meaning 'true, genuine soil') more commonly found on the southern banks and the lower reaches of the Fay creek, and a swidden in dark and rather stony soils (baras daga = gravel soil) found on the steeper slopes to the North of the Fay. These soils are considered better for sweet potatoes and other root crops.

With continuing intercropping and phased cropping a field may be under seasonal crops like sweet potatoes and other tubers for up to three, in some cases even four years. The Buhid usually maintain several plots of new and old fields with different levels of labour investment. As mentioned earlier, fal­low vegetation is also used in various ways. Certain food crops like plantains, bananas and fruit trees or the more hardy and enduring root crops like tania (Xanthosoma spp.) or yam can be harvested for an extended period after the field has been left fallow. In the Upper Fay Valley the average fallow period in the late 1980s and early 1990s was five years. This is counted from the day when weeding in the narrow sense ceases. Some occasional clearing for en­suring or enhancing the growth of plantains, fruit trees, yam, etc., may be con­tinued for a few more months or even years, with labour investment in the tklun more quickly or slowly petering out according to the number and type of cultigens present.

Patterns of labour investment and the composition and value of the tklun vary with the different swidden patterns or, more generally, adaptive strate­gies that can be found in the different regions of the Buhid territory. Although considerable variations between communities or even between households ex­ist, regional patterns of adaptive strategies have evolved in response to cli­matic variations, the dominant vegetation, availability of wild resources, access to markets and consumption preferences. Similar to what Pennoyer (1981) described for the neighbouring Taubuid, the Buhid switch with ease between them when they change residence.

The regional strategies can be characterised by the crop or set of crops that determine the cropping pattern characteristic of a particular form of swidden farming. Harrison (1976) has termed this the 'criterion crop'. Among the Bu­hid it is usually not one, but a set of crops which are at the core of the swid­den strategy encountered. They are basically a variation of the combination of a cereal (preferably rice) with root crops, providing the bulk of starch, which Conklin (1957) has also observed for the HanunSo Mangyan. However, while rice is an indispensable component for the HanunSo Mangyan, which finds its expression in an elaborate ritual complex revolving around rice cultivation, the cultural attachment to rice is less pronounced among the Buhid. This makes them more flexible in the sense that they often meet their requirements for rice (which are also indispensable for ritual purposes and feasts) by ob­taining rice either through barter or, today more commonly, from lowland markets.

In the nineteen-seventies, the communities living in the Siyangi area in the eastern foothills, for example, have almost completely abandoned rice cultiva tion for the production of maize for cash. The proximity to lowland traders and the national highway connecting the coastal towns allowed easy access to markets and enabled favourable terms of trade, and it became thus more prof­itable to produce maize and buy rice and 'town goods' more readily accessible there. A large share of their food requirements was however still met directly from the swidden fields, with root crops and plantains covering most of the caloric needs. During the past two decades, coffee and fruit trees have in­creasingly been planted for cash. They are also combined with inter-planted perennials for consumption and other purposes. However, in response to a sharp fall in the price of maize in the mid-nineties and that of coffee at the end of the decade, many families in the Siyangi area again started rice cultiva­tion in their newly cut swidden fields.

In the seasonally dry west with its good rice soils, the swidden strategy re­sembles the one practised by the HanunSo Mangyan of the 1950s as described by Conklin (1957). Rice and root crops stand at the centre of the swidden strategy, with plantains contributing additional starchy food. Rice lasts sel­dom longer than a few months, and due to long and pronounced drought the production period of domesticated root crops (especially sweet potato and taro) is only short. Therefore, the collection and processing of wild yam (Dio­scorea spp.) called namo is an integrated part of the seasonal cycle, providing the bulk of starch during the lean season, which can last several months until the rice harvest in October or November.

In the central mountain regions rice and maize are of limited relevance to the crop choice of the Buhid swidden cultivators. Rice is only occasionally culti­vated since climatic conditions are not very favourable, and maize is cultivated only on a small scale for immediate (i.e. fresh) consumption. Sweet potatoes are favourable as they are highly productive due to year-round precipitation and the continuing expansion into furu hlyo (see Note 17) with fertile soils.

In the transitory area of the Upper Fay Valley, a pattern has evolved which combines traditional swidden farming with agroforests of various species pro­viding food and other resources. This is similar to the pattern found in the eastern foothills, but differs in the greater importance of the agroforests for the subsistence sector. The present adaptive strategy departs considerably from the one practised only two or three generations ago. It not only signifies a move towards more complex cropping patterns and a more elaborate man­agement of land resources, but also triggered far-reaching institutional changes whose form and extent are still in the process of being negotiated and shaped. All these changes reflect more encompassing processes of adaptation to a changing natural and social environment.

The Ways of the Ancestors

A comparison of the satellite imageries of Mindoro taken since the 1970s with maps from the earlier part of the last century reveals the enormous loss of for ests the island has experienced in recent decades. Logging, the conversion of the coastal plains into paddy fields by migrant settlers and their expansion into the foothills areas have completely erased the once magnificent lowland forests of the eastern Buhid area. Much of the uplands has also been logged or turned by the Buhid swidden cultivators into secondary forest. Still, there is a conspicuous boundary between the foothill areas used by lowland migrant set­tlers and those used by the Buhid. While the former areas, except for fruit trees and coconut palms, are almost completely denuded of woody vegetation, the latter are a mosaic of fields, agroforests, secondary forests of different ages, and residual mature forests along creeks.

To the west of the Buhid territory, we find extensive Imperata grasslands, some extending far into the interior, almost up to the watershed between east­ern and western Mindoro. A look at older maps reveals that these grasslands have existed for many decades, and some, as reports of early travellers indi­cate, for hundreds of years (Merritt 1908). They have apparently only slowly expanded further over the past decades. Several areas of grassland (Mikania on higher and Imperata on lower altitudes) are found in the Fay Valley as well, the largest being on the Yanawi hill on the southern banks of the Fay. It measured about 80 ha in 1989.

When asked how the grassland of the Yanawi hill came about, the Buhid gave answers like: 'Because our ancestors have not planted any bananas (plantains) and jackfruits and were only after rice and sweet potatoes'. One in­formant elaborated further and added that their forefathers 'always moved from one place to another' and hadn't been very diligent planters, that they hadn't looked well after their fields and preferred to stay in the forest, and that there are still 'a few old men in the Fay Valley who prefer roaming around the forest to working in the fields'. That's why, the informant added, there was often shortage of field crops in the old days and people often went hungry. On the other hand, people were eating wild pigs and other game more often than today. In many respects, such descriptions resemble the way of life which some of the remotest Buhid communities, like those at the headwaters tribu­taries of the Hayakyan River, still adhere to.

Observations by missionaries, foresters and travellers in the early nine­teenth century (Gardner 1905; Merritt 1908; Duval in Postma 1985) or more recent descriptions of the livelihood patterns of the Taubuid living to the north of the Buhid (Callo 1983) lend support to the accounts on the way of life which the Buhid in the Fay Valley have practised two generations ago. Julian Duval wrote in 1920 on the Hanunoo-Mangyan near Bulalacao:

'I also noticed that these people are very fond of hunting deer, wild pigs, monkeys and wild chicken during the dry season, and for that reason almost all the houses take the trouble to have dogs.' During the rainy season as well, they catch a good number of animals by means of traps, that are called balatik, set up at the spots frequented by animals. I also noticed, that during the dry season, from January till April, they usually are not staying in their houses during the day, but spend their time in the forest, under the trees where a water source can be found, to escape the heat of the sun, while the women are looking for nami and wild root crops, of which there are plenty, and they gather them as provisions for the time of scarcity whereas the men are hunting deer and pigs, and at the same time gather honey and beewax; of which there are plenty in the mountains of Bulalacao' (Postma 1985: 85).

The reconstruction of the ways of the old with elder informants and sup­porting evidence for such accounts allow us to assess the extent of changes that have occurred over the past few decades.

Although the Buhid have primarily been swidden agriculturalists, wild re­sources, and especially game, have played a crucial role in the adaptive sys­tem of the past. Today field crops provide the bulk of food throughout the year, even in the foothill areas where cash crops are more common. In the past however there used to be a recurrent seasonal lapse-although in the Upper Fay Valley reportedly shorter than the one still observable in the seasonally dryer west-during which the Buhid relied often almost entirely on wild plants for carbohydrates. These were mainly derived from wild yam [8] and the dardyaw palm. [9] Like today, hunting and gathering has contributed crucial non-starch food, especially proteins, throughout the year. But hunting has been much more profitable and reliable, having provided meat quite regularly, so that due to the norm of generalised reciprocity within the community and among close relatives, meat was eaten at least every couple of days. [10]

The adaptive pattern of those days was characterised by a seasonal switch from heavy reliance on field crops to heavy reliance on wild resources. Mis­sionaries and community development workers have usually considered the seasonal reliance on wild yam as an indicator of extreme scarcity. For lowland Filipinos, even the seasonal absence of rice and consumption of domesticated root crops is seen as a sign of utmost poverty. Due to the drastic reduction of game and other wild resources in the dry west of the Buhid territory, the still prevailing seasonal reliance on wild resource indeed implies an impoverished diet. Even the young Buhid generation links the seasonal reliance on wild starchy food with hunger. Under conditions of abundant game and other wild resources, however, the seasonal switch to a hunting-and-gathering strategy was as much out of choice as out of scarcity. It was an integral part of the overall adaptive strategy people have developed in response to seasonally changing climatic conditions and the concomitant comparative advantages that the two spheres-agriculture and foraging-offered. The complementary nature of foraging and farming in the past is expressed in a statement of a Taubuid (the northern neighbors of the Buhid) quoted in a report of the De­velopment Academy of the Philippines (1976: 84):

'Only now are we planting wild yam and other crops. In the past there were many wild fruits, honeybees and roots, only rice did we have to plant' (translation from Tagalog C.E.)

Nevertheless, the Buhid have always seen themselves in the first place as swidden cultivators. This is also clearly reflected in their mythology. It is what Conklin (1957: 2) calls an 'integral system' of swidden farming, which involves relationships which 'stem from a more traditional, year-round, com­munity-wide, largely self-contained, and ritually-sanctioned way of life'. Both in the Fay and Siangi regions being swidden cultivators is an essential part of Buhid identity, one of the key characteristics that sets them apart from the dominant Christian wet-rice farmers in the lowlands.

Customary Land Rights and Land Use Patterns: 'Optimal Foraging' in Swidden Farming

Today, a household usually cuts its new fields within the banwanan of its community. The term fanagamasan-'the place where one cuts a swidden'- was in the past used rather generally, to identify a place where a household has its fields. Although households tended to have their fields within the terri­tories of their communities, the right to make a swidden was granted any­where to anyone, also to members of other communities. Contrary to Gibson's interpretation of his data gathered among one of the dialectical subgroups of the Buhid in the East (Gibson 1986), all Buhid communities I worked with were composed of households with close consanguineous kinship ties. Bilat­eral kinship is the key organisational principle in Buhid society, a system in which any individual is situated in a wide network of near and distant rela­tives who have the moral obligation to help and share goods and labour. Thus, even though in the past land was allegedly accessible to anybody anywhere, the analysis of post-marital residence patterns reveal that de-facto access was in most cases gained through kinship relations. Any community can trace the use and occupation of its banwanan by their ancestors through several genera­tions, and they have a strong emotional attachment to their banwanan. How­ ever, before the individualisation of land rights the boundaries between the banwanan were only vaguely defined and a particular plot of swidden land may thus have been used by members of more than one community. Custom­ary law however made it mandatory to consult the person who has previously used the same plot, or his or her relatives, in order to identify fruit trees or other perennials over which they would maintain ownership rights. In general, ownership was confined to cultivated plants. Individual use right over a piece of land ceased as soon as no more cultigens were to be found. Within a com­munity members were well aware of who had used which plot of land and where they had planted perennials, and they informed each other in an infor­mal way about where they planned to cut a new field in the coming season.

People from a community planning to have a field in or near the banwknan of another community however had to consult its members in order to be in­formed about intentions to use the same plot, to avoid cutting a field in areas inhabited by spirits or where perennials had been planted. Such consultations took place in a rather informal manner. Only if the case became somewhat more complicated, i.e. in areas with overlapping use histories and competing claims by individuals, would a more formal meeting of all people involved or affected, a so-called tfiltulan, the traditional public discussion and conflict resolution meeting take place. In a tziltulan experienced and respected indi­viduals act as mediators, but they do not have the authority to impose their own view or any decision. [11] Such cases were however rare and according to elder informants, conflicts over land were unknown to the Buhid in the past. Land was apparently not a scarce resource and the existing customary law and institutions regulated access sufficiently. The consultations and negotiations among members of different communities represented a de-facto recognition of the prior, communal right of a community over their banwknan. However, it has to be emphasised that-at least temporary-the use of land to non­members of a community could not be denied. Prior use right could be estab­lished by virtue of membership of a community only over the use of a particu­lar plot at a particular point of time, i.e. in cases where a member and a non­member had the intention to cut a field in the same plot. Genuinely free access existed however with respect to old growth forest.

Since a certain degree of individual control over land could be indirectly es­tablished via the customary ownership right of plants, the planting of perenni­als by outsiders was not allowed. This helped maintain prior use rights over a community's banwknan. Ready access to resources, including swidden land was a precondition for the high mobility characteristic for the Buhid in the past. High mobility has evolved partially in response to a social environment that the Buhid came to perceive as extremely threatening. For almost three centuries, until the last quarter of the nineteenth century, all indigenous peo­ples of Mindoro suffered from regular slave raids by Muslims from Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, from the war between these and the Spanish colo­nisers, and later from encroachment on their land by Christian settlers. What Pennoyer (1981) observed among the Taubuid has been and in the remoter ar­eas is still characteristic of the Buhid as well: an extremely pronounced fear and mistrust of outsiders.

Even today, the Buhid still shift their residence quite frequently. The reason may be post-marital change of residence (the Buhid of the Fay marry on aver­age two to three times), the decision to move at least for some time to the partner's place of origin, conflicts, better market access or, although today less often, better hunting. Change of residence due to declining resources (above all game) seems to have been quite common in the past. Although residence was and still is in most cases taken among relatives-with the bilat­eral kinship system offering a wide range of possibilities-any Buhid, even a stranger was allowed to set up a household and cut his or her field in a par­ticular area.

A banwknan is and has always been clearly identified with a specific com­munity, and this association remains even after some or all of its members have moved elsewhere. But unlike today, the boundary of a banwknan was not very precisely defined. As a result of abundant land and the prevalence of a customary law that provided for at least temporary use rights to swidden land for everybody-which came close to an open access regime-some swidden areas have been used regularly by two or more adjacent communi­ties.

The almost free access to land allowed a household to choose the site for a new swidden according to individual preferences. Aside from factors like proximity to the present settlement, these preferences were and are in the first place determined by the specific needs of the crop that is given the highest priority at that particular time. Although the Buhid plant a large number of cultigens, it is usually one, the dominant or criterion crop which determines the site selection. Rice has always been the favourite crop, an appreciation not proportional to its contribution to the total annual calorie intake in some re­gions. The cultural significance of rice is also reflected in the classification of soils: it is the red and yellow clay soils suitable for rice cultivation that are called daga urzingan, 'genuine soil'. Consequently, since these soils are mostly found on hill tops and moderate slopes, the preference for rice has-in areas suitable for its cultivation-resulted in a patchy pattern of land use.

Statistically relevant data to confirm the hypothesis does not exist, but there are strong indicators suggesting that the pattern of land use in the past con­formed largely to a strategy described by the patch-use model for foraging be­haviour that was developed by evolutionary ecologists, and was later applied in human ecological research among foragers (Winterhalder and Smith 1981). In short, the model suggests that in an environment with patchy distribution of resources, only those patches are used whose productivity (in terms of out­put/input) is equal or above the average of all the patches, and that a certain patch is used until productivity drops below that average.

Loffler has described such behaviour among swidden cultivators in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The observation was introduced in connection with the discussion on the carrying capacity of swidden farming. He wrote:

'An analysis of the factors included in the calculation [of the carrying capacity], and the current swidden methods in the Chittagong Hill Tracts shows that the figures resulting from the simple equation annual need times fallow period do not correspond to the [actual] carrying capacity because it is based on the assumption of an average soil quality and an even utilisation of the land. Contrary to this, one finds that good land are used more frequently and are rotated faster [in the swidden cycle] than bad land' (Loffler 1963: 181).

More frequent use and shorter rotation cycles however result in degradation of soil fertility of the respective patches. This continues, as the optimal forag­ing model suggests, until the productivity of the respective plot of land drops below the average level, or, in other words, to the level of more marginal land.

Although the optimal foraging model may be somewhat oversimplified as it does not account for factors in decision making other than productivity, the predictions made on the basis of this model and observations elsewhere in Southeast Asia correspond very much to the observable changes in vegetation cover as a result of swidden farming in the Fay Valley. Ironically, precisely the best 'patches' of swidden rice land of the Fay Valley and surrounding ar­eas have been turned into Imperata-dominated grasslands unusable for swid­den cultivation.

In the early nineties, the population density in the Upper Fay Valley was 28 persons per km 2 . At present, the overall population density for the area inhab­ited by the Buhid is about 13 persons per km 2 . [12] It is possible that population densities have in the past been as high, at times maybe even higher than to­day. But according to oral history and historical documents-mostly accounts of missionaries-local populations suffered periodic declines as a result of epidemics. A cholera epidemic was recorded in 1889/90 and a smallpox out­break as late as 1949/50 (Thiel 1953). Another indicator for periodic fluctua­tions of the Buhid population are oral histories referring to certain locations now covered by old-growth forest that have been occupied by large communi­ties several generations ago. It is however safe to assume that at least during the decades following the Second World War, population densities have been considerably lower than today. In light of the still comparably low population density in the interior of the Buhid territory and the high probability that it was even lower a few generations ago, one may wonder why the final degra­dation was not prevented. Why was no fallow management developed that en­sured the regeneration of the preferred swidden land? Why, above all, was the establishment of secondary forest on Imperata-infested fallow land not ac­tively supported, for example simply through prevention of fire?

As mentioned earlier, the largest Imperata-dominated grassland area in the Upper Fay Valley is found on the Yanawi hill. It is said to have been prime rice land used by several communities living adjacent to it. The boundaries of the banw k nan of these communities were not clearly delineated in the past, and today, as the process of identifying individual land holdings has pro­ceeded far in the Fay Valley, conflicts between communities exist precisely because of overlapping claims to land on the Yanawi hill. Due to the tradi­tional right to cut a swidden more or less anywhere one wished, a de-facto open access situation prevailed. It was in nobody's power to prevent the use of a specific plot by others, and it was therefore also not possible to prevent a certain plot to be overused, and ultimately degraded. In addition, setting grass- and scrub-land on fire was until very recently common practice. It was done for the maintenance of paths, for securing good quality thatch, or when communal fire hunts were organised. Often, the reason was simply negli­gence, i.e. the absence of preventive measures when burning a newly cut swidden.

The latter is, in fact, still the main cause for fire at the headwaters of the Hayakyan River where new swidden fields are steadily encroaching on pri­mary forests while extensive grasslands dominated by Imperata and Miscan­thus are left behind. There is a striking absence of any measures to prevent fallow vegetation from catching fire when burning a new swidden.

The clue to understanding this behaviour lies in the prevailing crop prefer­ence and cropping pattern, combined with a particular perception of the envi­ronment. As briefly mentioned above, the criterion crop for this region is sweet potato. Perennials like plantains, fruit trees or tania, so common in the Fay Valley or the eastern foothills, are planted to a very limited extent near settlements. Therefore, the fallow vegetation is virtually devoid of any endur­ing cultigens that warrant its protection from fire. This alone does not entirely explain the absence of preventive measures, since, as most evident among swidden cultivators with a rotational system, fallow vegetation is valued for a variety of functions. However, to communities in pioneer areas like those at the headwaters of the Hayakyan River, the immediate availability of primary forest with its good weed-free sweet potato soils implies a discount in the relative value of fallow vegetation with its delayed benefit-restored soil fer­tility and weed control. Furthermore and most importantly, access to these forests is free and there is little awareness that these forests are a limited re­source. A similar attitude has been attributed to the ancestors of the Buhid fur­ther west, as in the Fay Valley. The difference was mainly the preference for rice and, consequently, a more patchy land use.

Evidence suggests that the degradation of swidden land over large areas in the western part of Buhid ancestral land occurred as a result of the interaction of various social, cultural and environmental factors: a de-facto open access to swidden land, highly flexible and mobile residence patterns, specific crop preferences, the perception of forests as an inexhaustible resource, climatic conditions with a long and pronounced dry season conducive to the spread of Imperata grass and the occurrence and spread of fire.

A patchy vegetation of grasslands and forest, however, was not necessarily undesirable. Imperata grass has its value as thatch, and the opening of forest and the creation of an open and diverse landscape has been beneficial to deer and wild cattle. [13] In some areas in the west, however, grasslands have since many decades covered very large areas. With only little forest left for tradi­tional swidden farming, these areas are thinly settled and are only sporadically visited by people from other communities during hunting expeditions. In the late fifties and early sixties, however, these grasslands became attractive to outsiders. Entrepreneurs and politicians based in provincial or national capi­tals obtained 25 years' lease agreements for cattle ranching from the Bureau of Forest Department (BFD, the forerunner of the present Department of En­vironment and Natural Resource). By the early 1980s all of the land tradition­ally inhabited by the Buhid in the west and large parts of the east, including forest land, was taken by cattle ranch leaseholders. With the establishment of cattle ranches, grasslands expanded rapidly-as they were burned regularly to stimulate the growth of young, nutritious grass. Fallow land, secondary forest and, in the seasonally very dry west, even mature forest has been destroyed on a large scale by eager farmers.

Transformations: From Swidden Farming to Agroforestry

The land use pattern found in the Upper Fay Valley today is quite different from what has been practised only two generations earlier. Now the people rely to a large extent on products from agroforests, both for their immediate consumption and for cash needs. A survey conducted in Buswak in 1989 re­vealed that already in 26% of the meals, the staple crop consumed was plan­tain, in 27% it was tania (Xanthosoma spp.) which are often inter-cropped in agroforests or in later stages of the cropping cycle on fallow fields. The tradi­tional swidden crop sweet potato accounted for 31%, taro (Colocasia spp.) 4%, yam 6%, corn 6% and rice only 1%. Before the seventies, tania and plan­tain were unknown on the Upper Fay, since the late 1980s they provide over 50% of the carbohydrates. Even though the share of carbohydrates derived from agroforests may have even somewhat increased since then, the Buhid like variation in their diet, relish the traditional swidden crops and continue to plant them. A mixed strategy with partial reliance on these crops also makes sense in light of the recurrent tropical storms wreaking havoc to plantains and bananas. Due to the large share of carbohydrates derived from agroforests and the extended cropping period as a result of the introduction of perennials in later stages of the swidden cycle only a small area is cut annually for new swidden fields. In the late eighties and early nineties the average area cleared annually was about 0.30 ha.

Another survey in 1989 revealed a similar importance of agroforests for cash income. 31% of the total income of all households came from coffee, even though many households had planted coffee not long before and there­fore could not harvest much (Erni 1995). By the late nineties, coffee became the main source of cash for almost all households in Buswak. However, due to the drastic fall in coffee prices just before the turn of the millennium, most people did not even bother to harvest their coffee. Until the coffee price somewhat recovered in 2003 the little cash income they made was mainly de­rived from the sale of dried chillies, an occasional goat or the fruits of the darayaw palm (Arenga saccharifera Labill) growing in primary and secon­dary forests. [14]

Although agroforests in the narrow sense play an increasingly important role in the economy of Buhid households of the Fay Valley, shifting cultiva­tion remains the pivot around which life and work of the Buhid communities revolve. For the sake of clarity and to highlight the transformations of the land use system in the recent past, the term 'agroforests' is used. But shifting culti­vation and agroforests are so intrinsically connected that making a strict dis­tinction between them does not accurately capture the nature of land use in these communities. What is called 'agroforest' here is to the Buhid conceptu­ally not different from old fields and fallow. They are all talun. It is merely a variation of the plant community resulting from human transformation and manipulation in the swidden cycle. It has evolved within the same logical framework and does not constitute a radical departure from traditional pat­terns of land use.

As mentioned earlier, talun are 'man-made forests' in different stages of plant succession and with different levels of human interference in the form of weeding, clearing and planting. Talun are more intensively manipulated in the early stages, when the field is regularly weeded and new plants are continu­ously intercropped. As the fallow vegetation grows older, labour investment decreases and human intervention may be confined to an occasional clearing of competing plants to enhance the growth of a fruit tree or to maintain a ba­nana or plantain patch. Agroforests are simply patches of talun which, due to the nature of the plant community their owners have created, are for a long period not cleared and turned into a namay any more. Some or all of it may however some day be cut for a new swidden field again. Buhid agriculture in the Fay Valley and in Siyangi in the eastern foothills appears to develop into a land use system similar to the Indonesian kebun-talun system in which small patches of swidden fields are regularly cut in predominantly anthropogenic forest-like plant communities (Soemarwoto and Soemarwoto 1984; Christanty et al. 1986). [15] In the Siyangi area, where the intensive planting of perennials has started a number of years earlier than in the Fay Valley, large areas are now covered by 'agroforest talun'. Two generations of Buhid swidden culti­vators have transformed natural forests into dense man-made forests consist­ing of a large number of domesticated and useful wild perennials.

The Privatisation of Swidden Land

Today, all the swidden land in the Upper Fay Valley is divided into individual swidden farms called fangamasan (literally 'the place where the swidden fields are'). Every grown up owns his or her own swidden farm within which the swidden fields are usually cut. Upon request, the right to make a swidden in one's fangamasan may be granted to others, and many people actually maintain a field in another person's-usually a close relative's fangamasan. Today, such rights are however granted only temporarily and, in respect of the still generally valid primacy of ownership right only to cultivated plants does usually not comprise the right to plant perennials. Individual land ownership appears to be quite firmly established in the Fay Valley.

The transformation of customary land right concepts towards the recogni­tion of individual land ownership has not been without conflict. In its trans­formation phase it has added considerably to the already existing conflicts caused by scarcity of land. By the time of the first field work in 1985, the new concept was already well established, even though conflicts over boundary delineations and competing claims based on different interpretations of land use rights occurred and were dealt with in the tziltulan until the nineties.

The transformation to individual land ownership evolved parallel to the in­creasing reliance on perennials, and the two are undoubtedly causally linked. [16] With the increasing number of perennials planted in swidden fields, a de facto permanent control over land was established on the basis of the ancient indi­vidual ownership right over planted domesticates. Consequently, the cutting of new swidden did not signify merely a temporary association between the cultivator and the land anymore, but potentially implied a lasting claim over the respective plot of land. In the process, the meaning of fangamasan changed, became more specified and individualised. The tziltulan was the venue in which the crucial discussions took place, where conflicts were taken up and solutions based on consensus were found.

The rapid transformation of a rather weakly defined communal to individ­ual land ownership within the span of a single generation was supported by the prevalence of pronounced individualistic values alongside the general communitarian ethic in Buhid society. Individual economic self-sufficiency is a core value in Buhid society. The children are encouraged to plant their own swidden at a very early age, adolescent boys and girls are capable of and often do provide for themselves, and old people have their own field and run their own household as long as they can. Some couples continue to have separate fields even after marriage. They help each other, share goods and jointly con­sume their products just like any other couple, but they prefer to retain, at least nominally, their individual self-sufficiency. On the other hand, much of their public life revolves around the exchange of labour and goods, expressing and reinforcing communal and kinship solidarity. Sharing of certain kinds of food is mandatory among spouses and close kin, enforced by the threat of su­pernatural sanctions. However, the contribution of outside labour and goods to the domestic economy of any household is, with the exception of those of the very old and frail, who entirely depend on it, fairly small. The bulk of work in agricultural production is covered with the labour pool of a single household, be it that of a married couple or an individual.

The wide acceptance of individual land ownership rights has provided a le­gal framework for a more intensive and more efficient management of agri cultural land. Furthermore, agroforests are a highly sustainable form of land use on the partially very steep slopes of the Fay Valley, and the privatisation of land rights encouraged long-term investment in the form of planting peren­nials, in spite of the Buhid's still frequent change of residence. Permanent land rights ensure that upon his or her return the owner or his or her children or other relatives will benefit from any investment of labour made. Individual ownership also had a positive impact on fallow management of swidden land. With primary rights to land being confined to one's fangamasan, a more con­servative approach to land use emerged. In some cases, this has reached the point where even the still strongly felt moral obligation of granting temporary access to swidden land to others was reconsidered when signs of land degra­dation in the form of Imperata invasion occurred. The planting of perennials on swidden fields at a later stage of their cropping period is now also seen as a measure to prevent the spread of Imperata grass and to encourage the estab­lishing of woody fallow species. However, better care is taken to prevent fires on fallow land, both to protect perennials and to ensure the regeneration of forest. In the late nineties, the communities of the Upper Fay Valley agreed, which to prevent the escape of swidden fires and to observe the ban on burn­ing grassland (both Miscanthus and Imperata). As we shall see below, con­cern for their crops or the fallow vegetation is not the only reason behind this.

Towards Managing the Commons

While the technological and institutional transformation towards individual land ownership described above have led to a more intensive management- and arguably a more sustainable use-of agricultural land among the Buhid of the Upper Fay Valley, the exploitation of other natural resources-such as game, fish or other aquatic resources-remains virtually uncontrolled. Under low population densities and with simple traditional hunting and harvesting technologies over-exploitation has never been more than a local and tempo­rary problem. Nowadays, however, over-hunting by lowlanders using firearms and explosive baits, habitat disturbance in the wake of establishing cattle ranches and the general population increase have made hunting increasingly unprofitable in large parts of the Buhid territory. In areas closer to the low­lands, deer and even wild pigs are almost extinct. In these areas, even aquatic resources like fish and crustaceans are now hard to get. Years of over­exploitation, again mainly by lowland settlers who use unrestrained and de­structive harvesting techniques (like electric shocks produced from car­batteries or chemical poison) have severely depleted the more accessible riv­ers and creeks. The Buhid in these regions are increasingly adopting such techniques and equipments, and due to regular interaction with Buhid settle­ments in these regions, such methods are also slowly making inroads into re­source use practices in interior areas. What can be observed in hunting and fishing in many Buhid areas is the classical case of Hardin's 'tragedy of the commons' resulting from the combination of an open-access situation and, with respect to the much more efficient technology available, a relatively high population density.

People have become aware of the long-term impact of these harvesting technologies, however, and some communities, like those in the Fay Valley, agreed to ban the use of electricity and chemical poison for harvesting aquatic resources. There are also signs that the populations of wild pigs and deer have recovered in the areas formerly occupied and now abandoned by cattle ranch­ers after members of the New People´s Army, the communist guerrilla, regu­larly killed cattle for their provisions. Traditional communal hunts with fire, the sunogon, have again been occasionally organised in the Fay Valley since the early nineties, but there are no rules yet in place for hunting.

Conservation measures were however agreed upon with respect to other re­sources that have been under an open-access regime. As mentioned above, it was agreed by the communities of the Upper Fay Valley to prevent fires in grassland and fallow vegetation. This initiative came about mainly as a conse­quence of the increasing planting of perennials. However, fire on larger Im­ perata-dominated grasslands not used for cultivation still occurred regularly until the late eighties, preventing the re-growth of forest. Since these grass­lands have been part of their environment and had some economic value, the communities did not feel the need to prevent or avoid starting such fires. Only recently did this attitude change, mainly triggered by developments in the so­cial environment: The NPA guerilleros, whose presence in the interior has led to the abandonment of most cattle ranches by the late eighties, had been ab­sent for many years until the turn of the millennium. In spite of the Certificate of Ancestral Domain Claim (CADC) for the Buhid territory, rumours were spreading in the late nineties that former cattle ranchers were attempting to reclaim their ranches. The Buhid obviously didn't feel that their land was suf­ficiently protected from encroachment by the CADC and therefore were try­ing to prevent the return of the cattle ranchers simply by making their land unattractive to them by turning it into brush and forest land. This was a con­scious decision made at the cost of increasing scarcity of good quality Imper­ata thatch. Only through regular burning can good thatch be maintained in the long run.

A similar transformation from an open access to a common property regime of resource use has taken place in the past few years with respect to furu hl yo, the old-growth forests. [17] Today, in all the Buhid territory such forests are con­fined to the headwaters of the major rivers and their tributaries, 1000 m above sea level. The largest old-growth forest track of the Buhid territory is found east and southeast of the Fay Creek, extending to the Hayakyan, Tuwaga and Inundungan rivers. According to estimates based on forest cover maps of the nineteen-eighties and field visits in the nineteen-nineties, these forests cover less than 80 km 2 .

Old-growth forests have always been under an open-access regime both with respect to swidden farming, hunting or the extraction of other forest products. In the recent past, however, a shift in the perception of, and conflict­ing views on the use rights over these forests have emerged.

In 1998, the Philippine government's Department of Environment and Natu­ral Resources (DENR) issued the CADC, recognising the Buhid´s claim and granting qualified exclusive use rights over the 94,000-hectare large Buhid territory spanning the Oriental and Occidental Mindoro provinces. The Buhid CADC is the second largest that was issued by the government before the In­digenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA) of 1997 became operational in 1998. Ac­cording to the IPRA, the existing CADCs will be transferred into genuine communal land titles for indigenous communities, the so-called Certificates of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). The conversion of the Buhid-CADC is how­ever still pending.

In connection with the application process for the CADC done on behalf of the Buhid, the Sadik Habanan Buhid (SHB) and the Kalipunan Buhid Inc. (KBI)-the two regional organisations of the Buhid in Oriental and Occidental Mindoro respectively-held extensive meetings with all communities in which an Ancestral Domain Management Plan (ADMP) was drawn up. Drawing up an Ancestral Domain Management Plan was part of the requirements for the issuing of a CADC. According to DENR's Rules and Regulations for Identifi­cation, Delineation and Recognition of Ancestral Land and Domain Claims the claimants have the responsibility, among others, to 'Restore, preserve and maintain a balanced ecology in the ancestral domain by protecting flora, fauna, watershed areas, and other forest and mineral reserves' and to 'Protect and conserve forest trees and other vegetation naturally growing on the land specially along rivers, streams and channels' (Article VII, Paragraph B.). Consequently, the leaders of the SHB and KBI tried to convince the Buhid communities to declare old-growth forests as communal forests and as pro­tected, with the aim to conserve bio-diversity, and above all to ensure the con­tinuing availability of vital resources traditionally collected in these forests.

The ADMP submitted to the DENR contains, among others, provisions on the management and conservation of forests. [18] According to the plan, the communities have the right and duty to use, manage and protect these forests (Sadik Habanan Buhid et al. 1998). All forests not yet delineated and ex­cluded from swidden land have to undergo this process, which means: they have to be identified as protected communal forests. Swidden farming is banned in these forests, and so is the felling of large trees for commercial pur­poses or the peeling of the bark of large trees used for walls in traditional houses. The Buhid are however allowed to cut trees for domestic use (like house building) provided they consult the office bearers of their community or the leaders of either of the two peoples' organisations who are the official CADC holders. The harvesting of minor forest products is free as long as it is done according to 'customary Buhid practices' and conducted in a sustainable manner (Sadik Habanan Buhid et al. 1998). Leaders of the two peoples' or­ganisations and local office bearers are entitled to impose fines on trespassers as detailed in the plan.

Many Buhid communities have adopted these rules and accordingly deline­ated old growth forests and declared them as protected. Other communities however, like those of the Bahayaw and Alyanon creeks refused to do this. They ignore the ADMP and continue to expand their fields into old-growth forests. In Buswak on the Upper Fay some community members also refused to have all of the remaining old-growth forest delineated since they wanted to keep a part as land reserve for swidden farming. A compromise was eventu­ally achieved by recognising some individual claims while declaring other parts of the forest as communal forest and off-limit for swidden farming and commercial logging. [19] The final agreement was reached by the people of Buswak and neighbouring communities in the Fay Valley without the inter­vention or mediation of the CADC-holding peoples' organisations. Still, the awareness-raising campaign in connection with the delineation and manage­ment planning for the CADC application was crucial to set the process of specifying the communal forest areas in motion. In line with the ADMP, swidden farming and the cutting of trees for sale are now banned in these for­ests, while hunting, felling timber for domestic use and the collection of non­timber forest products are unrestricted, i.e. like in the past even allowed for members of other communities. What is new is the recognition of individual claims over natural rattan groves by community members.

As mentioned above, the Buhid communities in the Upper Fay Valley were able to reach comprehensive agreements on the utilisation and conservation of communal resources, and they appear to be able to sufficiently enforce these new laws. [20] The present state of the vegetation cover proves that this is the case at least with respect to grasslands and fire management since secondary forests are spreading fast in these areas. The agreements were reached in spite of the absence of a socio-political structure integrating the small, egalitarian communities of the Fay Valley. They are the result of a series of t zi ltulan held over a period of several months. [21] Not all communities, however, are as successful. In other regions attempts to protect old-growth forests are facing serious difficulties. The concluding section of this article will thus try to identify external and internal factors at play that are conducive to or are hindering the establishment of common property management regimes among Buhid communities.

From Opportunism to Resource Management: The Struggle for Transformations

Over the past centuries, the Buhid have shown considerable flexibility and re­silience in their adaptation to varying and changing environmental conditions. Regional adaptive patterns have evolved, and the Buhid have easily switched between them when they changed residence. High mobility and a de-facto open access to critical resources were the core elements constituting their adaptive resilience in the past.

Under conditions of the low overall population density prevailing over cen­turies, high mobility and virtually free access to resources, the Buhid way of ensuring the continuing availability of critical resources was through what Becker and Ostrom (1995: 126) called 'opportunistic substitution'. Opportun­istic substitution, they write, 'would be sustainable at low densities, so until the resources were scarce, one would predict little in the way of restraint on use.'

As shown above, increasing scarcity of swidden land and other resources among the Buhid has triggered adaptive responses comprising technological change towards a more intensive form of land use by developing an integrated system of swidden farming and agroforestry, and the concomitant institutional change: the emergence of private property over swidden land and common property regimes for old-growth forests and grasslands.

Netting suggests that '…in the absence of decisive legal or military controls from the larger society, the system of property rights in the peasant commu­nity will be directly related to the manner in which resources are exploited, the competition for their use, and the nature of the products-more specifi­cally, land use by and large determines land tenure' (Netting 1976: 137). In­troducing data from his research among Swiss alpine peasants, he concludes that individual land tenure is found in regimes of land use characterised by high value of production per area unit, high frequency of and dependence on use, the possibility of intensification, a comparably small area needed for ef­fective use, and a small size of the group investing labour and capital in its use (in Ostrom 1987: 256). The recent intensification of land use and the con­comitant individualisation of rights over swidden land among the Buhid obvi­ously conforms to the pattern.

Privatisation of resource use rights or ownership is however not the only, nor is it the best management solution for all resource types. Extensively used resources like pastures, forests or water bodies are often used commonly, and, as Ostrom (1987: 251f) concludes, common property regimes have proven to be 'optimal institutional arrangements for some types of common-resource problems'. Like the Swiss alpine peasants described by Netting and other farming communities all over the world, the Buhid have specified resource use rights according to the intensity of use and the nature of the resource and now distinguish between individual and common property rights. While priva­tisation of swidden land is already far advanced among the Buhid, the specifi­cation of common property regimes is however still in the making. As mentioned above, experiences thus far vary between the regions, and in many areas success is still far from certain. And some resources, like game and mi­nor forest products, still remain under an open access regime.

Several conditions have been identified as conducive to the evolution of in­stitutional arrangements for the sustainable management of common property resources. Ostrom has suggested that, 'Small-scale communities are more likely to have the formal conditions required for successful and enduring col­lective management of the commons' (c.f. McCay and Acheson 1987: 23). She mentions concretely:

  1. The visibility of common resources and behaviour toward them
  2. Feedback on the effects of regulation
  3. Widespread understanding and acceptance of rules and their rationales
  4. The values expressed in these rules (that is, equitable treatment of all and protection of the environment)
  5. The backing of values by socialisation, standards, and strict enforcement
An analysis of several decades of experiences with the so-called 'joint for­est management' in India has led to similar conclusions. There, it has been shown, collective action for the protection of forests has been more successful in so-called 'tribal' communities (Society for Promotion of Wasteland Devel­opment 1992; Poffenberger et al. 1996a, Poffenberger et al. 1996b). Some of the main features identified by these authors for these communities are:

  1. Size of the community: Collaboration is easier in small villages.
  2. Closeness to the resource and topography: In the uplands the common land is visible from most of the dwellings so that unauthorised use cannot escape notice.
  3. Remoteness from roads and markets: On the one hand, poaching by out­siders is more difficult, on the other hand it is more likely that traditional social solidarity and authority structures remain intact, as mutual depend­ency is stronger, which make deference less likely and social control more effective.
  4. Social homogeneity: So-called 'tribal' communities are less hierarchical and thus more homogenous than for example those of the Hindu caste so­ciety. Social homogeneity has been found to be conducive to the success­ful enforcement of conservation rules since manipulation or outright ignoring of established norms by more powerful individuals is less likely.
  5. General dependence on forest resources: Collaboration is likely to succeed if all the families, including the rich, are highly dependent on forests. The personal interests of the village elite in the management of the commons is crucial.
  6. Tradition of assertive collective action: In many tribal areas in India there is a strong tradition and long history of assertive, at times armed collective action, against dispossession of agricultural and forest lands by outsiders.
  7. Most of the factors identified here as conducive to the evolution of common property management systems are indeed present among the Buhid communi­ties in the research area. Virtually everybody is still very much dependent on forest resources, at least for construction material. Minor forest products play a very important role in the interior. The idea to protect old-growth forest as promoted by the SHB and the KBI was therefore readily accepted by many communities. Fields and agroforests are often located close to the headwaters so that monitoring of who accesses the forests for what purpose is constantly taking place.
Even the communities in the Siyangi area in the eastern foothills, which are larger and more nucleated than those of the interior, are small, consisting at most of a few dozen households. [22] People know each other well and interact on a daily basis. They are homogenous communities with pronounced egali­tarian values. In the foothill areas, socio-economic differentiation is emerging in the wake of integration into the market economy but remains still fairly limited. In the interior, not much has changed. Relationships characterised by reciprocity, frequent exchange of goods and (at least in the interior) labour. Commonly accepted rules and mutual trust found in these small, close-knit, mostly kinship-based communities represent what has been called by other authors 'social capital'. Social capital, as Pretty (2003: 1913) puts it, 'lowers the transaction costs of working together, it facilitates cooperation'. [23]

The t fi ltulan, the public meetings, are part of the Buhid's 'social capital'. They are an efficient means by which, for example, leaders of the CADC­holding organisations can promote the understanding of conservation ideas, and the consensus-based decision-making during t fi ltulan ensures a generally wide acceptance of the rules once an agreement has been reached. The main problem the Buhid are confronted with, however, is enforcement of the agreements reached.

Like all human societies, the Buhid have to deal with the problem of indi­vidual deviation which tends to become more acute during a transition period, when new rules have been introduced but are yet to be recognised by every­body. Among the Buhid, the transition to individual land rights, for example, has been very difficult in areas with competing claims, and encroachment was recurrent. Individuals not agreeing with the new concept-and usually with the concomitant concrete delineation of individual land holdings suggested- often simply refused to participate in the t zi ltulan and ignored any decision taken. In the absence of any coercive means and because compliance relied entirely on the pressure of public opinion, such cases remained unresolved even after months or years of negotiations. In the long run, however, public opinion and social pressure lead to the firm establishment of the new concept as parts of customary law.

Similar problems in establishing new rules can be observed in connection with the Ancestral Domain wide ban on swidden farming in old-growth forest. This is especially the case among the pioneer-swidden farming communities at the headwaters of the Hayakyan river. There it is not just a matter of indi­vidual non-compliance. Whole communities have obviously refused to accept the new rule and continue to cut fields in old-growth forest. The two CADC­holding organisations, the only existing structures above the community level have no means to enforce the rules. [24]

Enforcement by the State, be it through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or the Local Government Units, as we shall see below, is not an option since it is virtually absent in the interior of Mindoro. The exam­ple of the communities of the Upper Fay Valley shows that conservation rules for common property resources did gain sufficient acceptance to make the concept of common property work and that the traditional institution of the tziltulan is sufficiently strong to ensure enforcement. This leads to the conclu­sion that the ADMP of the SHB and KBI-in spite of being a result of an agreement reached by local leaders on the pan-Buhid level-will succeed as an instrument for ensuring sustainable resource within the ancestral domain only when similar processes of developing locally agreed-upon rules based on local institutions are initiated among non-complying communities.

A more serious problem for the successful establishment of common prop­erty management regimes than non-compliance by community members or communities is poaching by outsiders in the areas more accessible from the lowland plains. An example is the Fanuban community in the Siyangi region in the Eastern foothills. While the ban on swidden farming in the remaining old-growth forest could be quite successfully enforced among its members, small-scale illegal logging by lowland settlers is still rampant. And Buhid men are increasingly getting involved. They sometimes provide raw logs, or help in hauling felled logs with their buffalos down to the lowlanders' settle­ments where they are sawn with chainsaws into marketable boards. For young Buhid men this is one of the few possibilities to earn cash.

In the process of and after the delineation and the recognition of the Bu­hid's claim over their Ancestral Domain by the DENR, lowland settlers have become well aware of the rights the Buhid are now supposed to hold over their land and resources. However, these rights are in many cases either ig­nored or not recognised. Some settlers explicitly stated that they do not rec­ognise the Buhid's exclusive rights since the CADC was not a true title.

Although a CADC is not a title, it does impart the right of use and man­agement to specific user groups, and therefore the right of exclusion. In the absence of enforcement, however, this remains empty rhetoric. The municipal level offices of the DENR, the Community Environment and Natural Re­source Offices (CENRO), are responsible for enforcement of the rules laid out in the CADC agreement, which implies intervention in cases of transgression by outsiders. The Buhid of the Siyangi area did report cases of illegal logging to the CENRO, but no action was taken. Illegal logging and processing of logs goes on in broad daylight. Local politicians such as the barrio kapitans of ad­jacent lowland villages are allegedly directly involved. And as representatives of a government agency, the CENRO staff does not dare to venture into the interior anymore in fear of being attacked by the NPA guerilleros. The NPA on their part are not interested in stopping illegal logging either since they al­legedly demand and get a tax from those engaged in the illicit activity. In a recent human rights documentation sheet of the SHB, the ongoing environ­mental degradation in the Buhid area has been described as a result of 'a power vacuum where the government cannot enforce the law in the area or uses the presence of rebels as an excuse not to enforce the law' (2004: 1).

Unlike the tribal communities in India referred to by Poffenberger et al. (1996b), the Buhid have no history of violent affirmative action. In fact, any form of physical aggression is utterly despised in Buhid society. Both in cases of conflicts between individuals and with respect to intruders, the Buhid have preferred temporary or, if necessary, permanent withdrawal. This strategy has allowed them to retain their autonomy as long as no one was seriously inter­ested in land and resources of Mindoro's rugged interior. As shown above, the situation has however dramatically changed in the recent past. Many Buhid communities responded with resignation. Scared by the guns of the illegal loggers, the 'environment guards' appointed by some communities also do not dare to interfere. The uncontrollable illegal logging by lowland migrants now undermines attempts to enforce rules and regulations for communal resource conservation among the Buhid themselves. More and more Buhid are getting engaged in illegal logging themselves, their argument being an all too familiar one: since they cannot stop lowlanders cutting their forests, they say, they may as well do it and reap the benefits themselves.

The right to exclude outsiders is perhaps the most important precondition for establishing effective common property management systems. Communi­ties of resource users can deal with the problem of outside encroachment themselves if they are given the right to exclude and to take affirmative ac­tion. Although, as we have seen, the Buhid as CADC holders have this right, they have difficulties asserting it, and they do not have any support from the authorities. However, increasing pressure by outsiders on their resources ap­pears to bring about attitudinal changes. An example are the communities along the Tuwaga river that have succeeded in stopping illegal logging in a collective effort of a group of men confronting illegal loggers and threatening to confiscate the chainsaws. However, since illegal loggers often carry guns, and may have the protection of the NPA and as long as the general situation of virtual lawlessness in the interior of Mindoro prevails, prospects for a rep­lication elsewhere remain rather weak.

The SHB and KBI have applied for the conversion of the Certificate of An­cestral Domain Claim (CADC) into a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT), a genuine, collective title as provided for in the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997. It is hoped that this title will bring about more respect by outsiders on one hand, and an encouragement for more assertive action among the Buhid on the other.

Other developments are however threatening the development of the capac­ity for assertive collective action to defend whatever rights the Buhid have been or will be granted by the State. Assimilation pressure is increasing among the communities living in close proximity to the lowland settlers, and aggressive proselytising of various, bitterly competing Christian churches are adding to the erosion of values and institutions integrating Buhid communi­ties, or creating divisions within communities. Furthermore, resignation and disinterest on the issue of Ancestral Domain rights is spreading among the younger generation in areas where the encroachment by settlers is on the in­crease again. Buhid leaders active within the SHB are fearing not only the dis­integration of the unity achieved in the long process of Ancestral Domain delineation and CADC application, but are also worried about the lack of young leaders willing to continue their work. Increasing economic pressure makes the younger generation loose interest. In 1986, Gibson wrote on the communities of the Ugun Liguma in the east:

'It is this "mixed economy" [cash crop and subsistence farming, C.E.] which allows the Buid, for the time being, to have the best of two worlds. On the one hand, they remain relatively immune to most environmental disasters such as typhoons, which have less impact on root crops than on grain crops. On the other hand, they are now able to purchase a wide variety of lowland goods in addition to maintaining their consumption of rice by purchasing it from the lowlands'. (1986: 50)

At the turn of the millennium, many of the domestic economies of the communities in the eastern foothill areas have completed the transformation from petty commodity production described by Gibson to full market integra­tion. The former self-sufficiency in basic food crops that ensured sufficient resilience in times of crisis is not present anymore. Dependence on cash in­come to meet basic needs coupled with the drastic drop of farm-gate prices for their agricultural products in recent years has led to widespread poverty, forc­ing people to grab any opportunity-like illegal logging or charcoal burning- to earn money. At the same time, the population size of the Buhid and en­croachment by lowland settlers are rapidly increasing in the foothill areas. Under such circumstances, the Buhid communities face an even more formi­dable challenge in establishing and maintaining communal resource manage­ment and conservation regimes. The outcome of their endeavours remains highly unpredictable.[32]

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