Mangyan Tribe embraces organic soybean production


Filipinos are generally dependent on animal meat, eggs, milk, and fish for their major source of protein and other nutrients. Soybean or “utaw” is considered the “wonder crop” of the 20th century being the cheapest source protein, Vitamin E and dietary fiber. Its diversity in uses has made it the most important crop species at present and in the future. Its seeds contain approximately 40-45 percent protein, 20-25 percent edible vegetable oil, and a significant amount of vitamins A and E as well as minerals and micronutrients making its valuable component in many foods items both for human and animals.


As a nitrogen-fixing plant, soybean can serve as complimentary crop not just to increase farm productivity of small resource poor farming communities but also in soil-nutrient rejuvenation and pest management.


With the current challenge of climate change, soybean, being a legume, and a sun-loving crop, has a great probability to adopt in climate variability and could stand still to provide healthy and nutritious crop in the future.


The Department of Agriculture- Regional Field Office 4B (MIMAROPA) has implemented a project on “Technology Development, Promotion, and Utilization of Organic Soybean for Indigenous People” which aimed to develop organic production of soybeans through technology demonstrations. It also sought to provide technical assistance, trainings and seminars on processing and utilization of organic soybean. Organic production is seen as suited in the region since it is home to indigenous people whose traditional way of farming is essentially organic in nature.


Original settlers of Mindoro

The indigenous peoples (IPs) of Mindoro Island are believed to first live in the coastal areas. They are called Mangyan and are subdivided into seven tribes. However, because of the arrival of foreign colonizers, landlords, and pasture ranchers, they were forced to leave their ancestral lands and settle in the upland places and mountains.

Now, they can be found in the far-flung areas and in the mountains of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro. Only a few of them finished their education. They are famous for their bead designs and other indigenous handicrafts such as the baskets and mats.


Though the tribes and their houses are located far from each other, they have established a good and peaceful relationship with each other. The resources of their mountains have not caused them conflict because for them the land is their life.


Introducing organic soybean

Although most IPs stick to their roots, there are those who are open to learning new technologies to improve their lives. One of them is the HAGIBBAT Mangyan Mindoro community. It is a federation of seven Mangyan tribes in Mindoro, namely: Hanunuo, Alangan, Gubatnon, Iraya, Bangon, Buhid, and Tadyawan, hence the acronym, HAGIBBAT. It is this particular community that the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) has collaborated with to introduce the organic soybean production.


Amit Gabriel, a member of the Hanunuo Mangyan tribe from San Mariano Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, and secretary-general of HAGIBBAT, is the first among the IPs that got interested in planting organic soybean.


 To equip himself, he attended a training-seminar on soybean production in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro in 2013.


Natutunan namin ang tungkol sa soybean kay Sir Allan, tinuruan nila kami sa produksyon at sa paggawa ng soymilk” [We learned about soybean through Sir Allan, he taught us about production and making soymilk], he said. Soon after, they requested seeds and started planting in a techno demo farm at the Mangyan Development Center in San Mariano. They intercropped soybean with other crops such as gabi, cassava, corn, mungbean, and upland rice.


Emilio Agayhay, another member of Hanunuo Mangyan tribe from Sitio Bar-aw, San Roque, Bulalacao, Oriental Mindoro got also interested in planting soybean. He adopted intercropping after learning the soybean’s important role in soil-nutrient rejuvenation. His whole family is helping him in planting. “Uunahin muna naming ang pangkain namin, kapag may labis, iyon ang aming ibebenta” (We prioritize our food needs, and the excess is what we sell), he said.


His family loves eating edamame – boiled green soybean.


Partner-stakeholder in organic soybean

Patak Pinoy Kaunlaran, Inc. located in Sitio Sinagtala, Barahan, Sta. Cruz, Occidental Mindoro is also a partner of DA in the soybean program. It is a cooperative that engages in health care, livelihood, environment, and climate change mitigation program. Most of its members belong to the Alangan-Mangyan tribe. Their harvests are transported to Malabon City, Metro Manila where they have an office. They processed the soybean into tokwa and taho.


Immersing into the IPs’ culture and engaging them into organic soybean production was made possible with the collaboration among public and private sectors. One of them was Je Precious Tarog, a social worker and co-founder of Tamaraw Young Professional Reformers (YPR) who reached out to IPs and taught them about organic soybean production.  YPR is a group of young professionals in Mindoro that aims to share the latest developments in agriculture, architecture, technology, education, social security, business, eco-tourism, and environmental protection.

Tarog is working with DA, and the local government of Roxas, Oriental Mindoro for a project for the IP beneficiaries of 

Share-an-Opportunity (SAO), Philippines which he is associated with. The project aimed to address malnutrition and to provide sustainable livelihood to the Mangyan. SAO, Philippines is a civic society Christian organization that serves the neediest and vulnerable children in Philippine society.


In a 2014 report of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, there were 74,323 poor families among the IPs in MIMAROPA region. These IPs are identified as the real marginalized sectors who are mostly engaged in basic agriculture. Nomadic by nature, they stay from one place to another due to unavailability of food. They have the lowest income levels (below hand-to-mouth existence); many of them have very limited access to basic education, health care, and other social services. Their incomes are not enough to meet even the most basic need of the family.


Strategies for success

Organically-grown soybean is introduced and promoted not only to boost its production but more importantly, it is a strategy to make sure that the growing population is aware of this crop, its  utilization and processing of its many by-products.


            Trainings on soybean production and cooking demonstration activities are being continuously conducted to test the acceptability of various soybean-based products among the IP communities. Through these developed soybean food products, both food security and nutrition are being addressed. ### by Allan F. Lalap, DA-RFO 4B


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