Ang Pagtanom ug Binhi (“The Planting of Seed”): Health implications of food sovereignty movements in the Philippines


  • Antonia R.G. Alvarez, PhD, LMSW Portland State University
  • Joan Oñate Narciso, PhD, MSc ETH Zürich
  • Sherry Manning Global Seed Savers
  • Karen Lee Hizola Global Seed Savers, Philippines
  • Teresa Ruelas Communities for Alternative Food EcoSystems Initiative (CAFEi)
  • Yvonne Chung Portland State University
  • Tatiana Havill, MSW Portland State University
  • Miguel Santos Portland State University
  • Olynn Ara Portland State University
  • Community Advisory Board Portland State University


food sovereignty, health, Indigenous, food movements, Philippines


Global food sovereignty movements have been defined by their resistance to capitalist and colonial control of food production and land access, with an emphasis on reconnection to traditional and Indigenous ways of knowing, and holistic understandings of the connections between food and health. In the Philippines, these practices have largely been led by smallholder farmers who have fought to gain access to locally produced and regionally appropriate organic seeds through seed saving processes and technical education. In collaboration with a U.S.- and Philippines-based non-government organizations (NGO) actively involved in food sovereignty movements in the Philippines, the Ang Pagtanom ug Binhi [Binhi] project identifies the health implications of participating in these movements. Through in-depth interviews and focus groups, the Binhi project seeks to understand the perspectives of community providers and stakeholders on approaches to food sovereignty movements in the Philippines, the connections to health participants perceived in food sovereignty movements in the Philippines, and to explore potential strategies for sustainable implementation of practices that support health and well-being. Initial results from this pilot project illuminate opportunities for supporting culture, health, and traditional practices through food sovereignty movements. 


Altieri, M.A., Funes-Monzote, F.R., Petersen, P. (2012). Agroecologically efficient agricultural systems for smallholder farmers: Contributions to food sovereignty. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 32, 1-13. DOI 10.1007/s13593-011-0065-6

Anderson, F. (2018) Food sovereignty now! A guide to food sovereignty. European Coordination Via Campesina. Sovereignty-A-guide-Low-Res-Vresion.pdf

Asian Development Bank (2020, April). Basic statistics 2020.

Bautista, R.M. (1995). The Green Revolution in a macroeconomic perspective: The Philippine case. Trade and Macroeconomics Division, 4, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Block, D. R., Chávez, N., Allen, E., & Ramirez, D. (2012). Food sovereignty, urban food access, and food activism: Contemplating the connections through examples from Chicago. Agriculture and Human Values, 29(2), 203-215.

Borras, A. M., & Mohamed, F. A. (2020). Health inequities and the shifting paradigms of food security, food insecurity, and food sovereignty. International Journal of Health Services.

Brett, J.P.. (1985) Stone walls and waterfalls: Irrigation and ritual regulation in the Central Cordillera, Northern Philippines. In, Hutterer, K.L., Rambo, A.R., and Lovelace, G. [Eds] Cultural Values and Human Ecology in Southeast Asia.

Catajan, M.E. (2017, May 11). Tublay seed library to open. Sun Star Baguio Newspaper.

Corazon, A. (2011). ADSDPP as roadmap to sustainable future of IP communities.,human%20and%20cultural%20resources%20based

Coté, C. (2016). “Indigenizing” food sovereignty: Revitalizing Indigenous food practices and ecological knowledges in Canada and the United States. Humanities, 5(3), 57.

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (2001). The Philippines hotspot: Ecosystem profile.

Department of Agriculture, Philippine Rice Research Institute [PRRI] (n.d.) The Golden Rice Project,

Eckstein, D., Kürzel, V., Schäfer, L., & Windes, M., (2020). Global Climate Risk Index 2020: Who suffers most from extreme weather events? Weather-related loss events in 2018 and 1999-2018. Briefing paper. Germanwatch.

Eder, J.F. (2013). The future of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines: Sources of cohesion, forms of difference. Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society, 41(3/4), 273-294.

De Vera, D.E. (2007). Indigneous peoples in the Philippines: A country case study. Presented at the RNIP Regional Assembly, August 20-26, 2007.

FERNANDEZ, D. (1988). Culture ingested: Notes on the indigenization of Philippine food. Philippine Studies, 36(2), 219-232.

Food and Agricultural Organization (n.d.) Biodiversity to nurture people.

Food and Agricultural Organization (2016). Free Prior and Informed Consent: An Indigenous People’s right and a good practice for local communities. Manual for project practitioners.

Frake, C.O. (2014). How to be a tribe in the Southern Philippines during the advent of NGOs and the invention of The Indigenous. Human Organization, 73(3).

Global Seed Savers (n.d.). Our COVID-19 response, Aduyon initiative: Food security through mutual help.

Hayati, Y., & Kikuchi, M. (1999). The three decades of Green Revolution in a Philippine village. Japanese Journal of Rural Economics, 1, 010-24.

Heckelman, A., & Wittman, H. (2015). Food Sovereignty: A framework for assessing agrarian responses to climate change in the Philippines. ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 8(1), 87-94.

Indigenous Food Systems Network (n.d.) Indigenous Food Sovereignty.

Institute for Economics & Peace (2019, June). Global Peace Index 2019: Measuring Peace in a Complex World, Sydney. Available from:

International Fund for Agricultural Development (2016). Investing in rural people in the Philippines.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2022) Indigenous Peoples Rights Act 1997 (Republic Act No. 8371 of 1997).

Joseph, K. (2020, June 18) Youth-led solutions during COVID-19: The food crisis.

Karp, L.S. (2019, May, 20). How seed saving is repairing a painful past for Native Americans. Modern Farmer, painful-past-for-native-americans/

Leroy, A. (2017, March 2) Food sovereignty: A feminist struggle? The case of Mindanao, Philippines. Https://

Mbuya, N.V.N., Demombynes, G., Piza, S.F.A., & Adona, J.V. (6/15/2021). Undernutrition in the Philippines: Scale, scope, and opportunities for nutrition policy and programming. International Development in Focus. World Bank Group.

McGrath, M. (2013, August 9). “Golden rice” GM trial vandalised in the Philippines. BBC News, Science.

Mihesuah, D.A., & Hoover, E. (2019) Indigenous Food sovereignty in the United States: Restoring cultural knowledge, protecting environments, and regaining health. University of Oklahoma Press.

Neff, R. A., Palmer, A. M., McKenzie, S. E., & Lawrence, R. S. (2009). Food systems and Public Health disparities. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 4(3-4), 282–314.

New York Times (original 5/16/1982). Filipinos turn back from Green Revolution.

Orquiza, R.A.D. (2020) Taste of Control: Food and the Filipino colonial mentality under American rule. Rutgers University Press.

Pagulayan, R.D. (2017). “I am Filipino”: Dissecting Filipinoness in the Indigenous Itawis Ethno-Linguistic Community of Northern Luzon, Philippines. Journal of Undergraduate Research, 2017-2018.

Rosegrant, M., Perez, N., Pradesha, A, & Thomas T. (2015). The economywide impacts of climate change on Philippine agriculture. Policy Note 1. Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI),

Shaghaghi, A., Bhopal, R. S., & Sheikh, A. (2011). Approaches to recruiting 'hard-to-reach' populations into research: A review of the literature. Health Promotion Perspectives, 1(2), 86–94.

Stone, G.D., Glover, D. (2017) Disembedding grain: Golden Rice, the Green Revolution, and heirloom seeds in the Philippines. Agriculture and Human Values, 34, 87–102,

Suarez, R.K. & Sajise, P.E. (2010) Deforestation, swidden agriculture and Philippine biodiversity. Philippine Science Letters, 3(1),

Thomas, T. S., Pradesha, A., Perez, N. (2015, September). Agricultural growth and climate resilience in the Philippines: Subnational impacts of selected investment strategies and policies. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Policy Note 2.

United States Agency of International Development [USAID] (2017, February). Climate change risk profile: Philippines.

van Vliet, N., Mertz, O., Heinimann, A., Langanke, T., Pascual, U., Schmook, B., … (2012). Trends, drivers and impacts of changes in swidden cultivation in tropical forest-agriculture frontiers: A global assessment. Global Environmental Change, 22(2).

Via Campesina (2006, July 24). Rice and food sovereignty in Asia Pacific. La Via Campesina, International Peasant Movement. content/uploads/sites/2/2006/07/2006_07_13_Rice_and_Food_Sovereignty_in_Asia_Paci fic.pdf

Wallerstein, N., & Duran, B. (2010). Community-based participatory research contributions to intervention research: The intersection of science and practice to improve health equity. American journal of public health, 100(Suppl 1), S40–S46.

Weiler, A. M., Hergesheimer, C., Brisbois, B., Wittman, H., Yassi, A., & Spiegel, J. M. (2015). Food sovereignty, food security and health equity: A meta-narrative mapping exercise. Health policy and planning, 30(8), 1078-1092.

White, R. (2019) Planting sacred seeds in a modern world: Restoring Indigenous seed sovereignty. In D. A. Mihesuah & E. Hoover (Eds.), Indigenous food sovereignty in the Unites States: Restoring cultural knowledge protecting environments and regaining health, 186-197. University of Oklahoma Press.

Whyte, K.P. (2019) Indigenous climate justice and food sovereignty: Food, climate, continuance. In D. A. Mihesuah & E. Hoover (Eds.), Indigenous food sovereignty in the Unites States: Restoring cultural knowledge protecting environments and regaining health, 320-334. University of Oklahoma Press.

Wittman, H., Desmarais, A., & Wiebe, N. (2010). The origins and potential of food sovereignty. Food sovereignty: Reconnecting food, nature and community, 1-14. Potential-of-Food-Sov.pdf

Yapjoco, P.B. (2021, April 13). Grains of truth: Why the war on Golden Rice is far from over. UPLB Perspective. on-golden-rice-is-far-from-over/