Lam-en D Gonnay
The endless challenge is to know your food, know the origin and make sure it is safe, Good Clean Fair, support small farmers producers, as they are the sources of good clean fair food, educate the young generation on what is food and how it produce and how it will be sustain for the next generation to come. If you’re already in this advocacy keep moving on the nature is with us, if you’re not yet in this then start today not tomorrow because we don’t know about tomorrow. Hoping that you got this challenge and you are most welcome to the club.
Thank you very much - “ Matatago tako losan”
Cordillera is a mountainous area in the north of Luzon Island in the Philippines where many indigenous people live. Lam-en was born and raised in the Dangtalan district of Pasil City, Kalinga Province. Indigenous ways of life are threatened by changes in society, but Lam-en and his family are facing these challenges without losing sense of what’s important.
Name ： Lam-en D Gonnay
Community /Country ： Taguibong Tribe / the Phillipines
Whrere I currently live ： Dangtalan district/barangay, Pasil city
Age： 56 (born in 1964)
Current Initiatives/Title： Farmer,
Leader of “Slow Food Community Preserving local traditional/indigenous knowledge of the food heritage of Pasil“
Taguibong Tribe and the Phillipines
The Philippines has 7,109 islands and a population of about 100 million, and by some estimates more than 100 indigenous peoples. The Taguibong people are said to live in various regions in northern Luzon.
Red Rice: the Future of a Self-sufficient Village
My name is Lam-en D. Gonnay. I am a small-scale farmer in the Cordillera region of the Philippines, where I live in a village called Dangtalan. It takes about 13 hours to get there by overnight bus from Manila. Dangtalan is home to about 600 people; the main occupation here is farming, with the main crops being rice, vegetables, beans, and root crops. We belong to one of the indigenous tribes of the Cordillera region called the Taguibong.
Most of the people in the village grow food for their own families: these are not the large-scale operations you might imagine, where “farmers” make millions of dollars without touching the soil. We are only interested in farming for our own consumption and for the maintenance of our local ecosystem and culture. But we are still called farmers and ranchers.
It was the precious red rice grown in our village that inspired us to join Slow Food. Without it, we would never have crossed paths with the movement. At that time, I was concerned that we were losing more and more of our native foods and losing diversity due to the introduction of higher-quality varieties. It was during this time that I came across Slow Food International. I then participated in the 2010 edition of Terra Madre, as well as an edition of Indigenous Terra Madre held in Sweden in 2012, where I learned about the Slow Food philosophy and got involved in Slow Food activities.After meeting with producers and activists from all over the world, I realized that even small-scale farmers can make a difference, and so we started advocating for the preservation of our disappearing culture and traditions.
To begin with, we focused on rice. We started to work with the rice farmers in the village to collect, process, and sell the harvested rice as a group. There are seven Provinces in the Cordillera Region, each with its own native rice varieties. We found that other provinces were losing their native rice varieties as well. I also learned that not only rice, but many other food cultures were being lost. These traditional foods were no longer on people’s tables. So we organized a festival to celebrate the food and culture of each village. This helped us to trace the roots of a lot of almost-lost indigenous foods. With the elderly people of the villages, we started to talk about the foods that were no longer served and the wild foods that are collected from the mountains.
Since becoming a member of Slow Food in 2010 I have been representing indigenous farmers in the Cordillera region and habe participated in various Slow Food events and activities. We raise our voice in the village, in the school and whenever there is a gathering. Our activities are recognized and supported by the municipality, too. Whenever we want to do a project for small-scale farmers, the municipality is ready to provide support.
In order to continue our work we started a Slow Food Community with the involvement of the villagers in 2019. First, we started with our family: myself, my wife, and my two sons. Then it spread to our neighbors and the whole village, neighboring municipalities and other parts of the Cordillera. My son also participated at Indigenous Terra Madre in Hokkaido in 2019.
School and Educational Radio Activities
for Empowering Farmers
The first activity I would like to talk about is the Climate Smart Field School, a place to learn agricultural techniques and concepts. Of the 75 participants 53 are women, six are men, and 16 are young people. There are three vegetable gardens, and the 75 participants are divided into three groups, each growing vegetables in the gardens.
The second activity is a radio program called Slow Food On Air. We are currently broadcasting to 60 farmers and general listeners every Wednesday from 1:30 to 2:30 pm. We invite guest experts to speak every week.
The radio station is publically-owned by the National Nutrition Council of the Philippine government and is located in our village. Our program is in line with the main purpose of this radio station in terms of disaster risk management and nutritions, the idea being that passing on traditional food production is a way to reduce risk and sustainable nutritions. The program follows the rice production schedule, from sowing to harvesting, and if the yield is sufficient, to selling.
Participants can not only listen to the radio, but also have face-to-face sessions and workshop-like instruction. In order to help participants retain their learning, we give them assignments. For example, recently we gave the participants an assignment to find three vanishing ingredients in our community.
If you want to do the same, consider working with a municipality. In that case, first try to find a program in the municipality that is close to what you want to do. This is also an advantage of creating your own community, as government programs always lead to organizations. We made a proposal and sent it to the municipality, and also explained what we were doing to local farmers. The important thing is who we are and what we want to do, and there can be conflicts with the actions of the local government. It is important to express your intention properly, e.g. against the introduction of hybrids and the use of chemical fertilizers.
A Variety of Grassroots Activities
Emerging from the Community
Another activity we’ve been doing recently is the Native Chicken and Black Pig Breeding Project, which we undertook in 2019. The aim was to increase the number of native chickens and pigs by sharing them with farmers in the village. With the financial support of the Agricultural Training Institute, 42 Slow Food farmers took up this challenge. Thanks to them, we were able to revive the native chickens and pigs, and now we can buy native chickens and pigs from the local farmers when we have events. This has increased the value of our local food culture.
As a move against mechanized agriculture, we are also continuing to utilize farm cows. The Philippines has been focusing on the mechanization of agriculture since 2016, and indigenous communities are no exception. But we are trying to prevent excessive mechanization. Though we do not have any scientific data on the negative effects of mechanization, we do know that cultivation using farm oxen has resulted in higher yields, and we believe that the effects on the soil and crops are significant. In order to preserve the traditional agriculture of indigenous peoples we are also involved in activities to encourage organic farming. This includes training farmers in sustainable and climate-resistant agriculture, and opening our garden to children to make feed and fertilizer using rice bran. At the garden we also teach children how to collect seeds. This is something that is not taught in schools, but which is very important, as otherwise seeds cannot be passed down to the next generation.
Value Creation and Self-Empowerment
for Small-Scale Farmers
In order to take pride in our activities and keep them going it is important that we provide the necessary materials ourselves. The festival activities we organize to celebrate the ingredients and food culture of each region are now gaining momentum throughout the region, and the Tourism Bureau would like to link our community to food tourism. In the future, we hope to have a farm tourism site, and I believe that this is another way to promote our culture and traditions. When the Cordillera officials saw our Slow Food activities, they even went out of their way to hold a meeting in our village. During the week-long meeting, all meals were served with our traditional food. The only thing we brought from outside the village was the salt. It was an opportunity for us to serve our cherished traditional food to hundreds of people.
We believe that the local government can only provide financial assistance. This is why we do not receive seeds from the local government, but rather from the farmers. We also have a rule that all meals and snacks in our village must be traditional foods. We do not buy the ingredients to make the meals and snacks from other places, but make them from the crops we have around us. This is empowering for the community, which feels empowered to be the protagonists of their own lives and have more control over their environment.
We also focus on the training and empowerment of youth and farmers, so our work is always tied to advocacy. All of our activities are part of a sustainable plan. Listening to our village friends and relatives living in cities and abroad, we feel that they are interested in local foods and foods from “people and villages they know. It is clear that the context of town revitalization and sustainability is now attracting a lot of attention. Even when people don’t know much about Slow Food directly, the term “slow food” is starting to be used. And we are sometimes referred to as “Slow Food people,” which I think shows the level of interest.
The farmers are proud to offer local ingredients, products, and most importantly, their own food culture and traditional foods. Whenever there is an occasion such as a VIP visit to the area, we are asked to provide traditional indigenous recipes, which never used to happen before.
We need to be more aware of our culture and try to fight to preserve it. We need to continue to communicate in different ways with people who do not know much about us. To do this, we need to build a network, work together across various borders, and share ideas and experiences.
The Cordillera region is known as the “Vegetable Bowl of the Philippines,” and we are required to supply vegetables according to market demand. For this reason, there are places that have introduced chemical fertilizers and other methods of mass production that are financially successful. We do not do that. We are often asked, “Why don’t you replicate the supply model?” “Why don’t you use commercial fertilizers?” “Why don’t you clear the forest and expand your farmland to compete with these producers? “ But the answer is always the same. Don’t worry, we’re doing it with the idea of Slow Food because we know it’s good for us in the long run. From what I’ve learned at the Slow Food events I’ve been to I know that this is the path to a prosperous future.
Lam-en’s “Pride Food”
“INANCHILA” - it is made of powdered glutinous rice, cooked with specially ground orchid leaves and topped with coconut sauce. It can be eaten with coffee or as a dessert. This recipe is only served on special occasions such as weddings and traditional ceremonies. You can get it anywhere in the Cordillera, but the real thing comes from Pasil.
Lam-en’s Personal History
Lam-en’s personal history
1964 Born in Taguibong Barangay
(Called Dangtalan Barangay at present)
The youngest child of 4 siblings
~ Spent childhood in the village
Finish high school in Pasil
Spend most of teens in farming
Major in Geodetic Engineering at
St. Paul University in Tuguegarao
Work as a farmer, construction worker, and an electrician
2006 An American businesswoman visit Dangtalan through Peace Corps
Become a leader of farmers group to sell produce to US
Get to know about Slow Food
2010 Join Terra Madre Salone del Gusto
Become a member of Slow Food
2012 Participated in Indigenous Terra Madre held in Sweden
2017 Start the Climate Smart Field School program
2019 Found Slow Food Community- Preserving local traditional/indigenous knowledge of the food heritage of Pasil
2019 Start Native Chicken and Black Pig Breeding Project
2021 Running Climate Smart Field School and Slow Food On Air