Methods: In collaboration with a U.S. and Philippines-based NGO, the Ang Pagtanom ug Binhi [Binhi] project explores the health implications of participating in food sovereignty movements in the Philippines. In-depth interviews and focus groups (n = 20) with community providers and cultural practitioners describe approaches to food sovereignty movements in the Philippines, the connections to health participants perceived in food sovereignty movements in the Philippines, and explore potential strategies for sustainable implementation of practices that support health and well-being. Through regular meetings with the Research and Design Team, a culturally responsive approach in the overall project cycle was created, informed by the growth cycle of an endemic plant in the Philippines, the adlai. The project cycle depicts the various phases within the growing and harvesting cycle of the adlai plant including planting, germinating & sprouting, growing, flowering, ripening, harvesting and threshing, and seed saving. Grounding the work in this cycle acknowledged the generative, iterative approach to each stage of the research, and provided locally relevant context to the stages of the work. Throughout the year-long pilot of the Binhi project, a Community Advisory Board (CAB) has been engaging in on-going review of the Binhi pilot to guide the approach and methodologies; to advise on recruitment strategies for stakeholders and community experts; to contextualize and interpret the findings; and to recommend strategies to promote dissemination of findings. Connection to and alignment with recommendations from the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for working with Indigenous communities from the UN’s manual for project practitioners was used to guide our partnerships with Indigenous community members throughout the Philippines.
Results: Themes include: 1) challenging global definitions of “health”, “food sovereignty” and “food justice”; 2) social, economic, and cultural impacts of food access; and, 3) complexities of defining and enacting food sovereignty within and throughout multiple levels of the food system. One participant shared: “What I like about the word sovereignty is it carries more than our rights, it carries dignities, stewardship... it is like a sacred something that is given to you.”
Conclusions/Implications: These themes illuminate challenges and opportunities for supporting culture, health, and traditional practices through food sovereignty movements, and emphasize the importance of including Indigenous People’s voices in this work. As food sovereignty movements continue to gain strength in the Philippines, there is a need for deeper understanding of the approaches to food sovereignty and the efficacy of the framework(s).