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Hanunóo agriculture

An Example of Shifting Cultivation in the Philippines


Department of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York

THESE photographs, taken by the writer in 1953, illustrate some of the principal stages in shifting cultivation as practised by the Hanunóo, a group of upland farmers on Mindoro Island in the Philippines. A detailed study is shortly to be published as part of an FAO Forestry Division special series of studies.

A new half-hectare plot of preferably mature second growth forest is cleared annually with knife, axe and fire by each Hanunóo family. Such fields are dispersed and must be fenced, weeded and guarded during the first six months of the cultivation period. New areas are cut only within easy walking distance of one of the small hamlet-like settlements in which five or six family households live.

Rice, maize, bananas, yams and sweet potatoes are the main staples grown, but a total of more than 80 other crops are interplanted in the forest clearings of these mountain folk.

FIGURE 1. Felling (early spring).

Assisted by favorable climatic conditions and an intimate knowledge of the local flora, the Hanunóo have farmed the same forest region by 'field rotation' for many generations.

FIGURE 2. Planting root crops (March). A woman using a digging stick to plant taro sets in a cut, but unburned field. Such root crops survive later burning.

FIGURE 3. Firing (April). This upland farmer moves through a protective fire path with a dried cracked bamboo torch.

FIGURE 4. A large clearing beginning (to bum (April). Flames consume the dried second growth, forest debris over the entire plot in less than an hour.

FIGURE 5. A neatly fenced, well-burned field (May). Fences are required because of domestic cattle and wild animals; poles left standing serve as climbing posts for yam, vines and later as firewood.

FIGURE 6. Seeding rice (June). The seeder is about to drop a small handful of rice mixed with seeds of certain other food plants into a dibble hole made by her father.

FIGURE 7. Weeding (July). Rice, maize, cassava, pigeon peas, and banana plants are visible in this field which is being cleaned for the second time.

FIGURE 8. Eating rim and bananas. A nuclear family enjoying a midday meal of two kinds of starch staple from a basketry tray. Side dishes include boiled vegetables and small fish.

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