Saturday, May 11, 2013

Technologies for Tribal and Communal Communities

By Ike Señeres

MANY indigenous tribes have already been granted their own Certificate of Ancestral Domain Titles (CADTs) that has become the legal basis for them to occupy their own land areas. Aside from the indigenous tribes, many people’s organizations have also been granted their own Integrated Forest Management Agreements (IFMAs), and that has also become the legal basis for them to occupy public lands for the purpose of planting trees and other forest products. 
Indigenous Communities Conservation Areas (ICCAs) is an international framework that has been adopted to support the role of indigenous peoples (IPs) in conserving the natural environments, particularly in the forested areas. Not all areas that are included in the ICCA framework are ancestral domains. However, all of these areas have tribal peoples who are doing the conservation work. Moreover, not all CADTs have been declared as ICCAs, and vice versa. 

Indigenous tribes are bound together by common historical and cultural roots. More often than not, people’s organizations are bound together by common political and social backgrounds. Despite the differences between these two groups, both of them have become very important in the conservation of the natural environments, and both of them have been drawn towards active participation in the cooperative movement. 

As of now, there seems to be no law that would define and support the pursuit of communal lifestyles. It could be said that the indigenous tribes have been living communally since time immemorial, and by force of circumstance, it could also be said that the people who live inside the IFMA areas might have also adopted the communal lifestyle. 

In the absence of a legal or a practical definition, the existence of a communal lifestyle is characterized by having common kitchens, toilets, bathrooms and water sources, among others. To some extent, it could probably be said that some of these services or utilities might by owned or operated by cooperatives, or some other forms of common ownership. 

As it is now, there is already a legal basis for small communities to become Independent Power Producers (IPPs) on their own. Although there is no clear legal basis yet for small companies to put up their own water sources, many water cooperatives have emerged all over the country. For some reason, no one yet has put up a gas company or a gas cooperative, to service the cooking gas needs of small communities. As of now, everyone is still dependent on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) for cooking. 

In theory, all the power, gas and water utilities in small communities could be owned by just one cooperative that is in turn owned by all the community members. This would however depend on the local conditions, because it is really up to the community members to have combined or separate utilities. The common denominator however is that all of these utilities could be home grown and all of these could be built in small scale, low cost versions. 

As the saying goes, “If there is a will, there is a way”. 

There are many technologies that could be used to produce power, gas and water for tribal and communal communities. In the case of power, there are solar, wind, hydro and other solutions. In the case of gas, there are biogas and gasifier solutions. In the case of water, there are fresh water, deep well and desalination solutions. As a matter of fact, there should be no problem about water sources if there is already power or gas. 

Any form of two-way communications would be good for the purpose of bringing basic services to the tribal and communal communities. That would include internet and mobile connectivity. However, since these two technologies are solely dependent on local cellular towers, it would be good to back up the communications with two-way radios. Of course, satellite based internet connectivity would always be an option, if these would be affordable. 

Using internet, mobile and radio, it would be very easy to deliver medical, legal and educational services to all remote areas. These are also known as telemedicine, telejustice and telelearning. Fortunately, there are laws now that would require all lawyers, doctors and teachers to provide pro-bono services as a prerequisite for the renewal of their professional licenses. This would provide the professional base to deliver these basic services to these remote areas. 

If they have power, gas and water, these communities would also be able to move up to the next steps of farm automation and factory automation. These are two steps that would enable the people in these communities to produce more value added, and hopefully with that, they would be able to get out of the cycle of poverty that has unjustly entrapped them for so many years. 

More than anything else, marketing is the most important need in all producer cooperatives. In theory, all of them could produce the raw materials that any food manufacturing company would buy, but there seems to be no good system that would coordinate this whole process of buying and selling. Hopefully, an online system could be developed for them that would enable them to sell to the rest of the world, using some forms of electronic commerce.

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