Water distribution in Cordillera highlands “embedded in culture”

An article on how economic activities in water distribution and exchange are embedded in the culture of indigenous communities in the Cordillera highlands of Northern Luzon appeared in the August 2016 issue of the journal Asia Pacific Viewpoint

Written by researchers from the Institute of Management in UP Baguio, it presented some of the findings of Towards Good Water Governance for Development: A Multi-Case Analysis. The program, which is now in its fourth and last year of implementation, was funded using UP’s Emerging Interdisciplinary Research (EIDR) grant.

The cases of three communities “suggest that water distribution and exchange are embedded in the community’s socio-cultural spaces, but the extent of embeddedness declines as communities transform from subsistence to market-based economies.”

Embeddedness, a concept started by economic historian Karl Polanyi, explores how an economic activity is held back by non-economic institutions.

“Embeddedness also determines value and availability of water,” the authors added.

Data was obtained through discussions with households, farmers, enterprises and local government officials, and with upstream, midstream and downstream communities along the Balili River, a critical watershed in the Cordillera highlands. 

The paper, which comes after the Water Policy article published last year, provides directions on new modes of making decisions in river management “that promise more inclusive, equitable and ecologically sustainable outcomes”.

Aside from publications, the EIDR-supported study has also led to multisectoral discussions with water stakeholders in Luzon and Visayas.