Indigenous peoples as social entrepreneurs

Indigenous peoples (or IPs) remain one of the most vulnerable sectors in Philippine society. Marginalization, socio-economic injustice, political misrepresentation, and environmental degradation are some of the complex problems that they face.

With the growing complexity of these issues and in order to uplift their socio-economic condition, various IP groups have implemented social enterprises (SEs) in their communities, ranging from forest products and handicrafts to food and high-value crops such as coffee and cacao. 

On November 14-17, 2017, close to 120 indigenous peoples — Tagbauas of Palawan, the Ati tribes of Boracay and Guimaras, Mangyans from Mindoro, and the Matigsalugs in Bukidnon, to name a few — converged for the 1st Indigenous Peoples Social Enterprise Conference with the theme, “Innovating Culturally-Appropriate and Sustainable Community Enterprises”. The event took place at the Pamulaan Center for Indigenous Peoples Education in Mintal, Davao City.  

Spearheaded by the Peace and Equity Foundation and Assisi Development Foundation (ADF), in partnership with the Indigenous Peoples Development and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), the conference showcased various IP-led community-based enterprises and open informal consultations with resource persons on capacity building, financing, and technology efficiency.

One of the speakers, Sister Guadalupe Bautista of Good Shepherd Baguio, shared the journey of the renowned Mountain Maid Training Center (MMTC) as a successful social enterprise. Considered a large scale social enterprise in food processing, MMTC with guidance from the Good Shepherd Sisters trains more than 300 college students from different IP tribes in the Cordillera region while supporting their education.

The conference generated 26 social enterprise ideas and plans from the IPs. As the first of its kind, the event emphasized appreciation of the roles of existing community-based ventures and the importance of cultural heritage as essential factors in the pursuit of economic and social goals of sustainable indigenous social entrepreneurship.