14 Dec

Primary Sector Value Chains, Poverty Reduction and Rural Development Challenges in the Philippines

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Preview was written by Dr. Edo Andriesse

Q: What is the main purpose of your study?
A: The Philippines has enjoyed successes in exporting seaweed, tuna, coconut oil and bananas. Yet the producers of these products at the beginning of the value chain, farmers and fisher folk, face environmental and socioeconomic challenges. Many find it hard to escape poverty or to avoid falling back into poverty. This study analyses how and why farmers and fisher folk continue to live in difficult circumstances while urban based firms benefit from exports.

Q: What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study?
A: It is important to look ahead and continue searching for solutions. Farmers, fisher folk together with non-governmental organisation and the government should intensify cooperation and work on issues such as climate-smart agriculture and aquaculture, the possibility of organic production and processing as well as tackling the dominance of dominant traders. A narrow focus on exports is insufficient for poverty reduction in the countryside.

Q: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
A: This study provides a comparative analysis of four products. It is not a detailed study on one product in one locality, but an overview of geographical, economic, and environmental issues relevant for rural development in the Philippines. As such, this study could be used by scholars, practitioners and policymakers as input for more specific area-based studies and policy interventions.  

Q: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?
A: The approximately three million coconut smallholders and their families face the greatest hurdles to achieve a stable standard of living above the national poverty line. Typhoons and droughts caused by the weather phenomenon El Niño disrupt production and yields, and they are easily exploited by traders when the coconut quality is measured (the copra moisture content). In addition, there has been little support from the government and most smallholders do not have the skills to explore and initiate alternative livelihood activities. The situation regarding the other three products is somewhat better, but more could be done to produce higher quality products and simultaneously addressing environmental pressures.

Q: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?
A: This study reconfirms that the integration of livelihoods and value chain analyses enables a thorough understanding of rural issues in developing countries. Theories touching upon rural development could benefit from future research on the ways in which cooperation among stakeholders and skills formation could offset socioeconomic and environmental vulnerabilities.
There is also a need for in-depth research on the trade-offs between farm/fishing work and non-farm/fishing work, between staying in the village and migrating (temporarily) to the city. Rural development cannot be studied anymore by engaging only in specific territorial-based analyses, but requires integrative investigations of local agriculture and aquaculture and labor mobility.

Q: How does your research help us think about Geography?
A: This research shows that linking rural activities in the Philippines to export markets is a highly complex issue. Poverty reduction does not only depend on successful economic geographical integration (connecting farmers and fisher folk to consumers abroad), but also on sustainable human-environment interaction and considering the combined impact of various challenges such as El Niño, overfishing, and lack of alternative employment. For instance, seaweed farmers intensified fishing when El Niño reduced seaweed yields.  

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Click here to read the abstract of this article on the Wiley Online Library.