Social Justice Implications of Land Use Change in the Philippines Uplands : Analysis of Socio-Economics Drivers and Impacts on the Land and its People

Despite reported economic growth for the Philippines in the last decades, increasing poverty has become a major concern with a high relative proportion of the poor belonging to the agriculture sector. Corn is the 2nd major agricultural crop in the Philippines, which has posted increasing production trends in the last 12 years. But despite this reported growth, families engaged in corn production are among the poorest in the agriculture sector.

In the Philippine uplands, high yield variety (HYV) corn production has increased substantially in recent years. Rise in HYV corn demand from a growing livestock sector has transformed the landscape that can scarcely support this type of crop. This shift in land use is having profound impacts on the socio-economic dynamics of upland communities. Low maintenance HYV corn has attracted small upland farmers due to the promise of high returns, despite many risks such as climate, pests, and environmental factors resulting in crop failures and eventually, an endless cycle of debt.

The specific point being addressed in this project is how decisions are made within households. This is important in that the more a situation is precarious and vulnerable, the greater the chance that decisions are ill-founded, giving rise to adverse consequences in terms of human development. Effects are manifested not only in the socio-economic and cultural situations of the farmers, but also in the local environment in which they live. Land use transformation is thus a major concern since it potentially brings about land degradation, especially in highly intensive agriculture as HYV corn.

The central scientific issue being addressed by the project is a thorough understanding of the social, economic, and cultural drivers and the resulting impacts of this shift to HYV corn. To address this main issue, the project will resort to different scientific disciplines, each addressing more specific scientific questions related to the main issue: development economics, social and political philosophy, social anthropology, and geomatics.

The project aims to provide tools to tackle negative impacts of long-term land use change due to high input crops in the uplands. More specifically, our specific objective is to enhance well-informed decision-making among actors – farmers, traders, civil society and policy- makers – involved in land use change due to HYV corn. By achieving this objective, our project will promote the establishment of an equitable and environmentally responsible agriculture – and therefore livelihood – in the uplands. The overall objective is to contribute to the sustainable development of upland communities and foster social justice awareness.

Four results are targeted to allow us to achieve the specific objective. First result will generate high quality scientific knowledge about the drivers and risk affecting decision- making in HVY corn agriculture as well as the impacts in terms of social justice and land use change. Second result aims to significantly enhance the academic capacities of the Philippine partners to understand this problematic as well as the provision of tools to tackle it. Third result seeks to raise awareness on the issue among the local population, local and national authorities, and civil society. Lastly, the project strives to achieve the project goals through efficient and effective management that complies to ARES-CCD procedures to guarantee optimal support for the project’s implementation.


Research Project for Development (RPD, ARES-CCD) 2016-2021 - Coordinator : Stéphane Leyens - Partners : ESSC, Ateneo de Manila University / CRED, UNamur / ELI, UCL / IACCHOS, UCL

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