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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Socioecological analysis of smallholder farming systems in the Philippines : identifying multi-scalar pathways and barriers to resilience Heckelman, Amber


Climate change poses serious threats to agriculture. The Philippines is one of the foremost countries impacted by climate change, with extensive coastlines, high population density and heavy dependence on agriculture. Many smallholders are struggling to cope with intensified typhoons, changing rain patterns, floods, droughts, as well as temperature and sea-level rise. As a primary staple crop embedded in the socioecological fabric of the Philippines, rice systems are of particular significance to resilience building efforts. This dissertation engages in a socioecological analysis of smallholder farming systems within the Philippine rice sector, with the broader aim to identify multi-scalar pathways and barriers to building climate resilience. Drawing on fieldwork conducted between August-December 2016, this dissertation shares the results of a comparative assessment of organic and conventional rice systems located in Negros Occidental Province, an institutional analysis of the organic transition currently underway in the Philippines, and an exploration of a grassroots farmer-led network and their polycentric food sovereignty development approach. Primary data was collected via surveys, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, farmer interviews, and participant observation. My findings suggest that participating organic rice systems are more climate resilient than their conventional counterparts. Despite increased institutional support for organic agriculture, institutional arrangements remain largely oriented toward promoting Green Revolution technologies; obstructing the speed and scale of organic transition and limiting smallholder capacities for building resilience. To overcome adverse socioecological conditions, smallholders have organized into a polycentric network to implement food sovereignty initiatives that increase farmer control over agricultural resources. This bottom-up and multi-scalar development approach has helped smallholders across the Philippines transition to diversified organic systems, as well as enhanced local capacities for resilience building. The evidence presented here suggests that enhancing smallholder resilience in the Philippines requires improving the socioecological conditions for farmers to engage in adaptation and mitigation strategies, as well as community development efforts to reduce their vulnerabilities. To this end, agricultural policy, development agencies, and researchers must work towards capacity building alongside farmers to regenerate agrobiodiversity and locally available resources, facilitate social learning and collective action, as well as address the root causes of their political economic marginalization.

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