Food Insecurity and the Green Economy Project in Ancestral Domains in the Philippines

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:45
Location: Prominentenzimmer (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Marvin Joseph MONTEFRIO, Yale-NUS College, Singapore
Food security remains to be one of the priorities of rural development efforts in the global South. Such initiative is particularly pronounced in the era of ‘green economy,’ where emphasis is given to the inclusion of marginalized populations in the continued ‘sustainable’ growth of rural economies. At present, rural ‘green economy’ projects (such as ‘low-carbon’ cash crop production and market-based conservation) promote the eradication of chronic hunger and malnutrition among smallholder farmers. However, many of these projects fall short of realizing this vision, and in some cases even exacerbate food insecurity. This paper examines the issues of food insecurity among indigenous smallholder populations engaged in ‘low-carbon’ (green economy) agro-industrial crop production (e.g. oil palm and rubber) in ancestral domains in the Philippines. Observations from a year-long field research in the frontiers of Palawan Island suggest that the expansion of oil palm and rubber plantations has contributed to changes in livelihoods and patterns of food access, acquisition and preferences among indigenous smallholders. Evidence points to smallholders’ increasing dependence on commercial foodstuff and their mounting debt accumulation in attempts to maintain adequate food access. Concurrently, there are indications of how transformations in traditional forms of livelihood (particularly swidden cultivation) also translate to changes in gender relations, such as the reorganization of reproductive and “invisible” labor, which have implications on household access to and preferences on food. As indigenous smallholders realize the worsening food insecurity condition they experience under the green economy regime, some have abandoned such dreams to return back (with varying success) to swidden cultivation, while others endure to manage cash crop production fields regardless of the consequences.