Topic Area: Agriculture
Geographic Area: The Philippines
Focal Question: Has the Landcare system implemented in Barangay Ned in the Philippines achieved its two goals of livelihood security and environmental sustainability?
(1) Cramb, Robert, and Zorina Culasero. "Landcare and Livelihoods: the Promotion and Adoption of Conservation Farming Systems in the Philippine Uplands." International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 1 (2003): 141-154.
(2) Cramb, Robert. "Environment and Development in the Philippine Uplands: the Problem of Agricultural Land Degradation." Asian Studies Review 22 (1998): 289-308.  
(3)Campbell, A. (1994) Landcare: Communities Shaping the Land and the Future. Sydney: Allen and Unwin.

Reviewer: Gregory Smith, Colby College '08

The Philippines have a long history of issues involving development and the environment. The new Philippine constitution, ratified in 1987, included specific provisions for sustainable and equitable management of natural resources and the environment. The issue of soil erosion and land degradation in the uplands is widely recognized as the most significant environmental problem in the Philippines.

Recent environmental policy has focused on Landcare programs to promote the “development, dissemination and adoption of appropriate conservation farming measures.” (Cramb 2003) The landcare approach to sustainable agriculture, which has its roots in Australia in the mid-1980s, began to emerge in the Philippines in the late-1990s. Developed as a collective strategy at the local level to deal with land degradation, the landcare approach is formed around groups at the local level supported to varying degrees by government and non-government organizations. Campbell (1994) defines a landcare group as “a group of people concerned about land degradation problems, who are interested in working together to do something positive for the long-term health of the land.”

This summary will focus on the Landcare system implemented in Barangay Ned, part of Lake Sebu Municipality in the province of South Cotabato in Southern Mindanao.  This is an ideal case study because it deals with extremely difficult conditions and it has received minimal outside support.

Barangay Ned was established in 1962 but poor accessibility and lack of security prevented its development until the early-1980s. Despite its relative isolation from the municipal center, it still has a population of nearly 15,000. Due to moderate temperatures, continuous cultivation of a wide array of crops is possible. The dominant crops in the area are rice, which is primarily grown for home consumption, and maize, which is primarily grown for sale.

Barangay Ned provided a formidable challenge for the Landcare program. Sloping land, high clay content in the soil, and land clearance due to increased cultivation and logging make erosion a very troublesome issue. Also, farmers were poor with little education. Though aware of soil erosion, they lacked the knowledge and means to combat it. On the other hand, Barangay Ned’s agricultural potential and general lack of previous intervention meant the Landcare program had a high probability of success.

The agencies that formed the earlier Philippine Landcare systems already had a track record of success going into the Barangay Ned project. To Barangay Ned, they brought two new emphases—the promotion of natural vegetative strips (NVS) to buffer against erosion, and the formation of community landcare groups. While the formation of groups was its main concern, the Ned Landcare group also sought to increase the human capital among farmers by increasing technical training, which included conservation measures and the introduction of new crops (which ended up consisting mostly of perennials such as coffee and fruit trees).  According to Cramb and Culasero (2003), “Farmers’ interest in acquiring planting materials and technical knowledge for crop diversification was used as the ‘entry point’ to encourage both adoption of conservation measures and membership of landcare groups.” These measures proved successful in accomplishing these goals.

By 2002 some 39 groups with 366 members had been formed in Barangay Ned. Within a few years of program implementation, farmers had started forming groups on their own and it had become a self-sustaining system. As a result, there was a steady rise in contour barriers in the area. A few groups had even gone beyond their initial goal of conservation farming and had made efforts to meet some of their members’ other needs such as cheaper farming inputs and medicine. Over time however, some decline in group activity had occurred, perhaps due to a documented decline in training.

All told, about a third of the farmers in Barangay Ned had adopted conservation measures, most of which were successful in controlling erosion. The decision to adopt was based on the need for soil preservation, and the desire to receive benefits such as fruit tree seedlings. The decision not to adopt was based on lack of time or interest, the perceived difficulty in adopting, and lack of ownership rights of the land. Non-adopters seemed as aware as soil erosion as adopters, but adopters had usually acquired some knowledge of conservation measures gained through farmer-led events, and observations of neighbors’ farms.

Adopting was associated with desirable changes in crop yields, soil loss, soil fertility, use of fertilizer, and the planting of fruit trees. However, a clear trend in increased income was not apparent. Landcare membership was positively associated with adoption, but adoption was not exclusively reliant on membership. Almost half of the landcare members were not adopters and over 20 percent of the adopters did not belong to landcare groups.

Before the implementation of the landcare system, Barangay Ned was severely limited in many livelihood resources, such as physical, financial, human, and social capital, all of which led to depleting natural capital. Whether or not farmers had access to training was a key reason farmers adopted conservation techniques. The farmer-to-farmer nature of this training contributed greatly to its effectiveness.  It also gave farmers access to new livelihood-enhancing opportunities through their interest in soil conservation.

To conclude, we have learned that an approach to increasing sustainability in developing areas must take into consideration the livelihoods of the inhabitants. The simple transfer of technology will prove insufficient in achieving these goals. A program must be able to invest in farmers’ human and social capital in order to build their capacity to implement sustainable techniques on their own.