Philippine Standard time

Economic Development and Environmental Management in the Uplands of Southeast Asia: Challenges for Policy and Institutional Development

We consider the sources and consequences of tensions between economic growth, the commercialization of agriculture and the evolution of institutions and policies for the management of natural resources in the environmentally fragile uplands of Southeast Asia. In early modern development, subsistence agriculture using long-phase forest fallow rotations and regulated by customary law is replaced by more intensive, commercially-oriented farming systems, a process heavily influenced by internal migration to the agricultural frontier. Traditional land and resource use institutions are quickly displaced during this shift -- both de facto, through the actions of colonists, and de jure, through the state's assertion of ownership over forests and uplands or highlands and the introduction of private title to agricultural lands. But the effective implementation of natural resource use constraints lags substantially behind the pace of agricultural development and forest exploitation, resulting in a period in which high demand for such resources coincides with virtually open access. These processes are noticeably subject to the influence of policies and reforms affecting markets, prices and institutions. Using data and analysis from a Philippine case study site, we consider the forces driving the recent evolution of economic behavior and institutional arrangements in upland and forest margin areas of Southeast Asia. Looking forward, we ask how the system might evolve in the near future, and in particular what changes might be wrought by the recent but far-reaching devolution of administrative and legal powers to sub-national jurisdictions.


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