Philippine Standard time

The Evolution of Lowland and Rainfed Rice-Based Farming Systems Towards Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development: Focus in Nueva Ecija, Philippines

The Philippine Study on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD)/ Farming Systems Evolution seeks to examine macro and micro trends in the evolution of rainfed, lowland rice-based farming systems – driving forces, impacts and responses – in three levels: national (Philippines), territorial (a province) and farming systems level (sample household in selected sites). It seeks to review trends in the selected farming system over the past 50 years, and to develop forward-looking descriptive scenarios towards year 2030. Given the above nature of the subject matter, which takes on a long-term historical view, this paper may thus be considered as an exploratory research study. The long term evolution of rice production in the Philippines is characterized by peaks and dips. The trends in rice production, cultivated rice area, and rice yields are related to population growth, technological changes, relevant laws, policies, programs and institutions. The first phase, 1900-1916, was characterized by a very unstable rice farming system as indicated by the wide fluctuations in production volume and yields. This was caused by the frequent occurrence of the El Niño, with four episodes for the period 1902-1915; and the transition stage from the country’s liberation from Spain to the next colonizers, the Americans. The second phase, 1917-1960 was quite a stable phase, except during the 1940-45 war periods. This phase was characterized by static (non-increasing) rice yields, and a fairly increasing production, achieved mainly through expansion of cultivated rice area. The third phase, 1961-1986 was characterized by the rapid increments in both production volume and rice yields, brought about by the Green Revolution; and a decreasing land area planted to rice. The fourth phase, 1987 to the present, showed small increases in rice yields and volume of production as a result of environmental degradation and the limiting government resources to support agriculture. During this phase, budgets for agriculture have become limited due to the budget deficits, because of the high foreign debts, which swelled from the Marcos administration through the succeeding administrations. The rainfed lowland rice farming system evolved from having low productivity from the 1900 to the early part of the 1960s, into a highly productive system during the late 1960s to the mid 1980s when the green revolution was on its peak with all the government support programs; and then to a slow-growth productivity during the late 1980s and early 1990s until the present, when the environment is taking its toll from the damages resulting from the indiscreet use of the natural resources. Based on trends, the land area cultivated for rice is continuously declining, which means that in terms of the biophysical factors, the area planted to rice has now become the most limiting factor in rice production. Even as fertilizer supplementation was able to correct the low soil fertility problem, its excessive use resulted in second-generation soil degradation such as soil compaction and soil acidity. There had been a continuous development of irrigation systems since the 1900s. However, the rate of development slowed down in the recent past due to financial constraints. On tapping the rice crop’s full potential, the new developments in rice varietal improvement, indicated that hybrid rice could have a bright prospects for increasing rice production. The evolution trends showed that after learning from past mistakes, the development of rainfed lowland rice farming system now keeps up with the true essence of sustainable agriculture that is, increasing the agro-ecosystem productivity without degrading the natural resource base. The stability of rice-based ecosystem has always been confronted by the normal tropical climatic cycle of rains, typhoons, and dry periods. Stability of the lowland rice farming system could be attributed to the ability of farmers to make remedies through their own ways and means, the support services and policies of the government in addressing problems of the industry. In subsistence farming, where the farmer is the producer, and also the consumer, there was less intervention of external market forces, thus, there was more equitability. But in commercial farming, the traders, landowner-capitalists, and money-lenders got most of the benefits. To address this problem, the cooperative system was developed during the Marcos regime; success had been insignificant, thus, making the cooperative system a great challenge to address equitability. With respect to the biophysical attributes, it can be inferred that the rainfed lowland rice farming system had a high potential for sustainability given the appropriate technologies, and the coordinated support and commitment of all the stakeholders from the society, from the grassroots to the government. In order to enhance the rural growth and increase competitiveness of key agricultural commodities, the following interventions were recommended: increase agricultural productivity and investment in agriculture; for the government to review its trade policy and market linkages; strengthen peoples organization capability and capacity to undertake their own development and partners of government programs; and implement a farmer extension/education program.


This publication has been cited time(s).