Home' Partners : Partners: Innovative partnerships Contents PARTNERS ISSUE THREE 2016
BY GIO BRAIDOTTI
I solated rural communities present a
challenge to agricultural extension services
and these difficulties become extreme when
an area is affected by conflict. It often means
farmers lose access to research findings, markets,
investment and government services.
The Philippines contains such a situation in the
western part of Mindanao Island. In this region,
provinces wrangle with the co-existence of
disparate religious, ethnic and political identities,
aspirations and traditions that have sometimes
flared into open conflict.
On top of these social constraints, the often-
mountainous landscape itself is challenging---
prone to soil erosion and land degradation. But
agricultural research conducted elsewhere in
the Philippines---including in partnerships with
ACIAR---has demonstrated that improvements
to the productivity of upland farms and to the
cashflow of farmers is possible.
These improvements are based on innovative
practices that diversify farmer livelihoods by
introducing new food and cash crops while
protecting the natural resource base. They were
tested and rolled out in the Philippines through
the community-based action model 'landcare',
which has been active in the Philippines since the
The Landcare Foundation of the Philippines
was established in 2003 to help develop the
landcare model. The foundation has become a
major force helping farmers partner with ACIAR,
Australian Landcare International and research
organisations in both the Philippines and Australia.
Noel Vock has led some of the previous ACIAR
projects undertaken with the Landcare Foundation
and is well aware of the model's potential to
improve livelihoods while conserving land and
water resources. He says landcare's facilitation
of ownership and action by community-based
groups empowers farmers and communities.
These characteristics resonated with ACIAR
when it examined whether an extension model
based on landcare could be devised to reach the
more isolated communities in conflict-vulnerable
areas of western Mindanao.
"The question is quite challenging," Mr Vock
says. "But when a pilot project was launched in
2007 to 2009, the question was largely whether
the issues of conflict would negate the positive
aspects of the landcare approach."
The small-scale investigation indicated that a
landcare model could work and achieve change
relatively quickly, with benefits even beyond
improved livelihoods. There were indications the
approach could also build the trust needed for
communities to work together.
A full-scale project was subsequently launched
by Melbourne-based RMIT University and led by
Mr Vock, Dr Ken Menz---an agricultural economist
and former ACIAR research program manager---
and Mary Johnson, a social science researcher and
longstanding Australian landcare specialist.
The difficulty faced by the Australian team
members in visiting project sites meant a
Philippines team was given the major responsibility
for on-the-ground activities, using a mix of
expertise to mirror the Australian team, including
experts in landcare methods, extension, agricultural
economics and social science. These experts
were drawn from the Landcare Foundation, the
University of the Philippines Los Banos, and the
University of the Philippines Mindanao.
"Based on our collective experience, we built
an extension model that had three key platforms,"
Mr Vock says. "The model had to facilitate farmers'
access to technical innovations, it had to improve
social capital, including building trust between
groups, and it needed to build more sustainable
partnerships with local government and other
organisations that have a role and presence in
Three communities in three provinces
participated to further trial and refine the model.
Each community contained different mixes of
religious, political and ethnic affiliations. The
Landcare Foundation provided the field staff,
"WE FOUND THAT
INTERESTED IN PEACEFUL
OUTCOMES AND ATTACH A
STIGMA TO BEING DEFINED
AS A 'CONFLICT ZONE'. A
SIGNIFICANT FINDING FROM
THE PROJECT IS THAT WE SEE
AN INCREASE IN THE LEVEL
OF TRUST AMONG DIFFERENT
GROUPS. WE ARE SEEING
A CAPACITY TO WORK
TOGETHER FOR THE
-- Noel Vock
PHOTO: NIKKI CORDERO
n Con ict can exacerbate the impact of isolation
on poor rural communities, including the loss of
agricultural extension services.
n Trials in the Philippines found that extension via
a modi ed landcare model helps isolated farmers
improve farming outcomes, increase income and
rebuild social capital.
Left: A farmer tending her cacao seedlings at a community nursery.
Above: Members of the Olo-clofe B'laan Landcare Association
(OBLA) at a Farmer Field School training session.
Project facilitators (front) assist farmers of the OBLA with a field
demonstration on vegetable bed preparation.
PHOTO: EVY E CARUSOS
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