The policy environment of vegetable agroforestry in the Philippines: Are there incentives for small farmers?
Catacutan, Delia C.
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In the Philippines, using agriculture as a basis for rapid economic growth requires both a productivity revolution in smallholder farming, and innovative policies and political commitment. An important aspect of this development has to do with expanding technical options adapted to the ecological potential of the area and changing economic patterns, drawing on existing technologies in the short term, and introducing new practices and technologies in the longer term. Vegetable agroforestry (VAF) is a viable system in the uplands; however, its viability is constrained by various factors, including farmers' inability to invest, inadequate institutional structures for facilitating information flow, and lack of market incentives. Policy incentives are thus needed to stimulate smallholder investments in VAF systems. This paper reports on the scoping study of the policy environment of VAF systems. The study found that, at least in theory, the policy environment supports VAF but is insufficient in stimulating smallholder investments. Incentives for smallholders, albeit limited, do exist, but disincentives persist. Large stakeholders tend to benefit more from national level policies than smallholders because the former have more access to information and can leverage the associated costs of implementation. It is recognized that some issues are better resolved through national-level policies, while others are better addressed locally. For the vegetable sector, issues of price regulation and control, commodity protection, reducing costs across the market value chain, non-tariff barriers, and global trade require national-level interventions. For the tree sector, issues regarding restrictive policies, transaction costs, land tenure and resource rights, and domestic and international market incentives also must be addressed through national-level policies. At the local level, promoting smallholder investments in VAF requires decisive policy action to improve the effectiveness of the extension system, with emphasis on improved technology provision and support for market linkages and infrastructure. Where national-level policies do not effectively address the needs of smallholders, locally crafted policies are needed to close the gap. The viability of VAF depends on a whole set of policies that government can provide. It is therefore a political imperative.