The Philippines has experienced significant growth over the past four decades, but unlike many of its Asian neighbours this growth has not resulted in a commensurate reduction in poverty and has been limited to a few sectors of the economy and society.
—Aid Investment Plan, Philippines, 2015–16 to 2017–18 (DFAT)
The Australian Government’s aid program is working with the Philippine Government to promote prosperity, reduce poverty, and enhance stability, and to help respond to the Philippines’ agricultural research and development priorities.
There is relatively little new land in the Philippines suitable for expanding production, and productivity growth in existing areas over recent years has been low. The country’s high rate of population growth (2% per annum) puts added pressure on the sector to meet the increasing demand for food and raw materials. The expected population will rise to 101 million over the next 7 years. The same natural resources (land and water) are also used for other development needs. While rice is the main crop, farmers are encouraged to diversify and grow higher-value food, livestock and fisheries products, and other income-producing crops, on increasingly marginal land in the uplands.
The new Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017–2022 expects to strengthen medium-term economic growth at 7 to 8% and where growth will be more inclusive. The poverty rate should decline to 14%, and rural poverty should decrease to 20% in 2022.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (AFF) is important in achieving these growth and poverty reduction targets. This sector contributes an annual average GDP share of 11%. It employs almost a third of the labour force and supplies raw materials for manufacturing.
Despite its economic importance and sustained public interventions, the sector remains weighed down by inequality, low productivity and poverty. The number of people below the poverty line declined from 10.5% in 2012 to 6.6% in 2015, but a quarter of the population are still poor. More than 60% of the poor live in rural areas, three times as high as in urban areas. Farmers have poor access to inputs, support services, and technology, and limited links to high-value markets. Frequent and more intense natural disasters often wipe out any development in the sector.
The Philippine Government intends to expand economic opportunities for those in the AFF sector by linking them to higher-value markets; and to give small farmers and fishers more access to value chains, financing, technology and land and water. The government will also ensure ecological integrity to sustain benefits from these natural resources and make these ecosystem-based communities resilient to climate change and disaster.
ACIAR’s support to the Philippines focuses on research to make its agricultural products more productive, marketable and internationally competitive, and to protect the rural poor from climate change. More effective extension processes and greater responsiveness to market opportunities are needed to achieve these two priorities. ACIAR’s work, in particular, aligns with the aid program focus on agriculture, fisheries and water as one of its eight priority areas.
Higher-value products and market competitiveness would improve food security by giving smallholder farmers and traders more income to buy staple foods and access to other basic services and economic opportunities.
The Philippines is one of the largest importers of rice in the world, and imported 1.5 million tonnes in 2015. ACIAR funds the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) (headquartered at Los Baños in the Philippines) and supports additional IRRI initiatives that maintain rice productivity and help rice-based systems to adapt to climate change and natural disasters. Some of this climate change research uses IRRI’s Lloyd T. Evans Plant Growth Facility that allows scientists to simulate and study the effects of climate conditions on rice and other plants. The Australian Government funded this facility through ACIAR.
ACIAR vets its medium-term research strategy and geographical priorities in the Philippines through annual consultations with research coordinating agencies, universities, non-government organisations NGOs) and private-sector stakeholders.
In February 2017, ACIAR conducted the second ACIAR–Philippines Partnership Discussion in Manila. The forum, successfully organised with the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), brought together 60 heads and representatives of national and regional partner agencies, including DFAT in the Philippines. Our stakeholders affirmed that the set of priorities remains valid.
Our partners wanted more specificity under each research priority. We shall assess the research priorities in consultation with PCAARRRD and key stakeholders. This activity will inform the development of a 10-year strategy for research collaboration that will be presented at the next Country Partnership Discussion. Almost half of the 17 projects in Philippines will be completed in 2017 and 2018, so we will identify and rank future ACIAR-supported projects in the Philippines.
ACIAR’s program in the Philippines addresses the following key priorities:
- making horticultural products more competitive in the market
- competitive and sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
- managing land and water resources for profitable and sustainable agriculture
- improved returns from low-input livestock production systems
- mitigating the effects of climate change on the rural poor
- more poor indigenous households in the southern Philippines adopt technology, through understanding and addressing adoption constraints and extension.