This Small Research Activity (SRA) on “Can rubber-based cropping system improve productivity and income for smallholder farmers in Southern Philippines?” was aimed at establishing the current situation relating to the development of a full proposal for a potential ACIAR project that aims to contribute to the reduction of poverty in marginalized upland communities of the southern Philippines. This is through developing an effective rubber-based cropping system that improves productivity and increases smallholder farmers’ income through crop diversification and improved soil nutrient management practices.
Initial impacts of the SRA include soil nutrient management awareness in increasing production and quality of crops at the local level and the consequent inclusion of the Provincial government of Agusan del Sur of soil analysis as a prerequisite for funding assistance under the Upland Sustainable Agro-forestry Development Program (USAD) Program. The proposed ACIAR project will address research needs and priorities of existing Philippine government programs. More importantly, the project will address poverty and insurgency by bringing sustainable livelihood to an anticipated 22,000 households through 6300 smallholder rubber farmers in Agusan del sur and expand to 8000 smallholder rubber farmers, in the CARAGA region, and eventually the entire country due to strong partnerships with national government agencies.
The key soil and nutrient constraints to the rubber productivity have been identified, including: little information about land suitability for rubber crops; lack of knowledge and skills in the areas of soil nutrient diagnosis and management; low use of fertiliser among smallholders due to high cost of chemical fertiliser and lack of access to soil analysis services and technical support due to poor analytical capacity available in the local region. These highlighted research gaps could be addressed through science-based work, and there are clear impact pathways in terms of reducing poverty and increasing incomes of smallholder rubber farmers in Agusan del Sur.