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The shifting ground of swidden agriculture on Palawan Island, the Philippines


  • Wolfram Dressler


  • Juan Pulhin


Recent literature describing the process and pathways of the agrarian transition in Southeast Asia suggests that the rise of agricultural intensification and the growth of commodity markets will lead to the demise of swidden agriculture. This paper offers a longitudinal overview of the conditions that drive the agrarian transition amongst indigenous swidden cultivators and migrant paddy farmers in central Palawan Island, the Philippines. In line with regional agrarian change, we describe how a history of conservation policies has criminalized and pressured swidden farmers to adopt more intensive “modern” agricultural practices. We examine how indigenous swidden cultivators adjust their practice in response to recent changes in policies, security of harvests, and socio-cultural values vis-à-vis intensification. Rather than suggest that this transition will lead to the demise of swidden, results reveal that farmers instead negotiate a shifting ground in which they lean on and value swidden as a means of negotiating agrarian change. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfram Dressler & Juan Pulhin, 2010. "The shifting ground of swidden agriculture on Palawan Island, the Philippines," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(4), pages 445-459, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:4:p:445-459
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9239-0

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bryceson, Deborah Fahy, 1996. "Deagrarianization and rural employment in sub-Saharan Africa: A sectoral perspective," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 97-111, January.
    2. Rigg, Jonathan, 2006. "Land, farming, livelihoods, and poverty: Rethinking the links in the Rural South," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 180-202, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lincoln Addison & Matthew Schnurr, 2016. "Introduction to symposium on labor, gender and new sources of agrarian change," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 33(4), pages 961-965, December.
    2. Montefrio, Marvin Joseph F. & Sonnenfeld, David A. & Luzadis, Valerie A., 2015. "Social construction of the environment and smallholder farmers' participation in ‘low-carbon’, agro-industrial crop production contracts in the Philippines," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 70-77.


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