Socio-economic Impacts of Smallholder Tree Farming in the Caraga Administrative Region, Philippines
Tree farming is becoming infamous among smallholders in the Caraga Administrative Region, the acclaimed “timber corridor” of the Philippines. Despite the region’s favorable bio-physical condition to tree farming, attractive cash benefits, and market availability compared to other regions of the country, tree farming has become less attractive to smallholders. The smallholders remained poor and marginalized even as the region’s poverty incidence continually declined in the last three decades. This study seeks to determine the socioeconomic impacts of smallholder tree farming in the region. Using both qualitative and quantitative analyses, the study revealed that tree and non-tree farmers alike perceived positive and statistically significant changes on livelihood sources, income, equity, asset accumulation, education, level of trust, reciprocity and cohesiveness in the community as a result of tree farming. However, although income was improved with tree farming, benefits were considered inequitable among different stakeholders; those endowed with financial capital captured much of the economic benefits. Worse, the lack of financial resources has led some smallholder tree farmers to accommodate arrangements such as dependence on the purchase order (PO) holders who have control over the price of logs that put them into a disadvantaged situation, which consequently locked them in impoverished condition. The study recommends the institutionalization of an effective need-oriented extension program for smallholder tree farmers, investment in market diversification and vertical integration of tree products to make smallholder tree farming more sustainable and equitable.