Declining Food Security in a Philippine Oil Palm Frontier: The Changing Role of Cooperatives

Event details


Date & time

Friday 27 July 2018


Level 3, Coombs Extension Building #8, ANU Meeting room 3.19
ANU Canberra


Dr Wolfram Dressler


Philippines Project
+61 2 6125 5484

Agricultural cooperatives’ long-held redistributive function- one of moral economy and poverty alleviation- has changed dramatically as they emerge as core brokers for agro-industrial development in the so-called ‘green economy’. This seminar examines how the changing role of cooperatives involved in brokering oil palm production impacts upon the food security and livelihoods of smallholders who labour in plantation regimes situated in historically uneven agrarian political economies. This study draws on recent research (2012, 2015 and 2016) in southern Palawan to show how older cooperatives are reconstituted toward intensifying market-relations as they engage deepening capital flows through oil palm contract farming on ancestral lands. Results show how increasingly cooperatives reinforce uneven agrarian social relations wherein indigenous smallholders experience a loss of land, poor wage labour conditions tinged with insecurity and prejudice, and mounting debt in an expanding oil palm complex. The article suggests that these changes in agrarian social relations negatively influence indigenous farmers’ food security pathways, with their access to and use of appropriate foods diminishing. It asserts that understanding the impacts of cooperatives on food security pathways requires a relational and situated analysis of livelihood change and agrarian relations in extractive frontiers.

About the Speaker

Dr Wolfram Dressler is an ARC Future Fellow at the School of Geography, University of Melbourne. His research examines human-environment relations within the framework of critical political ecology in conservation and development. Ethnographic in nature, his research examines how regional political economic processes shape resource access and use, exchange relations and environmental change at different societal scales in Southeast Asia. Specifically, he examines the historical origins and contemporary consequences of changing conservation practices on the livelihoods and landscapes of rural, resource reliant peoples in insular Southeast Asia, focusing on the frontier island of Palawan, the Philippines. He uses this frame to critically examine the spread, impact and outcomes of neoliberalism on conservation, livelihoods, and landscapes, with a focus on protected areas, market-based mechanisms (REDD, PES etc.) and resource commodity chains.

His ARC Future Fellowship (2014-2018) examines local social responses to the convergence of transnational governance, major resource extraction/ investment (biofuels etc.) and climate change in the Philippines and Indonesia. As an entry point, he examines the process and outcomes of indigenous social movements engaging boom crop production and carbon governance in the context of agrarian political economies in southern Palawan. This work is in collaboration with the indigenous NGO, NATRIPAL, Palawan State University, and the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Updated:  10 August 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, RegNet/Page Contact:  Director, RegNet