RMIT University researchers will examine how improving agriculture can reduce poverty in conflict areas of The Philippines, thanks to a $1.4 million grant.
The five-year project, funded by the Australian Government via the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), aims to develop a new agricultural extension framework that can be used by communities and agencies in conflict zones.
Agricultural extension involves organised self-help education activities such as workshops and on-farm demonstrations that bring together agencies and villagers to share information on agricultural and livelihood innovations and how they can be adopted locally.
Chief Investigator Dr Beau Beza said the research team would work with communities in western Mindanao including the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), to test and evaluate agricultural extension methods developed through this and previous ACIAR projects
"Mindanao and neighbouring areas remain at the bottom of the scale within the Philippines in terms of poverty and real per capita income," Dr Beza said.
"This income deprivation, along with other factors such as social dislocation and isolation from services, is a significant factor in Mindanao conflict."
"By improving agricultural extension and increasing the uptake of income-enhancing technologies and other farming and marketing strategies, we hope to improve agricultural livelihoods and farmer incomes.
"What we learn in Mindanao will be applicable to other areas of the Philippines and beyond, in any place where seemingly intractable conflicts hinder efforts to reduce poverty."
The project's development of improved agricultural extension methods will focus on both the farm and institutional level.
Dr Beza, Program Director of International Urban and Environmental Management at RMIT, said the role of social capital - productive social relations that allow individuals and groups to improve their economic wellbeing - would be a key component of the research.
"Experience in both Australia and the Philippines has shown that the strengthening of social capital has been a key factor in the creation of new and innovative solutions to agricultural issues," he said.
Project partners in the research include RMIT University, the Landcare Foundation of the Philippines, the University of the Philippines Mindanao and the University of the Philippines Los Banos.