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Creating incentive structures from the ground in the Philippines

Benefit sharing need not be initiated by the state and carried out through legislative reforms. NGOs can, as will be seen from this example from the Philippines, be quite successful in carrying out benefit sharing schemes in cooperation with farmers. This example demonstrates how agro-biodiversity can be maintained and increased through such benefit-sharing mechanisms as participatory plant breeding, distribution of traditional varieties and related information, and conservation activities.

Agricultural production in the Philippines is a complex system. Land tenancy remains a major stumbling block, as major decisions, inputs and harvests are still in the control of a few landlords. Price control and control of inputs and processing are in the hands of the traders, and small-scale farmers are basically market tenants. Because the market economy now drives a significant portion of the agricultural sector, resource-poor farmers have come to focus on crops with market value. This shift towards production for sale has changed the pattern of varieties being grown. Due to the loss of agro-biodiversity and traditional knowledge, caused by the introduction of commercial varieties, farmers can also be said to have become technology tenants in many areas because of the dependency created by new technology.

In this context, SEARICE was founded in the 1970s as a social justice network composed of individuals and institutions from the Southeast Asia region, and focused on policy advocacy and concrete community work. The community interventions of SEARICE aim especially at the conservation, development and use of community plant genetic resources. This work started in 1989 and has included activities in community seed banking, variety selection, participatory plant breeding, and seed rehabilitation. Production issues like pest management, soil management, diversification, conversion towards sustainable agriculture, and on-farm research have also been addressed. Facilitating market access, networking and policy advocacy have complemented the activities. These can all be seen as examples of benefit sharing where the focus is on the farming communities that contribute to the maintenance of plant genetic diversity. Many of the non-monetary types of benefits can be recognized as part of the activities, including conservation, participatory plant breeding, enhanced utilization of farmers' varieties and access to propagating material.

Ricefield. Photo: SXCSEARICE has employed various approaches and methodologies in organizing people and in strengthening their capabilities as individuals and institutions involved in managing local agro-biodiversity. A series of national consultations and workshops with stakeholders have been conducted, and a curatorship approach where farmers were made the curators and custodians of traditional seeds was employed to re-introduce the use of traditional varieties. This approach proved most successful in the marginal uplands where no improved high-yielding varieties had been introduced and where most production is still for home consumption. To increase the success also in other areas, the distribution of traditional varieties was coupled with efforts to change the production system. SEARICE also started to use the Farmers' Field School (FFS) approach, and this, along with discussions, sharing and hands-on field experiments, has served to strengthen the farmers' capacities to conduct their own crop improvement research and gain experimental knowledge.

SEARICE does not focus solely on rice but also works with root crops and corn conservation. Its work with root crops consists mainly of distributing propagating material to interested farmers and possible curators, and is oriented more to conservation than improvement.

The main success of SEARICE's community intervention is increased agro-biodiversity, specifically increasing the number of crops and varieties developed by farmers and planted in their fields. In 1998, 80% of the farms in the project site in Cotobato were using farmers' selections, with only 20% using modern varieties. This represents an increase from 45% in 1992. For upland varieties, 61% (175 out of 288 varieties distributed) were still used and maintained by farmers. In the lowlands however, only 19% (16 out of 86 varieties distributed) were maintained. In addition there are the approx. 115 selections developed by farmers through participatory plant breeding. These achievements were made thanks to the creation of incentive structures from the ground, in a collaboration involving farmers, an NGO and scientists. The challenge is to combine the work on the ground with policy advocacy work and lobbying for policy reforms.

The main lesson for other actors interested in achieving the same type of success is that it is not necessary to wait for the authorities to impose incentive structures that favour farmers who conserve and sustainably use plant genetic resources. They can be shaped and introduced from below, in areas where the initiative is taken - if the institutional and professional capacity is at hand.

(This text is based on information derived from an article by Wilhelmina R. Pelegrina, Executive Director of SEARICE, the Philippines, published in context of the Growing Diversity Project in 2002.)

Pages in this sub-section:
   Creating incentive structures from the ground in the Philippines
   Community seed fairs in Zimbabwe
   Community gene banking and on-farm conservation in India
   Dynamic Conservation and Participatory Plant Breeding in France
   Participatory plant breeding adding value in Nepal
   Capacity-building for seed potato selection in Kenya
   The Peruvian Potato Park
   Rewarding best practices in Norway
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 In this section:
  What is a 'success story' of FR?
  Success stories from the realization of the right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed
  Success stories on traditional knowledge related to agro-biodiversity
  Success stories on benefit-sharing measures
  Success stories on participation in decision making
  Common features

Photo: Pratap Shrestha, Nepal