Contracts and dispossession

Agribusiness venture agreements in the Philippines

Authored by: Alfredo R. M. Rosete

The Routledge Handbook of the Political Economy of the Environment

Print publication date:  October  2021
Online publication date:  October  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367410704
eBook ISBN: 9780367814533
Adobe ISBN:


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Partnerships with agribusiness firms that cultivate export crops are seen as a means of raising smallholder incomes and achieving rural development by several policymakers and non-government organizations (NGOs). However, several case studies have shown that such partnerships might rather result in low incomes and effective dispossession of smallholders. This chapter examines how these dynamics occur by comparing the experiences of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the Davao region of the Philippines. This chapter shows how the institutional environment and organizational histories governing the ARBs generate a bargaining environment where they cede rights to their land, resulting in their effective dispossession. Using a “bundle” approach to property rights, I find that bargaining-enhancing attributes developed by groups of ARBs are critical in ensuring that they maintain certain rights or abilities over their holdings. These, in turn, determine the degree of control they have over land. The chapter then discusses policies and actions that states and civil society actors can take to ensure the well-being of rural smallholders that face pressures to partner with agribusiness firms.

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