WP #43: Agrarian Transition and Smallholder Success in Mindanao

Read Magne Knudsen’s working paper “Agrarian Transition and Smallholder Success Through Local Networks: A Case Study from Mindanao”, to understand how smallholders use kin and community relations to access land and improve their livelihood.

Author: Magne Knudsen

Abstract: On the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, scholars have documented a precarious land tenure, livelihood and security situation for many smallholders. Agrarian political economy studies provide insightful analysis of the underlying causes of much poverty and violence on the island. Less attention has been given to cases of smallholder success. This article proposes that conditions for smallholder farming, even among ethnic minority groups, are more varied across the island than the literature suggests. In upland villages of north-central Mindanao, there are signs of dynamic smallholder economies. The main case study is from a thriving mixed swidden and fixed field Maranao-Muslim farming village. Almost all the households in the village had successfully claimed land as their own and diversified and improved their livelihoods in recent times. To explain this positive outcome of agrarian transition, the article builds on a relational approach developed to assess the bargaining power of smallholders in land deals. To elaborate on the kinds of relationships smallholders use to access land and improve livelihoods, the article draws on anthropological literature on kinship, land tenure and place. A stronger cross-fertilization of key insights in agrarian political economy and anthropological literature on kinship helps develop the debate on agrarian transition in the southern Philippines.

Keywords: smallholders, agrarian transition, relational analysis, Mindanao, Philippines

About the Author: Magne Knudsen is Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD). His research broadly focuses on change and continuity in livelihood, family and community relations in coastal and upland regions of Southeast Asia, and the challenge of ensuring more socially inclusive forms of environmental regulation. Magne obtained his PhD-degree in anthropology at the Australian National University in 2010. Before taking up his current position at UBD in 2015, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Sociology at the National University of Singapore.

Contact: magne.knudsen@ubd.edu.bn

IAS Working Paper Editorial Committee:
Professor Lian Kwen Fee (kwenfee.lian@ubd.edu.bn)
Assistant Professor Merlin F. Franco (merlin.francis@ubd.edu.bn)

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