Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Marginal uplands: current research initiatives at VSU

Marginal uplands are hilly or mountainous lands having very low crop productivity due to poor soil quality (degraded soil), limited water availability, and unfavorable socio-economic conditions. They are widespread in Southeast Asia and other parts of the humid tropics (e.g., Agustin and Garrity 1995; Asio et al., 2009). Resource poor-farmers (~ 1.4 billion people) in the developing world are located on these risk-prone marginal environments (Altieri 2002). 
Marginal uplands in Inopacan and Hindang, Leyte

In the Philippines, the poorest households, who are also the most vulnerable and most food insecure, are living and farming on these marginal lands (Roa 2007). The agro-ecological conditions in these areas are typically not suited to intensive production systems due to low-quality soils, hilly slopes, limited access to inputs or markets and extremely diverse and site specific conditions (Asio et al., 2009; Tyler 2004). Crops that can be grown on these marginal lands are often restricted to root crops such as sweet potatoes, beans and other legumes, thereby limiting food supply and diversity in hilly lands.  In addition, farmers often seek seasonal off-farm employment to survive.  Thus, research efforts are urgently needed to enhance food security and alleviate the difficult and risk-prone living conditions of these poor farming households. 
A daughter of a poor farmer living in the marginal upland of Inopacan, Leyte

Two on-going research projects on marginal uplands at VSU are the CHED-funded Philippine Higher Education Research Network (PHERNET) Program on “Enhancing food production and environmental quality in climate change vulnerable marginal uplands of Eastern Visayas” and the NRCP-funded project “Characteristics and nutrient status of degraded upland soils in Samar Island”.
Poor soil quality and low biodiversity characterize marginal uplands

Agustin PC and Garrity DP (1995). Historical land use evolution in a tropical acid upland agroecosystem. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 53:83-95.
Altieri MA (2002). Agroecological principles for sustainable agriculture.  In: Agroecological Innovations (N. Uphoff, ed.). Earthscan, London, pp: 40-46.
Asio VB, Jahn R, Perez FO, Navarette IA, and Abit SM Jr (2009). A review of soil degradation in the Philippines. Annals Tropical Research, 31:61-94.
Roa JR (2007). Food security in fragile lands. PhD Dissertation, Wageningen University, Netherlands.
Tyler S (2004). Participatory research for community-based natural resource management in Asia. JIRCAS International Symposium Series 12: 165-169.

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