Emerging Socio-Economic and Environmental Issues Affecting Food Security: A Case Study of Silang-Santa Rosa Subwatershed

Roberto F. Rañola Jr., Fe M. Rañola, Maria Francesca O. Tan, and Ma. Cynthia S. Casin

Abstract The Silang-Santa Rosa subwatershed feeds into Laguna Lake to the south-east of Metro Manila. This case study of the subwatershed provides some insights on the interactions between people and institutions within their given natural environment. The link between the socio-economic conditions of households and the quality of the ecosystem resources available is premised on the extent to which socio-economic conditions influence household decisions relating to the use and management of land and water resources. The major issue is how people might be able to improve, protect, and expand their current resource base or level of acquirement given the different types of risks they face. In the subwatershed's upstream areas, the risk is from soil degradation coupled with inefficient farm production systems that lead to low farm productivity. In the downstream areas, households face poverty-related issues such as food insecurity and low income from declining fishery resources. In addition, pollution from both upstream and downstream areas threatens their livelihoods and increases the incidence of water-borne diseases. To address these issues, it is proposed that the different stakeholders could be enlisted to develop an integrated development plan that would reflect their common interests and vision for the watershed area feeding into Laguna Lake. The plan should deal with major issues such as land and water degradation, poverty, livelihoods, food security, health, farm production efficiency, and marketing systems, as well as regulatory and economic instruments that would reduce land and water degradation.

Keywords Farm income • Food security • Global environmental change

11.1 Introduction

Food systems and food security are greatly affected by environmental changes such as land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and alteration in hydrology or climate patterns. These changes may be either natural or anthropogenic in origin, although it is the alterations of anthropogenic origin that contribute most to environmental change. Food systems include activities such as food production, processing, packaging, and distribution and retailing. They are complex systems influenced by environmental, social, and economic factors, and they link directly with policy and public health issues.

Currently, the accepted definition of food security as defined by the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN) is “access by all people at all times to the food needed for a healthy life,” [FAO/WHO 1992a, as cited by the Committee on World Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization (Food and Agriculture Organization-Food and Nutrition Division and Publishing Management 1997)]. Food insecurity, on the other hand, is defined as lack of access to enough food for a healthy and active life. According to a definition that had its origins in the 1970s, however, food security refers to the availability, accessibility, utilization, and stability of food supplies (Stamoulis and Zezza 2003, as cited in Springer Editorial 2009).

Food availability is often associated with climatic changes that can affect the agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry sectors. Accessibility, however, depends on the knowledge and resources of households themselves. Such knowledge and resources include strategies utilized by households for food acquisition, that is, their ability to produce food and exchange assets for food. The strategies may include borrowing money, selling assets, or engaging in wage labor to provide food for the family. While neither rural nor urban households are spared from food insecurity, especially during seasonal troughs, the former are able to produce their own food, while the latter purchase most of their foods. The urban households are therefore more affected by food insecurity, especially if jobs are lost, incomes fall, and food prices increase. In terms of utilization, women are usually responsible for food procurement, preparation, and storage, especially in rural areas. Stability of food supply, meanwhile, is defined by use of a set of strategies to cope with both major and minor stresses. Communities that live in stressful environments, in particular, have developed strategies to reduce the impact of environmental stresses on household food security in the shortand/or long term. An important strategy is protection of the resource base through production practices that do not damage the environment to the detriment of the agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors. An example would be changing cropping systems to increase farm productivity. Another coping strategy is to ensure that the procurement of food does not lead to the loss of a household's capacity to produce using its assets such as land, equipment, and farm animals.

The issue of risks to food security from environmental degradation is of major importance, because the poor are the ones most affected. In rural areas where a high incidence of poverty exists, the rural poor are forced to cultivate fragile and marginal lands causing soil erosion. This renders them very vulnerable to environmental risks such as the diminution and contamination of their water supplies, and reduction in farm productivity that has a direct impact on their food security (Food and Agriculture Organization-Food and Nutrition Division and Publishing Management 1997).

This paper seeks to present the impacts of some socio-economic factors and related environmental risks on food security in the Silang-Santa Rosa subwatershed. A good understanding of this link is a crucial step in developing strategies for addressing food security.

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