Agricultural Intensification in a Philippine Frontier Community: Impact on Labor Efficiency and Farm Diversity

  • W. Thomas Conelly


There has been little research directed specifically at the point of transition between extensive and intensive cultivation, whereby farmers decide or are forced to change techniques in order to maximize outputs through greater investment of human labor. Conelly went to the west coast of Palawan Island (the same island where James Eder studied the Batak) to investigate the transition underway from traditional swidden agriculture to irrigated rice production. On the basis of Boserup’s widely accepted theory, he assumed that such a change would be resisted because the farmer has to invest much more labor. With permanent irrigated production the soil is no longer left fallow, forcing cultivators to adopt labor-intensive methods of cultivation to maintain yields. Another widely accepted parallel argument is that because extended agriculture involves a very diverse range of crops through interplanting a number of species in each plot, with intensification the quality and reliability of the food supply will decline. What Conelly found was that while the long-term consequences of intensification may conform to these theories, in the short-term, which is what people take most seriously, standards of living improve. The reason for this is that farmers do not make the transition to irrigation directly from long fallow swidden cultivation. Rather, they make the transition from a short-fallow form of horticulture in which fields are allowed only 2–4 years in which to recover their fertility—which they do poorly. Thus, farmers no longer reap the benefits associated with traditional, highly diversified cropping. At this point, irrigation, even with its high labor requirements, looks attractive.


Tree Crop Water Buffalo Agricultural Intensification Irrigate Rice Irrigate Field 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, D. M. (1989). Agriculture and irrigation technology at Lake Baringo in the nineteenth century. Azania 24: 71–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barlett, P. F. (1976). Labor efficiency and the mechanism of agricultural evolution. Journal of Anthropological Research 32: 124–140.Google Scholar
  3. Barlett, P. F. (1982). Agricultural Choice and Change: Decision Making in a Costa Rican Community. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  4. Boserup, E. (1965). The Conditions of Agricultural Growth: The Economics of Agrarian Change Under Population Pressure. Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago.Google Scholar
  5. Bronson, B. (1972). Farm labour and the evolution of food production. In Spooner, B. (ed.), Population Growth: Anthropological Implications. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  6. Clarke, W. C. (1966). From extensive to intensive shifting cultivation: A succession from New Guinea. Ethnology 5: 347–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen, M. N. (1989). Health and the Rise of Civilization. Yale University Press, New Haven.Google Scholar
  8. Conelly, W. T. (1983). Upland Development in the Tropics: Alternative Economic Strategies in a Philippine Frontier Community. Ph.D Thesis, University of California, Santa Barbara.Google Scholar
  9. Conelly, W. T. (1985). Copal and rattan collecting in the Philippines. Economic Botany 39: 39–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Conelly, W. T. (1989). Ethnicity, economic choice, and inequality in a Philippine frontier community. In Chaiken, M.S. and Fleuret, A.K. (eds.), Social Change and Applied Anthropology: Essays in Honor of David W. Brokensha. Westview Press, Boulder.Google Scholar
  11. Conklin, H. C. (1957). Hanunoo Agriculture: A Report on an Integral System of Shifting Cultivation in the Philippines. FAO, Forestry Development Paper #12, Rome.Google Scholar
  12. Eder, J. F. (1977). Agricultural intensification and the returns to labour in the Philippine swidden system. Pacific Viewpoint 8: 1–21.Google Scholar
  13. Eder, J. F. (1990). After Deforestation: Migrant Lowland Farmers in the Philippines. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, New Orleans.Google Scholar
  14. Geertz, C. (1963). Agricultural Involution: The Processes of Ecological Change in Indonesia. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  15. Gourou, P. (1945). L’utilization du Sol en Indochine Française. (Translated by S.H. Guest). Institute of Pacific Relations, New York.Google Scholar
  16. Hakansson, T. (1989). Social and political aspects of intensive agriculture in East Africa: Some models from cultural anthropology. Azania 24: 12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harris, M. (1988). Culture, People, Nature (5th ed.). Harper and Row, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Litsinger, J. A. and Moody, K. (1976). Integrated pest management in multiple cropping systems. In Multiple Cropping, American Agronomy Society, Special Publication #27.Google Scholar
  19. Lopez, M. E. (1987). The politics of lands at risk in a Philippine frontier. In Little, P. D. and Horowitz, M. M. (eds.), Lands at Risk in the Third World: Local Level Perspectives. Westview Press, Boulder, pp. 230–248.Google Scholar
  20. Marten, G. G. (ed.) (1986). Traditional Agriculture in Southeast Asia: A Human Ecology Perspective. Westview Press, Boulder.Google Scholar
  21. Moerman, M. (1968). Agricultural Change and Peasant Choice in a Thai Village. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  22. Moorman, F. R. and van Breemen, N. (1978). Rice: Soil, Water, Land. International Rice Research Institute, Los Banos, Philippines.Google Scholar
  23. National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) (1980). Philippine Statistical Yearbook. Republic of the Philippines, National Economic Development Authority, Manila.Google Scholar
  24. Netting, R. M. (1985). Population Pressure and Intensification: Some Anthropological Reflections on Malthus, Marx, and Boserup. Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association.Google Scholar
  25. Padoch, C. (1985). Labor efficiency and intensity of land use in rice production: An example from Kalimantan. Human Ecology 13: 271–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ruthenberg, H. (1976). Farming Systems in the Tropics. Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  27. Schlegel, S. A. (1979). Tiruray Subsistence: From Shifting Cultivation to Plow Agriculture. Ateneo de Manila Press, Quezon City, Philippines.Google Scholar
  28. Schlegel, S. A. (1983). Tiruray traditional and peasant subsistence: A comparison. In Olofson, H. (ed.), Adaptive Strategies and Change in Philippine Swidden-Based Societies. Forest Research Institute College, Laguna, Philippines, pp. 105–116.Google Scholar
  29. Simon, J. (1983). The effects of population on nutrition and economic well-being. In Rotberg, R. I. and Rabb, T. K. (eds.), Hunger and History: The Impact of Changing Food Production and Consumption Patterns on Society. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 215–239.Google Scholar
  30. Spooner, B. (1972). Population Growth. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  31. Stone, G. D., Netting, R. M. and Stone, M. P. (1990). Seasonality, labor scheduling, and agricultural intensification in the Nigerian savanna. American Anthropologist 92: 7–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Waddell, E. (1972). The Mound Builders: Agricultural Practices, Environment, and Society in the Central Highlands of New Guinea. University of Washington Press, Seattle.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Thomas Conelly
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyIndiana University of PennsylvaniaIndianaUSA

Personalised recommendations