Southeast Asia is characterized by very rapid economic growth, increasing land and water degradation, and large pockets of rural poor. IFPRI has worked in the region—particularly in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam—for more than 20 years, assisting governments to devise alternative natural resource management policies, food marketing strategies, and other initiatives to help these countries cope with their significant and ongoing agricultural transformations.
During the past 20 years, Vietnam has shifted from seeking to achieve rice self-sufficiency to maximizing rice production and exports to promoting crop and income diversification. Because diversification into high-value agricultural commodities is viewed as a key strategy to raise rural incomes and reduce rural poverty, IFPRI's Markets, Trade, and Institutions Division (MTID) is examining the process in the Northern Uplands region of Vietnam.
MTID is also carrying out a study that compares contract and non-contract growers of selected horticultural crops and poultry in Thailand, Indonesia, China, and India. Working with local research institutes and universities, it is carrying out farm surveys and semi-structured interviews with processors and exporters to estimate the impact of contract farming on input use, productivity, and farm income; to test whether these variables are affected differently by local and foreign buyers; and to see whether contract farming has a pro-poor impact.
In many river floodplain and lowland areas, the rainy season brings floods that last several months and make crop production impossible. However, enclosing parts of the floodwater areas can give rise to an alternative form of agricultural production: fish culture, which has the potential to provide more high-quality, nutrient-dense food production and farm income for all rural stakeholders, especially the poor. Therefore, IFPRI's Environment and Production Technology Division (EPTD) is working with a number of partners in Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, India, and Mali to examine the potential of community-based fish culture.
Indonesia's extensive and biologically diverse tropical forests support tens of millions of Indonesians who gather forest products for their daily needs or work in wood-processing sectors. However, illegal logging and agriculture-induced deforestation is believed to have destroyed some 10 million hectares of forest. Like some of its innovative counterparts in Latin America, the Indonesian government has initiated a program to encourage farmers to protect the remaining forests by offering them greater tenure security. EPTD is helping to examine the challenges confronting this Asian-modified payment for environmental services program by developing best practice models.
Credit Constraints and Pathways from Poverty
As part of the Pathways from Poverty program, researchers in the Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division (PHND) are working in the Philippines to assess the effect of long-term credit constraints on asset accumulation, investment in human capital, and economic mobility, and to identify factors that contribute to movement out of poverty.