Jedess Miladel N. Salomon*
The abaca bunchy top disease (ABTD) has destroyed thousands of hectares of abaca farms, leading to the decline in agriculture and economic production of farmers and their households. This paper frames the widespread disease incidence as a disaster and analyzes the factors that made farm households in Barangay Pinamonoan, an abaca-growing community, vulnerable to the disease and its impacts. It grounds its analysis on the pressure and release (PAR) and access models by Blaikie et al (1994) and the sustainable livelihoods framework by Scoones (1998, 2009). From these, an analytical framework was developed to illustrate the complexity of the relationships of the different factors contributing to farm households’ vulnerability to a widespread crop disease.
The reliance of farm households on abaca production was influenced by the high global demand of abaca fiber. This global demand made abaca an important export commodity; hence, government policies and programs were focused on increasing its production and less on ensuring that the livelihoods of farm households were secure. While abaca production is profitable, sole reliance on this could prove disastrous in the event of a hazard. Access to resources determined how farm households absorbed the shock and recovered from it. Households who had significant assets were able to shift to other crops or enterprises. Households with access to people with resources and who could provide assistance were also more likely to cope. The most affected in the village were the households who, even before the disease, had limited resources, both in terms of material assets and social support networks.
Keywords: sustainable livelihoods, assets, crop disease, disaster