Project No: 26600521

Title: Intangible assets and resilient rice farming in indigenous and vulnerable regions of Southeast Asia

Prof. Laurence DELINA


Resilient rice farming—the capacity to endure social, economic, and environmental shocks and stresses due to hazards and structural vulnerabilities—is imperative for food security, especially in the era of cascading crises. In response to these stressors, contemporary sustainable development programs in rice-farming communities have focused on enhancing rice farmers’ material capital, such as farm inputs, crop seeds, and irrigation, and on expanding the access of farmers to these assets. Although these interventions have increased the resilience of rice farmers, the contribution of non-material forms of capital, such as the farmers’ relationships with their fellow farmers, other actors in rice farming, and even with nonhuman entities such as the spirits and the Divine, are minimally considered and studied. Although these social capitals are not necessarily neglected, their contributions to resilience have not been properly unpacked. Therefore, the sociality of resilience has largely remained obscured. As the world faces multiple and cascading crises—from pandemics to economic recession to weather extremes—an expansive and deeper look at the heterogeneous concepts of resilience, its context-specific drivers, and various modes of production can provide new perspectives to examine how we can redesign our strategies and policies to survive in the future. This two-year project will extend the literature on the non-material aspects that produce resilient livelihoods. It will draw on in-depth, multi-method field research that includes surveys, interviews, and focus group discussions with indigenous rice farmers in vulnerable regions of the Philippines and Indonesia. These locations have been subjected not only to extreme water-related stressors, including typhoons and droughts, and geological hazards like earthquakes, but also to social and economic pressures such as out-migration, economic insecurity, aging, over-tourism, changing preferences among the youth, and now the impact of the pandemic. The project will uncover, narrate, and analyze the lived experiences of Ifugao and Balinese rice farmers, focusing on the conditions that build their affective relationships with human and nonhuman entities, and compare these narratives to reveal their similarities and variations in coping, survival, and resilience. In doing so, the project will make visible the constructs of survivorship of indigenous rice farmers, thereby contributing to the decolonization of largely Western notions of resilience.