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Genetic erosion in traditional rice agro-ecosystems in Southern Philippines: drivers and consequences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2020

Florence L. Zapico*
Graduate School, University of the Philippines, Los Baños, College, Laguna, The Philippines
Josefina T. Dizon
Institute of Governance and Rural Development, College of Public Affairs and Development, University of the Philippines, Los Baños, College, Laguna, The Philippines
Teresita H. Borromeo
Institute of Crop Science, College of Agriculture and Food Science, University of the Philippines, College, Los Baños, Laguna, The Philippines
Kenneth L. McNally
T.T. Chang Genetic Resources Center, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Laguna, The Philippines
Edwino S. Fernando
College of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of the Philippines, Los Baños, College, Laguna, The Philippines
Jose E. Hernandez
Institute of Crop Science, College of Agriculture and Food Science, University of the Philippines, College, Los Baños, Laguna, The Philippines
*Corresponding author. E-mail:,


This paper examines genetic erosion in rice landraces thriving in traditional smallholder agricultural systems in the Sarangani uplands, Philippines. In these marginal areas, the crop is closely interwoven with tribal culture and is vital in ensuring food security among upland households. Field visits unveiled high varietal diversity for upland rice and a rich tapestry of indigenous knowledge associated with its cultivation and use. Study results, however, revealed the tapering of the crop's genetic base due to farmers' changing priorities, pest infestation, weakening seed supply systems, shift to cash crops, natural calamities, environmental degradation, government programmes and peace and order problems. Consequently, these pressures undermined traditional agricultural systems in Sarangani upland communities causing food and water scarcity, hunger and suffering on a catastrophic scale. Interdisciplinary strategies aimed at simultaneously averting further varietal losses and environmental degradation while improving human well-being are therefore warranted. Furthermore, making traditional rice farming a lucrative endeavour will induce the younger generation to remain in the uplands and choose farming as a profession. This way, biocultural restoration of agriculture will be attained and the continued presence of the tribal groups in the Sarangani uplands will be ensured for a very long time.

Research Article
Copyright © NIAB 2020

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