The burgeoning discourses on climate change have spurred global interest in low carbon commodities. Governments and the private sector promote these commodities as necessary in mitigating global climate change and in weaning our society away from fossil fuels. Recently, agents of development have advanced the discourse by calling for the integration of smallholder farmers in the production of such commodities. In the Philippines, this is manifested in the targeting of ancestral lands and domains for production of crops, such as Jatropha, Oil Palm, Cassava, and Rubber. Indigenous smallholder farmers are now faced with the decision to participate, if they are not already engaged, in contracts with governments and private companies to produce low carbon commodities. Many of these smallholders continue to practice traditional forms of swidden agriculture (shifting cultivation) for production of both subsistence and cash crops. Hence, their engagement in low carbon commodity contracts may have implications on swidden agriculture, traditional livelihoods and local environments in the uplands.
In light of these recent trends, I am particularly interested in two research directions. First, I endeavor to understand decision-making in these production contracts and regimes, in particular how certain factors, such as social constructions of the environment and discourses surrounding low carbon commodities, influence the decisions of various agents to engage (or not) in institutional arrangements to grow biofuels and rubber in ancestral domains. I aim to build on the Institutional Analysis and Development framework to explore decision-making processes in the formation of contracts and production partnerships by underscoring the role of social constructions of and discourses on the environment. Second, I am also interested in studying how productions systems and institutions associated with low carbon commodity production affect indigenous populations and their local environments. Currently, I and my colleagues are in the process of preparing manuscripts on the resilience of traditional swidden agriculture in the context of biofuels and rubber production contracts, as well as the land control processes that further marginalize indigenous smallholders.