Mahesti Hasanah, Cohort 2018

Abstract

This research examined violations towards small farmers’ rights over the banana plantation—with the emphasis that the farmers held their agreement with transnational agribusiness corporations in Santo Tomas and Compostela Valley, Davao Region, Mindanao, the Philippines. By focusing on the right to work and the right to enjoyment of safe and healthy work conditions, the study was intended to enrich the existing literature reviews on contract farming. The scholars in this field have explored this issue through many different approaches; however, perspective highlighting the farmers’ rights is still infrequently investigated. By using a case study method, the research focused on the implementation process of CF and its impact in the production cycle of small growers. The study conducted interviews and focus group discussions with (8) small farmers, (2) academics, (2) NGOs, and (1) journalist and analyzed government document policies, and had direct observation of several key events in the field.

The research revealed that the companies governing the small farmers or growers as well as workers, it affect their social, economic, and political aspects. Trans-National Companies (TNCs) are controlling the market and the production chain through their subsidiaries or affiliation companies by rejecting the UN Guiding Principles, obligating them to respect the rights regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership, and structure. However, since the UN Guiding Principles can be sorted as a soft law, the companies do not have an obligation to follow it. Instead, the companies are considered violating the right to work and right to the enjoyment of just and safe working conditions of the small farmers and workers. The violations included unfair contract signing, low payment on rented land, minimum wage, and unhealthy working conditions. However, as contract farming is no single phenomenon, it was observed that the small farmers and workers had three strategies in gaining their rights over these domineering companies. They fought using formal and non-formal ways to demand from the companies to respect and fulfill their rights. This research should be able to strengthen Vellema’s argument that companies are controlling the small farmers and workers under the contract farming’ system through social, economic, and political aspects.

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