Rural poverty in the Philippines

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About half of the Philippines’ 88 million people live in rural areas.

Poverty is most severe and most widespread in these areas and almost 80 per cent of the country’s poor people live there. Agriculture is the primary and often only source of income for poor rural people, most of whom depend on subsistence farming and fishing for their livelihoods. In general, illiteracy, unemployment and the incidence of poverty are higher among indigenous peoples and people living in the upland areas. Overall, more than a third of the people in the Philippines live in poverty.The poorest of the poor are the indigenous peoples, small-scale farmers who cultivate land received through agrarian reform, landless workers, fishers, people in upland areas and women. There are substantial differences in the level of poverty between the regions and provinces and the poverty gap between urban and rural areas is widening.

Indigenous people living in highly fragile and vulnerable ecosystems, people in the uplands of the Cordillera highlands and on Mindanao Island are among the poorest in the country.The causes of poverty in rural areas in the Philippines vary widely from island to island. Among the causes of rural poverty are a decline in the productivity and profitability of farming, smaller farm sizes and unsustainable practices that have led to deforestation and depleted fishing waters. Rural areas lag behind in economic growth and they have higher underemployment. This is partly because poor people have little access to productive assets and business opportunities.

They have few non-farm income-generating activities, and people lack access to microfinance services and affordable credit. Some vulnerable groups also face specific problems. For example, indigenous peoples have high illiteracy rates and are affected by the encroachment of modern technology and cultures onto traditional norms and practices. Fishers face continuing reduction in their catches and they have few opportunities or skills outside of fishing.

Women have limited roles outside of marketing and family responsibilities.

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