Presenter: Patricia Thornley, University of Manchester
Abstract: Rice straw burning remains a key agricultural problem in the Philippines, where up to 95% or 10 Mt is burnt annually despite policies and farmers’ awareness of its negative impacts on health and pollution. Using rice straw as a feedstock for energy production provides an alternative to rice straw burning, with potential positive impacts on rural development and environment.
However, introducing innovations—as in the case of sustainable rice straw bioenergy development—is not without social challenges, including technology adoption, acceptance, and actor involvement. As such, this research seeks to identify and analyse the factors that might affect farmers’ engagement in bioenergy development.
We compared the case of two provinces in the Philippines, Laguna and Nueva Ecija, which have different prevailing practices in rice straw management. Through in-depth interviews and participant observation, we explored farmers’ attitudes, values, and perceptions towards rice straw management and bioenergy development. Furthermore, we mapped out their information networks to identify the ‘decision-making influencers’ in their communities who could be significant actors in bioenergy technology diffusion.
Our preliminary results show that farmers’ rice straw management practices are more motivated by social factors (i.e., through their farm activities and community relationships) rather than environmental (i.e., concern about pollution) or financial (i.e., time and money savings). This complements our results from network mapping, where other actors in the community, such as rice traders and buyers, lenders, and farm labourers were identified as important decision-making links. This opened up new ways of thinking about farmers’ roles in bioenergy development, while reinforcing the importance of their communities in technological adoption.