Between the domination of transnational companies and its discourse on business and human rights: contract farming and banana small farmers in the Davao region (The Philippines)

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Hasanah, Mahesti
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Global Campus of Human Rights
This research examined violations towards small farmers’ rights over banana plantations – with the emphasis that the farmers held their agreements 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 (CF). 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 eight small farmers, two academics, two nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and one journalist and analysed 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 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 on Business and Human Rights (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 soft law, the companies do not have an obligation to follow it. Instead, the companies are considered to be 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 CF 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 the companies respect and fulfil their rights. This research should be able to strengthen the argument that companies are controlling the small farmers and workers under the CF system through social, economic and political aspects. Key words: Banana, Contract farming, Farmers’ rights, Socio-economic and political control, Philippines
APMA - Master’s Programme in Human Rights and Democratisation in Asia-Pacific, Mahidol University
Second semester University: Manila University
Global Campus - Asia-Pacific
Philippines, business, human rights, transnational corporations, agriculture, social rights, economic rights, political rights, social responsibility, corporate responsibility