Improving the triple bottom line returns from smallholder tree farms in the Philippines – A systems approach

John Herbohn, Iean Russell, Stephen Harrison, Jerry Vanclay, Jack Baynes, Grant Wardell-Johnson, Ed Mangaoang, Nestor Gregorio


This paper outlines the application of systems thinking in investigating ways to improve triple bottom line returns to smallholder tree farmers in the Philippines. The current financial returns to smallholder tree farmers are low. In addition, the potential social and environmental benefits of tree farms appear not to be fully realised. The environment that smallholder tree farmers are operating within is complex – from a social, environmental, economic and political context. As such, there is no one ‘magic bullet’ that can improve financial or other returns from tree farms. In order to improve one or more of these triple bottom line returns, it is necessary to look at the smallholder tree farms in a broader context – there are many interacting factors that affect returns to smallholders growing trees. A ‘systems’ framework approach has been applied in designing and implementing a project addressing the current poor returns from smallholder forestry in Leyte. The paper first describes how a systems framework was used in the conceptualisation of the project. Examples are then given illustrating how project activities have been integrated within a systems framework. In the first example, a systems diagram is developed illustrating the direct and indirect linkages between biophysical data on tree farms and various activities designed to improved returns such as policy reform, improved management practices and extension activities. The second example illustrates how the suggested approach for improving the flow of information concerning tree registration, harvest and transportation regulations and approval mechanisms links with various project activities and a series of action research workshops.


sustainable development, forestry, triple bottom line

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