Institutional, policy and farmer responses to drought: El Niño events and rice in the Philippines


David Dawe, Agricultural and Development Economics Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00153 Rome, Italy. E-mail:


Droughts are common recurring natural hazards in Asia, and El Niño events are particularly severe in the Philippines. This paper explores responses by farm households, irrigation system managers, and macro policymakers in the Philippines to El Niño. In response to the large 1997–98 El Niño, farmers in one major irrigation system significantly diversified their economic activities, hut the drought was so acute that many of these activities were not successful. Communication between meteorologists and irrigation system managers is strong, and irrigation system managers are aware of El Niño events in advance. Communication between irrigation system managers and farmer irrigation associations is also strong, and together they have developed response options that attempt to augment supplies of and more efficiently allocate scarce water. Water pricing is not used, however, and lack of cooperation among farmers results in sub-optimal outcomes. Macro-level policy responses in terms of rice imports and buffer stock management to protect poor consumers have improved substantially over time.