Back to Land: return labor migrants as agricultural investors in the Philippines

Authors: Vanessa Banta*,
Topics: Development, Migration
Keywords: migration, agriculture, remittances, investment
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In the last few decades, overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have been sending remittances to support millions of households in the Philippines. However, with the recent economic crises, thousands of migrant workers have been “retrenched and returned” to the country. Thus, under the state’s current reintegration program for migrant returnees, the government seeks to transform eventual returnees to “investors” through financial literacy campaigns and credit schemes. This paper considers these processes through which the Philippine government orients the eventual returnee to “invest” in land to become farmers and/or agribusiness owners. I explore how migrants’ rural dreams, conjured by circulating notions of “home”, fast growth/revenue and self-sustenance, intertwine with the postcolonial state’s developmentalist fantasies of participating in the global economy. By presenting stories of return Filipino migrant workers to the rural uplands of the North, I consider the possible limits of the documented dynamism of agrarian transformation in the remittance landscape literature on the Philippines and Southeast Asia. My aim is to work through the ways in which the current public-private initiatives to open up new pathways for agricultural investment for return migrant workers may lead to new research questions that interrogate the intertwined process of colonial histories, state endorsed labor export and rural dispossession in the Philippines.

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