|dc.description.abstract||This thesis is focused on understanding human-environment interactions that drive a system into a social-ecological trap, a persistently unsustainable and undesirable social-ecological system. Recent research on social-ecological traps points to some gaps in the conceptualisation and analysis of these resilient yet pathological social-ecological systems. A more social-ecological conceptualisation of a social-ecological trap, which includes path dependence, human agency and external factors apart from the basic normative dimensions commonly invoked of social-ecological traps, was integrated in this research. This thesis is informed by the literature of social-ecological resilience, human ecology and systems thinking. Using complementary frameworks and approaches from each literature provides a more holistic and integrative analysis of social-ecological traps. The thesis aimed to investigate the links between and among ecosystem health, cultural paradigms, human wellbeing and institutions that keep a social-ecological system in an unsustainable and undesirable development path. The specific research questions are as follows: (1) Can the small-scale fisheries in the Philippines be characterised as being caught in a social-ecological trap? (2) What are the characteristics and structure of the social-ecological trap in these fisheries? (3) What are the factors that drive small-scale fishery systems in the Philippines into a social-ecological trap? (4) What are the interventions that could help move the small-scale fishery systems from a social-ecological trap into a sustainable and desirable system?
This is a place-based research of selected small-scale fisheries in the Philippines. These critically valuable fishery areas include small-scale fish farming in an inland riverine system, north of Manila; small-scale capture fisheries in Northern Mindanao; and mariculture parks, also in Northern Mindanao, Philippines. Small-scale fisheries in the Philippines contribute to the domestic as well as regional fish production important for food security, sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing of these smallholder fishers and fish farmers. To the best of my knowledge, this research is also the first time that the concept of a social-ecological trap is applied in the Philippines small-scale fisheries. The research followed a case study and integrative research approaches utilising participatory mixed research methods. Data collection included 76 semi-structured interviews, 3 focus groups and 217 household surveys. Research participants included the small-scale fishers and fish farmers, government representatives from various levels, and civil society members concerned with fisheries in the areas.
The thesis is divided into four (4) sections. The first section focuses on context setting, followed by the results section, which focuses on the case studies. The third section highlights the current and proposed recommendations to escape the net of social-ecological traps. The last section highlights the research synthesis; key findings; and recommendations in terms of research, practice and policy.
This thesis provides theoretical and practical contributions to the literature on social-ecological traps. In spite of the burgeoning research on social-ecological traps, integrating a more social-ecological description of traps also highlights the roles of the temporal, scalar (external and endogenous) and human agentic responses in reinforcing or dampening trap dynamics. The dominant 'productionist' paradigm of modern agro-food systems was found to be a critical reinforcing force in the social-ecological trap process. Aside from unpacking these critical dynamics and factors of social-ecological traps, this thesis moves forward and proposes potential leverage points to break free from the trap's dynamics.|