Virtual coalitions of farmers and consumers: lessons from an agricultural crisis


Most recently, the implementation of the Rice tariffication law further liberalized rice importation and sent rice farm gate prices plummeting. Rice is the staple food in the Philippines and is a crop that is highly politicized, affected by the movements in local policies on land use and political alliances, and global economy and climate change. The plummeting farm gate price of palay brought about by the liberalization and thereby flood of rice imports created a crisis for rice farmers and an opportunity for inclusive sustainable agriculture advocates. Palay farm gate price are most unstable because there is no standard system of pricing. Farmers, especially small-scale producers, are generally isolated from the market in a sense that they have no hand in influencing prices in the market. Vegetables are another set of commodities that are not efficiently marketed. During peak seasons, farmers would resort to throwing away surplus harvests due to the very low market prices. This crisis, enabled by communication technologies, created a web of social media enablers that linked producers to consumers redefining the role of the middleman.

Grounding the analysis on the premise that 'communicating is organizing' (Taylor, Cooren and Van Every) this paper discusses the nature of crisis-driven temporary coalitions, sense-making and agency that may embody inclusiveness, respect and reciprocity among small-scale producers, social entrepreneurs and consumers. Specifically, the paper describes how a small group of highly active young advocates for small scale rural agricultural producers used social media during the height of the crisis to directly link farmers to household-level buyers to stem the impact of rice tariffication and seasonal surplus essentially creating a virtual coalition of producers and consumers, especially in putting face to food products people eat. The digital link of small scale agricultural producers' with the market, and indirectly with non-buyer members of the social network raises awareness about farmers' conditions and further advocate for consumers' conscious consumption.


Communication as Organizing: Empirical and Theoretical Explorations in the Dynamic of Text and Conversation. Edited by François Cooren, James R. Taylor, & Elizabeth J. Van Every. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006. 248 pp. ISBN: 080585813X.