HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 63 no. 1 (2017)

Altering the Colonial Agricultural Landscape One Plant, One Animal at a Time: Flora and Fauna Introductions and Improvements of the Bureau of Agriculture, 1903-1915

Marco Stefan B. Lagman | Keith Gerard L. Daguio



Colonialism as a process leads to widespread changes in the way of life of subject populations. In the case of the Philippines, historical work on the country’s colonial experience under the Americans tend to emphasize how the arrival of the latter had led to alterations in the social, economic, political and even demographic makeup of the country. There is, however, scant literature on the process of how the Philippines’ environment, particularly its agricultural landscape, may have been slowly transformed by the programs and activities of American colonial institutions. Using data pertaining to the activities of the Bureau of Agriculture found in the Philippine Commission Reports to the Secretary of War from 1903 to 1915, this paper intends to demonstrate that the said colonial institution was responsible for the introduction of numerous varieties of vegetables, ornamental flowers, forage crops, cash crops as well as a variety of livestock species. The Americans hoped that the introduced flora and fauna would help improve the native population’s farm animal stock, produce new domestic and exportoriented agricultural subsectors, better feed and nourish the native population, and provide a steady resource for vital American colonial institutions. These programs, which were imbued with equal doses of enthusiasm, willingness to help, and conceit, eventually led to partial successes and failures. It is hoped that this research would lead fellow historians to revisit and mine from readily archival sources new information and viewpoints that could help enrich people’s understanding and appreciation of the Philippines’ colonial past under the Americans.