Malcolm Cairns


Malcolm Cairns grew up on a dairy farm in eastern Canada, attended agricultural college, and then farmed in partnership with his father and brother before his interests in overseas development took him to Asia to work with a Canadian NGO. By 1991, he had decided that he was more interested in research, and left his job in Laos to return to Canada to complete a Masters degree in Environmental Studies. During his fieldwork for this degree, Malcolm worked under the auspices of IRRI in the Philippines and ICRAF in Indonesia, whilst studying shifting cultivation in both countries. After completing this degree, he returned to Indonesia to work as an Associate Scientist with ICRAF, continuing his work with shifting cultivation. During this time, he developed a keen interest in how shifting cultivators were adapting to increasing pressures on their farming systems, and began to focus on indigenous strategies for fallow management. This work continued until he left Indonesia in 1998 to begin work on a doctoral program at the Australian National University. Malcolm used his PhD fieldwork to undertake research on the most fascinating system of indigenous fallow management that he had found - the Naga's management of Himalayan alder in their swidden fields in Nagaland, N.E. India. He had barely completed his PhD studies in 2008 when a devastating stroke left him paralyzed on his left side and unable to continue fieldwork. Malcolm has since focused all of his attention on this series of volumes on shifting cultivation in the Asia-Pacific region.