Shifting Cultivation Policies

Balancing Environmental and Social Sustainability

Edited by Malcolm Cairns
December 2017
More details
  • Publisher
  • Published
    28th December 2017
  • ISBN 9781786391797
  • Language English
  • Pages 1060 pp.
  • Size 6.75" x 9.5"

Shifting cultivation supports around 200 million people in the Asia-Pacific region alone. It is often regarded as a primitive and inefficient form of agriculture that destroys forests, causes soil erosion and robs lowland areas of water. These misconceptions and their policy implications need to be challenged. Swidden farming could support carbon sequestration and conservation of land, biodiversity and cultural heritage. This comprehensive analysis of past and present policy highlights successes and failures and emphasizes the importance of getting it right for the future.

This book is enhanced with supplementary resources. The addendum chapters can be found at:

Part 1: Introductory section
1: Figments of fire and forest: Shifting cultivation policy in the Philippines and Indonesia
2: Shifting cultivation policies in Southeast Asia: A need to work with, rather than against, smallholder farmers
3: Policies impacting shifting cultivation: Getting them right
4: Trends in shifting cultivation policy: Four decades of efforts to intensify land use in the shifting cultivation tracts of mainland Southeast Asia
5: Tenure and shifting
B: Historical overviews from southeast Asia
6: The geopolitics of shifting cultivation in Thailand: A brief history of the ‘hill tribe problem
8: Lao swidden farmers: From self-initiated mobility to permanent settlement trends imposed by policy, 1830 to 2000
9: Romanticizing and villainizing shifting cultivators within national policies: Co-producing ethnic politics and resource-use legitimacy in Thailand’s community forestry debate
10: Conservation and restoration of traditional grasslands in the Mount Asa region of Kyushu, Japan: the role of collaborative management and public policy support
D: The Complexities of Implementing ReDD+
11: The viability of swidden agriculture and its uncertain role in REDD+
12: Involving all local stakeholders and holders of land-use rights in REDD+: Indigenous people and/or local communities in Indonesia

Part 2: The impact of state policies on shifting cultivation
13: Rethinking swidden cultivation in Myanmar: Policies for sustainable upland livelihoods and food security
14: Swidden agriculture under threat: The case of Ratanakiri, northeast Cambodia: Opportunities and constraints from the national policy environment
15: The growing voice of the state in the fallows of Laos
16: Swidden agriculture and sloping land conversion in China’s Dulong Valley: Impact and adaptation
17: Policies on shifting cultivation in the countries of the eastern Himalayas
18: Reflections on the impacts of state policies on shifting cultivators in northeast India
7: The French colonial administration vs swidden cultivation: From political discourse to coercive policies in French Indochina
19: Vanishing shifting cultivation and loss of tribal culture in Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India
20: Shifting cultivation on steep slopes of Mizoram, India: Impact of policy reforms
21: State land policies and shifting cultivation in Odisha, India
22: The Dragon and its attempts to put out the fire
23: From farmers to foresters? Response to pine encroachment on former swidden fields in Choekhor Valley, Bumthang district, Bhutan
24: Keeping ecological disturbance on the land: Recreating swidden effects in Bhutan
25: Shifting cultivation in Vietnam: Impacts of various policy reforms
26: Misinterpreting the uplands of Vietnam: How government policies and maps lead to a misunderstanding of swidden and its associated livelihood systems
27: Changing patterns of shifting cultivation in Timor-Leste
28: Evolving swidden farming patterns in the Lao PDR: When policy reverses historically mobile ways of life to impose permanently settled livelihoods
29: ‘Your land is needed’: The fundamental reason behind the sedentarization of shifting cultivators
30: Was Thailand’s highland policy misdirected?
31: Opium and shifting cultivation in Laos: State discourses and policies
32: Eliminating opium from the Lao PDR: Impoverishment and threat of resumption of poppy cultivation following ‘illusory’ eradication
33: Giving up fallows and indigenous swiddens in times of global land grabbing
34: The effects of commercial agriculture and swidden-field privatization in southern Laos
35: From traditional subsistence to commercial agriculture: A downward trend towards food insecurity in rural Lao PDR
36: Policies, migration and coffee cultivation in Vietnam’s Central Highlands: A case study in Dak Lak province
37: The Chayanov life cycle in upland villages of Laos: Socio-economic differentiation driven by state involvement
38: Policy-driven changes in Lisu swiddening: Social organization as adaptation to a new economy
39: From a complex to degraded system: Laws, customs, market forces and legal pluralism in the Cordillera, northern Philippines
40: Vietnam’s ‘renovation’ policies: Impacts on upland communities and sustainable forest management
41: Changes in species distribution and plant resources after the cessation of swidden cultivation in northern Thailand

Part 3: Policy lessons that we should be learning
42: Top-down or bottom-up? The role of the government and local institutions in regulating shifting cultivation in the Upper Siang district, eastern Himalaya, India
43: Transitional upland rice cropping systems in northern Thailand: Priorities for research and development, on the basis of on-farm crop diagnosis
44: Lessons learned in northern Thailand: Twenty years of implementation of highland agricultural development and natural resource management projects
45: Putting upland agriculture on the map: The TABI experience in Laos
46: Negotiating for community forestry policy: The recognition of damar agroforests in Indonesia
47: Land law and swidden cultivation: Indonesian adat communities and the struggle for statutory rights
48: Existing village regulations for natural resource management: A key entry point for community participation in sustainable management
49: Policies that transform shifting cultivation practices: Linking multi-stakeholder and participatory processes with knowledge and innovations

Part 4: Concluding section
50: Codification of customary communal tenure of upland shifting cultivation communities in Myanmar
51: Shifting cultivation policy decisions that count
52: Lessons learned from the identification and implementation of policies affecting shifting cultivation in the Asia-Pacific region: ‘A summary’

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.