Shifting Agriculture and Livelihoods of Upland Communities in Lao PDRDarren J Daleydarrenjdaley@gmail.com
Terminology and Perceptions Slash and Burn Swidden Fallow Dominant cropping system in the uplands Significant % of population practicing Much more than cropping: livestock, NTFPs, etc.
Two Forms of Shifting Cultivation Rotational shifting cultivation ◦ Most common type in Laos ◦ Villages not moved but cultivated plots shifted according to a crop/fallow cycle Pioneering shifting cultivation ◦ Village settlements moved from one site to another after several years, mainly because the nearby forest has become exhausted.
Inputs and Outputs Average Rice Yield ◦ Paddy land: 2.75 MT per HA 2 harvests per year ◦ Swidden land: 0.75 MT per HA. 1 harvest per plot (fallow cycle) Yield per labor ◦ Paddy land: 1 day’s work = 4.2 kg (rice) ◦ Swidden land: 1 day’s work = 7.9 kg (rice)
Environmental Issues Shifting cultivation causes temporary deforestation during cropping period, but allows for regrowth of secondary forest o Deforestation from swidden primarily reduces secondary forest fallow, not primary forest In most studies shifting cultivation is not recognized as a form of agricultural land use or agroforestry; it is always compared with forest Soil erosion, chemicals, fertility decline
“The [argument] that the present shifting cultivation system condemns rural people to continued poverty is a more compelling reason for developing a diversified and settled form of agriculture than any adverse aspect of natural resource degradation.”-- FAO and ADB, 1998)