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Swidden, Rubber and Carbon: Can REDD+ work for people and the environment in Montane Mainland Southeast Asia? Jefferson Fox, Jean-Christophe Castella, and Alan D. Ziegler East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA; Institute of Research for Development, France; National University of Singapore
Introduction For centuries swiddening (also called shifting or slash and burn agriculture) has been practiced in MMSEA by indigenous farmers who managed land in ways that integrated production from both cultivated fields and diverse secondary forests. Today many areas currently or formerly under shifting cultivation are being transformed into other land uses—oil palm, coffee, cocoa, rubber, etc.
This talk addresses issues related to mitigation of carbon emissions in a context of land-use change within swidden systems (i.e. shortening of the fallow and/or lengthening of cropping periods) and conversion from swidden to rubber plantations.
Examine the history of land-use policies in southern China and Laos to show that while policies in both countries are leading to an increasingly homogenous landscape the impact of those policies smallholders diverge immensely.
By extension argue that REDD policies that seek only to increase tree cover can have a range of impacts on smallholders ’ livelihoods that vary from beneficial to destructive.
Examine the differences in carbon storage in swidden fallows and rubber plantations to determine if any evidence exist that REDD policies that incentivize transitions from swidden to rubber will create carbon gains.
Question whether it is possible to design REDD+ policies that are likely to contribute to the reduction of terrestrial emissions and also enhance development and food security objectives in MMSEA.
2. Examine the history of land-use policies in southern China and Laos to show that while policies in both countries are leading to an increasingly homogenous landscape the impact of those policies on smallholders diverge immensely.
Historically NR has predominantly been smallholders ’ crop Country Upper limit for small holdings (ha) Share of smallholdings in rubber planted area (%) Malaysia 40.50 93 Thailand 40 90.5 India 20 88.4 Indonesia 25 85 Sri Lanka 20 64 China 50 Vietnam 32 Laos 23
As a result of poor governmental regulations, a large range of institutional arrangements for rubber production have emerged in the recent years.
Smallholders, contract farming and concessions ’ arrangements have been defined according to who provides the 5 main factors of production : land , labour , capital , market outlet and technical knowledge .
Condition of emergence of different rubber regimes
Contract Farming with Large (Formal) Investors
• How are contracts made?
– Officially, villagers ’ voluntary commitment must be secured before provincial contracts are made
– In implementation, top-down, incomplete village consultation, semi-coercive
• What are the typical arrangements?
– Five inputs: land, labor, capital, technique, and marketing
– “ 2+3” is officially promoted (v 70%/ c 30%) and confirmed by provincial contracts
• Villagers contribute land and labor
• Company provides capital, technical extension, and market access
• After tapping, villagers obtain 70% of the profits, company 30%.
But in countries (Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia) where the governments can not provide committed and effective support to smallholders, rubber farming will result in farmers losing access to their land, becoming laborers on plantations owned by others, coercion, disputes over terms and wages, overlapping and unclear land designation, lack of alternative income sources for remote villagers, corruption.
4. Examine the differences in carbon storage in swidden fallows and rubber plantations to determine if any evidence exist that REDD policies that incentivize transitions from swidden to rubber will create carbon gains.
Changes in carbon stocks from different forest land use practices: deforestation, forest degradation, and shifting mosaics.
The carbon-positive transitions that we identify are not equivalent in terms of non-carbon benefits.
Swidden agriculture can deliver superior biodiversity benefits compared with rubber plantations and some other agroforestry systems;
Capital intensive farming methods have their own set of environmental problems: e.g. accelerated erosion and landslides on permanently converted hillslopes, degradation of stream water quality by pesticides and fertilizers, and stream desiccation caused by increased extraction of stream and groundwater for irrigation
There is great uncertainty regarding the potentially high water use by vast landscapes converted to alien monoculture plantations, including rubber in mainland SE Asia.
Net benefit of rubber to farm households in Northeast Thailand ranges from $1735 to $2,226/ha/year.
Given that forests in MMSEA may sequester more carbon than rubber (we estimate approximately 20 to 200 Mg C ha-1 including AGC and BGC, carbon payments would need to be on the order of $9.00 to $111/MgC to entice farmers to not convert their forested swidden fallows to rubber.
The European Union set fines for noncompliance of carbon emissions standards at $60/MgC excess CO2 emitted, suggesting that a REDD+ policy might be able to pay farmers in less productive rubber growing areas (higher elevations, less rainfall) enough to cover their opportunity costs for participating in the program.
The Cambodian government priced the carbon from it ’ s REDD projects at $3.00/MgC (Khun 2008); clearly not enough to solicit farmer participation in REDD projects.
Given the difficulty of predicting the impact of land-use/land-cover change transitions on smallholders as well as on carbon stocks, it is highly risky, perhaps impossible, to suggest land-use policies that will ensure both reductions in terrestrial emissions and improvement in smallholder livelihoods.
In some parts of MMSEA, unprotected forests landscapes exist that can be managed under a REDD+ approach that focuses on protecting and improving carbon sequestration in standing forests.
In other instances swidden agriculture may still be the most rational land use for farmers from both economic and environmental perspectives; and therefore, should be encouraged in areas where it contributes to the preservation of ecosystem services and cultural identity
In other parts of the region secondary forest fallows will be converted to permanent agriculture, largely dominated by tree crops such as rubber, coffee, and cashews.
A REDD+ project that seeks not only to increase carbon sequestration but also to improve the livelihoods of smallholders and to protect other environmental services such as biodiversity and soil and water conservation must provide economic support for small-scale, diversified, agroforestry systems, i.e. multi-storied agricultural systems that preserve the features and ecological functions of a forest, with great species diversity.