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Presented by Terry Sunderland on behalf of Ronju Ahammad at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) in Mérida, Yucatán (Mexico) on July 11, 2017. This presentation was part of the Agrarian Change Project Symposium: The impacts of agrarian change on local communities: Sharing experience from the field.
Background: Trajectories of land use change poses great challenges in sustaining rural livelihoods and environmental benefits. In the recent past decades, the south-eastern upland landscape of Chittagong Hill Tracts region in Bangladesh has experienced changes in agricultural land use accompanied with forest conversion and the establishment of monoculture plantations. However, there is a lack of understanding on the changes and associated livelihood impacts on rural households. This study examines how the agriculture and forest-based livelihood provisions have interacted over recent years and assess the implications of this agrarian change on food security and income.
Methods: We interviewed 304 households with structured questionnaires in three sites (ie. remote, intermediate and on-road). The questionnaires covered information regarding the changes of agriculture and forest land uses and associated contributions to food production and income at household level.
Results: In over half of the households surveyed, the respondents experienced a decrease of their overall farm land with a concomitant loss of crop variety and livestock resources. Farming area relatively increased in the remote site associated with land/forest clearing activities, with almost 90 percent households perceived decrease of the forest cover, yet food sufficiency and annual income remain low here. While farming areas decreased in intermediate- and on-road sites but increased monoculture fruit garden, intensive cash crops and wage activities contributed to greater food production and income. Two-thirds of the households experienced more travel time and distance required for forest product collections in the landscape. While the loss of forest cover largely affected intermediate- and on-road communities in accessibility and availability of the forest products, fuel wood and fruit availability increased to a certain extent due to the planting of trees on farms and monoculture establishment.
Discussion and conclusion: Overall the study has provided insights into agrarian changes with both positive and negative social-ecological outcomes. We recommend that further investigation of integrated strategies for landscape management might be effective to deal with the various changes and complex problems of food production and conservation at the landscape scale.