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Rice and Trees: Eradicating shifting cultivation, an abiding policy in Laos

Abstract : Nowadays, 40 to 500 million farmers are engaged in shifting cultivation in tropical countries. For more than a century, a prevailing view has disparaged this farming system. Described as primitive and unproductive, it would be the primary cause of deforestation. The study of the agrarian system in Phongsaly, a small region in northern Laos, demonstrated how varied and rational the farmers' practices are. They have become differentiated in the recent history, chiefly because of rising State intervention. Local outputs from Phongsaly are consistent with those of bibliographic review: most criticisms have proven to be unfounded. When shifting cultivation is involved in deforestation, which is not automatic, as it plays only a limited part; commercial logging and pioneer agriculture remain the major causes. Outsiders classically misjudge how complex and logical shifting cultivation systems are. Shifting cultivators generally belong to highland ethnic minorities. Their practices are appraised by lowlanders according to their concerns, methods, and uses they assign to forest and highland. Scientists seldom give a rigorous and objective perspective to the issue and their conclusions too often abound with prejudices. Since smallholder farmers take part in managing the environment, their agriculture deserves to be re-evaluated. Agricultural policies need to be reformed to include the knowledge and experience of farmers in sustainably managing the natural resources. The only efficient course of action for State intervention is to involve the farmers in the decision-making and implementation processes.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, October 4, 2006 - 8:00:00 AM
Last modification on : Monday, October 19, 2020 - 10:54:34 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 6:58:02 PM


  • HAL Id : pastel-00001617, version 1



Olivier Ducourtieux. Rice and Trees: Eradicating shifting cultivation, an abiding policy in Laos. Humanities and Social Sciences. INAPG (AgroParisTech), 2006. English. ⟨NNT : 2006INAP0008⟩. ⟨pastel-00001617⟩



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