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Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact

Shifting Cultivation And Climate Change

In the age of global climate change, resource use and management practices that rely on the use of fire and thus emit carbon are coming under increased pressure. This is particularly the case with shifting cultivation.

Because shifting cultivation is so different from the forms of agriculture practiced in the lowlands and by the majority populations, it is one of the most misunderstood land use systems. Thus, in the name of forest conservation and development, colonial and post-colonial governments in Asia have since more than a century devised policies and laws seeking to eradicate shifting cultivation. The reasons usually given for such restrictive state policies are that shifting cultivation is :

  1. Technologically primitive, inefficient and wasteful, prevents development and thus keeps people in poverty
  2. Destructive to forests and soils

Decades of research on virtually every aspect of shifting cultivation have generated sufficient evidence to prove that its sweeping condemnation by government bureaucrats, politicians or professionals is based on insufficient and erroneous information, or quite simply myth. 2 Notwithstanding all evidence, however, attitudes by decision makers and, consequently, state policies have hardly changed.

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