, Volume 36, Issue 1-3, pp 31-51

The dynamics of Imperata: historical overview and current farmer perspectives, with special reference to South Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Abstract

The paper reviews modern attitudes to and uses of imperata grasslands in parts of Southeast Asia, including government and NGO efforts at reforestation. It is argued that the perspective of small farmers has usually been inadequately considered in planning the ‘rehabilitation’ of Imperata. A historical overview of the impact of changes in land use, population, vegetation dynamics and human adaptation on the creation, disappearance or persistence of Imperata provides a context for the present concerns and emphasizes the wide variability of the situation at the local level. Nine questions are proposed as needing consideration whenever changes are planned to a grassland-based system. They cover three main areas: 1) the origins, past and present uses of the grasslands (including the present land tenure position and variations in uses by ethnic group, socio-economic status and gender); 2) perceptions by farmers of the opportunities and constraints provided by local micro-environments, particularly vegetation types; 3) farmer suggestions for ways of improving their economic status and the potential benefits of agroforestry innovations. These questions are applied to one case study area, the Riam Kiwa valley of South Kalimantan, Indonesia.