Agroforestry Systems

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 85–99 | Cite as

Theories of swidden agriculture, and the political economy of ignorance

  • Michael R. Dove
Article

Abstract

Swidden agriculture is today the focus of a great deal of debate in the context of agroforestry development in humid, tropical countries. This paper argues that much of this debate deals not with the empirical facts of swidden agriculture, however, but rather with widely-accepted myths, and that this explains the widespread failures of developmental schemes involving swidden agriculturalists. The paper examines three of these myths in some detail.

One myth is that swidden agriculturalists own their land communally (or not at all), work it communally, and consume its yields communally. The truth is that their land (including land under secondary forest fallow) is typically owned by individual households, it is worked by individual household labor forces and/or by reciprocal but not communal work groups, and its yields are owned and consumed privately and individually by each household. A second myth is that swidden cultivation of forested land is destructive and wasteful, and in the worst cases results in barren, useless grassland successions. The truth is that swidden cultivation is a productive use of the forests, indeed more productive than commercial logging in terms of the size of the population supported, and forest-grassland successions are typically a function not of rapaciousness but of increasing population/land pressure and agricultural intensification — the grasses, including Imperata cylindrica, having value both as a fallow period soil-rebuilder and as cattle fodder. A third myth is that swidden agriculturalists have a totally subsistence economy, completely cut off from the rest of the world. The truth is that swidden agriculturalists, in addition to planting their subsistence food crops, typically plant market-oriented cash crops as well, and as a result they are actually more integrated into the world economy than many of the practitioners of more intensive forms of agriculture.

In the conclusion to the paper, in a brief attempt to explain the genesis of these several myths, it is noted that they have generally facilitated the extension of external administration and exploitation into the territories of the swidden agriculturalists, and hence can perhaps best be explained as a reflection of the political economy of the greater societies in which they dwell.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. 1.
    Ace Partadiredja (1982) Farm organization, technology and employment. In [44] pp 179–215.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Biotrop (1980) Proceedings of Biotrop workshop on alang-alang. Bogor: Biotrop (Special Publication No. 5).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boeke JH (1953) Economics and economic policy of dual societies. H.D. Tjeenk Willink, Haarlem.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Boserup E (1966) The conditions of agricultural growth: the economics of agrarian change under population pressure. Aldine, Chicago.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Burbridge P et al (1981) Land allocation for transmigration. Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies XVII,1: 108–113.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Burkill IH (1935) A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. 2 vols. Crown Agent for the Colonies, London.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Burnham P (1980) Changing agricultural and pastoral ecologies in the West African savanna region. In [31] pp 147–170.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Collier WL (1981) Agricultural evolution in Java. In Hansen GE ed. Agricultural and rural development in Indonesia, pp 147–173. Westview Press, Boulder/U.S.A.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Condominas G (1957/1977) We have eaten the forest: the story of a Montagnard village in the central highlands of Vietnam. Hill and Wang, New York.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Condominas G (1980) Agricultural ecology in the Southeast Asian savanna region: the Mnong Gar of Vietnam and their social space. In [31] pp 209–252.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Conklin HC (1954) An ethnoecological approach to shifting agriculture. Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences II, 17.2: 133–142.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Conklin HC (1957) Hanunoo Agriculture: a report on an integral system of shifting cultivation in the Philippines. Rome: FAO (Forestry Development Papers no. 12).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Daroesman R (1981) Vegetative elimination of alang-alang. Bulletin of Indonesian Economic Studies XVII, 1: 83–107.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Dobby EHG (1973) Southeast Asia. University of London Press, London.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Dove MR (1980) Development of tribal land rights in Borneo: The role of ecological factors. Borneo Research Bulletin 12,1:3–19.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Dove MR (1981) Symbiotic relationships between human populations and Imperata cylindrica: the question of ecosystem succession and preservation in South Kalimantan. In: Nordin M et al (eds) Conservation inputs from life sciences, pp 187–200. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi/Malaysia.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Dove MR (1982) The myth of the communal longhouse in rural development: the Kantu' of Kalimantan. In:MacAndrews C and Chin LS (eds) Too rapid rural development. Ohio University Press, Athens/U.S.A.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Dove MR (1983) Forest preference in swidden agriculture. Tropical Ecology 24, 1.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Dove MR (forthcoming) Intensive versus extensive systems of agriculture in inner and outer Indonesia: cultural perception versus economic reality. Hainsworth G (ed) Proceedings of CCSEAS-ISEAS Joint International Conference on Village-Level Modernization, 21–24 June, 1982, Singapore.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Dumond DE (1961) Swidden agriculture and the rise of Maya civilization. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 17:301–316.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Eussen JHH (1980) Biological and ecological aspects of alang-alang. In [2] pp 15–22.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Freeman JD (1955) Iban agriculture: a report on the shifting cultivation of dry rice by the Iban of Sarawak. H.M.S.O., London. (Colonial Research Study no. 18).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Furtado JI (1979) The status and future of the tropical moist forest in Southeast Asia. In: MacAndrews C and Chin LS (eds) Developing economies and the environment: the Southeast Asian experience, pp 73–120. McGraw-Hill, Singapore.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Furtado JI (1980) Tropical ecology and development: proceedings of the Vth international symposium of tropical ecology, 16–21 April, Kuala Lumpur. 2 vols. The International Society of Tropical Ecology, Kuala Lumpur.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Geddes WR (1954) The Land Dayaks of Sarawak. H.M.S.O., London. (Colonial Research Study no. 14).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Geddes WR (1970) Opium and the Miao: a study in ecological adjustment. Oceania 4,1:1–11.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Geertz (1963) Agricultural involution: the process of ecological change in Indonesia. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Grandstaff T (1978) The development of swidden agriculture (shifting cultivation). Development and Change 9:547–579.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Grijpstra BC (1976) Common efforts in the development of rural Sarawak, Malaysia. Van Gorkum, Assen.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Hainsworth GB (1982) Beyond dualism? Village-level modernization and the process of integration into national economies in Southeast Asia. In Hainsworth GB ed. Village-Level Modernization: The Political Economy of Rice and Water, pp 1–33. UBC Press, Vancouver.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Harris DR (1980) Human ecology in savanna environments. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Hartmans EH (1981) Land development and management in tropical Africa. International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan/Nigeria.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Holmes JHG et al (1980) The use of Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv. by grazing cattle in Papua-New Guinea. In [2] pp 179–192.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Hudson AB (1974) Swidden systems and potential directions for agricultural development: a case from Kalimantan. In: Conference on Indonesian Agriculture, Madison, pp 101–105.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Ivens GW (1980) Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv in West African agriculture. In [2] pp 149–156.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Izikowitz KG (195) Lamet: hill peasants in French Indochina. Etnografiska Museet, Göteborg (Etnografiska Studier 17).Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Kunstadter P (1978) Subsistence agricultural economies of Lua' and Karen Hill Farmers, Mae Sariang District, Northwestern Thailand. In [40] pp 74–133.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Kunstadter P (1980) The impact of economic development on Southeast Asian tropical forests. In [24] pp 65–72.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Kunstadter P and Chapman EC (1978) Problems of shifting cultivation and economic development in Northern Thailand. In [40] pp 3–23.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Kunstadter P et al (eds) (1978) Farmers in the forest: economic development and marginal agriculture in Northern Thailand. East-West Center, Honolulu.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Mears LA (1981) The new rice economy of Indonesia. Gadjah Mada University Press, Yogyakarta.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Merrill ED (1954) Plant life of the Pacific World. Macmillan, New York.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Miles D (1972) Land, labour and kin groups among Southeast Asian shifting cultivators. Mankind 8:185–197.Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Mubyarto (ed) (1982) Growth and equity in Indonesian agricultural development. Yayasan Agro Ekonomika, Jakarta.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ngampongsai C (1980) Sambar's plant foods in Khao-Yai National Park, Thailand. In [24] pp 295–301.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Nye PH and Greenland DJ (1960) The soil under shifting cultivation. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Farnham Royal/England (Technical Communication no. 51).Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Padoch C (1980) The environmental and demographic effects of alternative cash-producing activities among shifting cultivators in Sarawak. In [24] pp 475–481.Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Pelzer KJ (1978) Swidden cultivation in southeast Asia: historical, ecological, and economic perspectives. In [40] pp 271–286.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Penny DH (1964) The transition from subsistence to commercial family farming in North Sumatra (Ph.D. thesis, Cornell University) University Microfilms, Ann Arbor/USA.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Proceedings seminar agroforestry dan pengendalian perladangan, Jakarta 19–21 November (1981). The Directorate of Reforestation and Rehabilitation, and The General Directorate of Forestry, Jakarta.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Ratanakhon S (1978) Legal aspects of land occupation and development. In [40] pp 45–53.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Richards PW (1952) The tropical rain forest. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/England.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Sanchez PA (1976) Properties and management of soils in the tropics. Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  54. 54.
    Sanchez PA (1981) Soils of the humid tropics. Studies in Third World Societies 14: 347–410.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    Seavoy RE (1975) The origin of tropical grasslands in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Journal of Tropical Geography 40:48–52.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Seavoy RE (1980) Population pressure and land use change. Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography 1:61–67.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Sherman G (1980a) What ‘green desert’? The ecology of Batak grassland farming. Indonesia 29:113–148.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Sherman G (1980b) The culture-bound notion of ‘soil fertility’: On interpreting non-western criteria of selecting land for cultivation. Studies in Third World Societies 14:487–511.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Smitinand T et al (1978) The environment of Northern Thailand. In [40] pp 24–40.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Soewardi B and Sastradipradja D (1980) Alang-alang (Imperata cylindrica [L.] Beauv.) and animal husbandry. In [2] pp 157–178.Google Scholar
  61. 61.
    Spencer JE (1966) Shifting cultivation in Southeastern Asia. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Suryatna ES and McIntosh JL (1980) Food crops production and control of Imperata cylindrica (L.) Beauv. on small farms. In [2] pp 135–148.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Syarifuddin Baharsyah and Soetatwo Hadiwigeno (1982) The development of commercial crop farming. In [44] pp 144–178.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Thomas KD (1965) Shifting cultivation and production of small holder rubber in a South Sumatran village. Malayan Economic Review 10:100–115.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    UNESCO (1978) Tropical Forest Ecosystems. UNESCO, Paris.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Vayda AP (1981) Research in East Kalimantan on interactions between people and forests: a preliminary report. Borneo Research Bulletin 13,1:3–15.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Van Vollenhoven C (1909) Miskenningen van het adatsrecht. Leiden.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    de Vries E (1950) Problems of agriculture in Indonesia. Pacific Affairs 23,2:130–143.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Weatherly WP (1980) USAID assisted development projects and wildlife and genetic resources. In [24] pp 261–265.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Whitmore TC (1975) Tropical forests of the Far East. Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  71. 71.
    Wong J ed. (1979) Group farming in Asia: experiences and potentials. Singapore University Press, Singapore.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael R. Dove
    • 1
  1. 1.The Rockefeller Foundation and Environmental Studies CenterUGMYogyakartaIndonesia

Personalised recommendations