Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 63–76 | Cite as

Effects of Landscape Segregation on Livelihood Vulnerability: Moving From Extensive Shifting Cultivation to Rotational Agriculture and Natural Forests in Northern Laos

  • Jean-Christophe CastellaEmail author
  • Guillaume Lestrelin
  • Cornelia Hett
  • Jeremy Bourgoin
  • Yulia Rahma Fitriana
  • Andreas Heinimann
  • Jean-Laurent Pfund


This study investigates four decades of socio-economic and environmental change in a shifting cultivation landscape in the northern uplands of Laos. Historical changes in land cover and land use were analyzed using a chronological series of remote sensing data. Impacts of landscape change on local livelihoods were investigated in seven villages through interviews with various stakeholders. The study reveals that the complex mosaics of agriculture and forest patches observed in the study area have long constituted key assets for the resilience of local livelihood systems in the face of environmental and socio-economic risks. However, over the past 20 years, a process of segregating agricultural and forest spaces has increased the vulnerability of local land users. This process is a direct outcome of policies aimed at increasing national forest cover, eradicating shifting cultivation and fostering the emergence of more intensive and commercial agricultural practices. We argue that agriculture-forest segregation should be buffered in such a way that a diversity of livelihood opportunities and economic development pathways can be maintained.


Shifting cultivation Land sparing Multifunctional landscapes Ecosystem services Livelihood vulnerability Southeast Asia Laos 



The research presented in this paper was conducted through a partnership between two research programmes led by the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute (NAFRI, Lao PDR). The ‘Landscape Mosaics’ project, conducted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), was funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC). The Comprehensive Analysis of the Trajectories of Changes (Catch-Up) Program was supported by CIFOR and the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD). This paper also benefited from the research conducted under the project entitled Impacts of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Enhancing Carbon Stocks (I-REDD+) funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Research Programme. We would like to thank the two anonymous referees for providing us with constructive comments and suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean-Christophe Castella
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Guillaume Lestrelin
    • 1
  • Cornelia Hett
    • 3
  • Jeremy Bourgoin
    • 4
  • Yulia Rahma Fitriana
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andreas Heinimann
    • 3
  • Jean-Laurent Pfund
    • 2
  1. 1.Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), UMR 220 GRED - IRD UPV Montpellier 3VientianeLao People’s Democratic Republic
  2. 2.Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)BogorIndonesia
  3. 3.Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), and Institute of Geography, University of BernBernSwitzerland
  4. 4.School of Geography, Planning and Environmental ManagementUniversity of Queensland (UQ)BrisbaneAustralia

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