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The Cashew Frontier in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa: Changing Landscapes and Livelihoods

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Abstract

Guinea-Bissau farmers are replacing shifting cultivation with cashew (Anacardium occidentale) orchards in response to international and national economic and conservation policies, local social changes and perceived increasing climate instability. However, changes from relative food self-provisioning to full dependence on one cash crop and from a complex mosaic of agricultural fields, fallows and forest patches to a homogenous landscape of cashew agroforests impacts both the natural environment and livelihoods. This article on the demise of shifting cultivation in the tropics contributes to the growing body of scholarship on land use-cover change (LUCC) and its multiplex global, national and local drivers, varying across time and space. Further, we argue that instead of adopting an approach exclusively focused on parks, conservation-oriented external interventions should engage with farmers in the development of innovations that both preserve forest ecosystems and enhance food security.

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Notes

  1. The terms shifting cultivation, swidden cultivation and slash-and-burn agriculture have been commonly used in the literature as synonymous, and include a wide range of practices in which woody vegetation is cut and burned and fields are left fallow after a period of cultivation to allow recovery of woody vegetation (Mertz et al. 2009: 260).

  2. For non-Muslim ethnic groups, such as the Balanta, cashew production provides two different sources of income: nuts and alcohol. The “cashew wine” made from the juice of the apple (Fig. 7) provides a larger income than the nuts in years of low prices (Lundy 2012).

    Fig. 7
    figure 7

    Balanta farmers during cashews harvest: a man is separating the nuts from the apple and two women are pounding the cashew apples to make wine

  3. Alvarez and Naughton-Treves (2003:273) noted that these kinds of processes of forest regrowth should be mapped and tracked in sustainable forest management practices, and conservation efforts should include the restoration of degraded areas.

  4. This decrease in the area occupied by mangroves since 2007 was confirmed by remote sensing (Ana Cabral, personal communication, 2011).

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Acknowledgments

Research in 2008 and 2009 was conducted within the framework of the project Carboveg-GB funded by the Guinea-Bissau and Portuguese governments, and by grants from the Portugal-Africa Foundation. In 2011 and 2012 fieldwork was continued under the framework of PTDC/AFR/111546/2009 and PTDC/AFR/1117785/2010 projects. The authors wish to thank comments made by Rosemary Galli, Deborah Bryceson, José Miguel Pereira, Joana Sousa, João Silva, Joana Roque de Pinho, Jean-Louis Couture, Luís Catarino, Elizabeth Challinor, Duarte Oom and especially by one HE reviewer. The first author also thanks the Department of Anthropology of Yale University/USA and the Technology and Agrarian Development Group of Wageningen University/Holland for hosting her as a Visiting Fellow during earlier phases of the research.

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Correspondence to Marina Padrão Temudo.

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Temudo, M.P., Abrantes, M. The Cashew Frontier in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa: Changing Landscapes and Livelihoods. Hum Ecol 42, 217–230 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-014-9641-0

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