Scientists debunk myths about swidden agriculture

  • 2 June 2015, Tuesday

Source: World Agroforestry Centre
25 May 2015

Swidden agriculture in the Philippines is not as destructive as many have proclaimed, say researchers from Australia and Denmark.

The scientists presented their point of view during a recent seminar at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca), reports theManila Bulletin.

“After reviewing long-fallow swidden systems in Southeast Asia, researchers from the University of Melbourne, the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines and a number of other Australian universities said that while swidden agriculture was once thought of as a highly destructive practice, it can also offer livelihood and climate-change benefits,” says the article.

Swidden agriculture, also referred to as slash and burn farming or shifting cultivation, and known as ‘kaingin’ in the Philippines, has been practiced for centuries in the Philippines. Traditionally, indigenous farmers would move from area to area to farm, leaving their fields to lie fallow for years before returning and planting crops.

The researchers argue that the practice should be understood in its national and global contexts.

Dr Wolfram Dressler of the University of Melbourne says swidden farming can be managed well to help asset-poor farmers in Southeast Asia and elsewhere.

Swidden agriculture also has potential in climate-change mitigation if included in Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+) schemes. Dr Thilde Bech Bruun from the University of Copenhagen believes previous studies have most likely underestimated the amount of carbon stored in fields that lie fallow in swidden systems. Bruun and colleagues suggest that in some cases carbon stocks held in root biomass of swidden systems may have been underestimated by as much as 40 percent.

Read the full story:Kaingin,’ not a destructive farming method – experts