Technological change and productivity growth for food security: The case of shifting cultivation and the REDD policy

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Because shifting cultivation is so different from the forms of agriculture mostly practiced in the lowlands, and by majority population, it is one of the most misunderstood land use systems. Therefore, in the name of forest conservation and land development, governments in Asia and Africa have devised ad-hoc policies and laws seeking to eradicate shifting cultivation. The reasons usually given for such restrictive state policies are that shifting cultivation is: technologically primitive to improve agricultural productivity; prevents development and thus keeps people trapped in poverty; destructive to forests and soils; and contributing to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by deforestation. However, by adapting appropriate technology and agronomic practices agricultural productivity can be improved in those tropical areas. Such technological changes for more productive and environmentally friendly agriculture, by means of zero tillage/reduced tillage, mulching, integrated plant nutrient management using both organic and mineral fertilizer, improved crop rotations, and improvements in water productivity can not only avoid shifting cultivation, but also contribute to food security, rural livelihood, poverty alleviation, improved soil fertility, and reduced GHG emissions from deforestation. In particular, agricultural productivity can be improved by provision of input subsidies for mineral (inorganic) fertilizers to build on sound ecological principles and agronomic practices; access to finance and micro-credit; improving the infrastructure; capacity development for men and women farmers; and research and development targeting poor rural areas and addressing emerging questions of agro-defence.In many parts of the forest-agriculture frontiers of the tropics, shifting cultivation is practiced as a way of subsistence farming. In particular, widespread poverty and rural population growth are the prevalent causes that aggravate the need for encroaching into the forestland for subsistence farming in these frontiers. In such areas, economic policies and technological change to improve agricultural productivity are vital to avoid the expansion of agriculture by means of shifting cultivation. In particular, as we are in the age of global climate change, resource use and management practices that rely on the use of land clearing and biomass burning, thus emitting carbon into the atmosphere must get our careful attention, despite the need to bring more land under cultivation for enhancing food security. This situation is quite challenging and requires much more careful attention in the case of shifting cultivation practiced in some Asian and African countries. For instance, shifting cultivation by land clearing and biomass burning recycles phosphorous and other nutrients but contributes to deforestation, emission of greenhouse gases, loss of biodiversity, and increased soil erosion and land degradation, etc, and as yet is an important livelihood and food security strategy for millions of smallholders.This chapter therefore discusses the opportunities for technological change in agriculture by rethinking the Agricultural Input Subsidy Programs (as economic-policy reforms) in Asian and African countries, as well as the new financial incentives arising from REDD (as Payments for Environmental Services from UN-REDD program) for those countries for a land use transition towards more intensified agriculture. It is argued that unlocking the potential of ecosystem markets can provide new income to the farmers for the services they provide anyway, while safeguarding the resource quality and enhancing food security.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFood security
Subtitle of host publicationQuality management, issues and economic implications
EditorsMaddox A Jones, Francisco E Hernandez
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherNova Science Publishers
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781620817360
ISBN (Print)9781620817162
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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