|Shifting Cultivation in Northern Thailand (UNU, 1980, 44 pages)|
1. Standing nearly alone against the swidden abolitionists was Dr. John MicKinnon, former New Zealand researcher at the Tribal Research Centre, Chiang Mai (see McKinnon 1977). Others are rapidly adopting a new perspective, however; Donner (1978, p. 720) comments: "There is no doubt, however, that [shifting cultivation] will continue in the future as it does in many countries of the world, despite the fact that everybody is against it except those who practice it. A complete change is out of the question for various reasons and it is, therefore, reasonable to think of modifying this technique rather than of abolishing it. This is by no means a defense or justification of slash and burn agriculture but rather an acknowledgement of the fact that Thailand is not in a position and has not the prerequisitions to enforce the abandonment of it; a careful reform policy may yield satisfactory results that may lead, in the long run, to the reduction of slash and burn to a bearable extent.''
In a landmark article, Clarke (1976) speaks to the wider issue of the future of shining cultivation and tropical forests throughout the world in arguing for the development of shifting cultivation in such a manner that both resident cultivators and forests may survive in sustained yield systems.
2. The ecological dangers of firewood and charcoal industries are a worldwide problem (see Eckholm 1976, chap. 6).
3. Many researchers believe it is partial swiddeners rather than integral swiddeners who do the greatest damage (see Conklin 1961; Reed 1965, p. 47: Keen 1972, p. 16; Waters 1971, pp. 912).
4. Interestingly, the same argument has been made in Mexico, where swidden systems were quite extensive and apparently even supported elaborate social organization. Watters (1971, p. 16) comments that there are Indian communities in Mexico ''where it is impossible to discern whether stabilized agriculture and shining cultivation were practiced consecutively, or whether they have always existed side by side."
5. See Grandstaff 1976; Iijima 1970; Marshall 1922, p. 76. For various hypotheses as to why the Karen may have changed from pioneer, primary forest swiddeners to established, secondary forest swiddeners, see Grandstaff 1976.
6. For more detailed descriptions of the Karen swidden cycle, see Hinton 1969. Much of the description in this section relies on Hinton.
7. The complexity of such factors belies the assertion that swiddening is a simplistic form of agriculture, and underscores the very extensive education a swiddener must have in order to operate his agricultural system effectively (see de Schlippe 1955, p. 240; Ruddle and Chesterfield 1977;1978).
8. This is a guess. Average fallow times are often very difficult to compute, since field boundaries change and fallowing time range is very wide, even within a quite small area; as little as four years, or as much as twenty or more.
9. For example. Wilkinson (1975) argues that corn provides good soil protection and minimizes erosion, whereas de Coene (1956) argues that corn is one of the crops most likely to lead to erosion and soil degeneration because of the need for intensive early weeding.
10. Nye and Greenland (1960, pp. 70-80) argue that the tougher variety of Imperata cylindrica in Southeast Asia will succeed to other grasses unless burned annually, whereas in Africa it will be displaced even If it is burned annually.
11. For greater detail on pioneer swiddeners' annual cycle see Binney 1968; Keen 1975; Dessaint 1972; Walker 1970: For greater details on changing practices among the Hmong, see Grandstaff 1976. For greater detail on opium-corn-pigs practices and other aspects of Hmong economics, see Geddes 1976.
12. In a recent survey of severel pioneer swiddener villages, the majority of those interviewed stated that they had given up thoughts of moving again, a sombre realization for a pioneer swiddener who has known only the migratory pattern (see Chindarsi and Raksachon 1976).
13. Clarke (1976) offers detailed recommendations and justifications for swidden development in this sense in an important article not available when the present study was conceived. The general type of approach has been previously advocated (e.g., W. Allan 1965, pp. 473-474) and is recently receiving wider advocacy (e.g., Donner 1978. p. 720).
14. To assist those who may wish to pursue the subject of taungya systems in more detail, the following bibliography is provided: C.W. Allan 1916; Allsop 1949; Eckholm 1976, pp. 151-152; FAO 1957, pp. 64-69; FAO 1956, pp. 79-85; Kio 1972; McKinnon 1977; Manshard 1974, pp. 110-111; Nisbet 1901, p. 58; Peizer 1957; Peizer 1948. p. 31; Ruthenberg 1971, pp. 4849; Stebbing 1922, p. 92; Watters 1971, pp. 19,169-172 (all the preceding are referenced in full in the bibliography at the end of the present study). Other sources: E.E. Enabor (1974), "Socioeconomic Aspects of Taungya in Relation to Traditional Shifting Cultivation in Tropical Developing Countries, Shifting Cultivation and Soil Conservation in Africa (Swedish International Development Authority-FAO), pp. 191-202; H. Rae Grinnel (1975), A Study of Agri-silviculture Potential in West Africa (International Development Research Centre [IDRC], Ottawa, Canada); L.S. Hamilton (1976), A Survey of Tropical Rainforest Conservation in Venezuela (UNEP, and the Sierra Club); K.F.S. King (1968), Agri-silviculture (The Taungva System) (Department of Forestry, University of Ibadan, Bulletin no. 1 ); President's Science Advisory Committee on World Food Production (1967), The World Food Problem (White House, Washington, D.C., USA); L. Roche (1974), "The Practice of Agrisilviculture in the Tropics. with Special Reference to Nigeria,'' Shifting Cultivation and Soil Conservation in Africa (Swedish International Development Authority-FAO), pp. 179-190.
15. Taungya = "swidden'' in the Burmese language, but the term has been
adopted widely in many countries to mean
the timber/swiddening combination discussed above.
16. Taungya methods have been used in Costa Rica, Trinidad (Watters 1971, p. 280), Nigeria (Kio 1972), Thailand (McKinnon 1977, pp. 24-25), Java (Pelter 1948, p. 31), Ceylon (FAO 1957, pp. 64-69), Malaysia (Watters 1971, p. 280), and widely in India and Burma (Stabbing 1922, p. 92; C.W. Allan 1916; Allsop 1949; Nisbet 1901, p. 58), as well as in many other tropical areas.
1 7. Exploitation of swiddeners by foresters has even been advocated by some researchers (see, e.g., Pflueguer 1930).
18. Sources on corridor systems: W. Allan 1965, pp. 437-445; de Coene 1956; Eckholm 1976, pp. 140-141; Peizer 1957; pp. 89; Ruthenberg 1971, pp. 49-51.
19. See Janzen (1973), who combines the two in an integral approach to "sustained yield."
20. It was apparently Gourou who first suggested that the really important question is whether swidden agriculture is a transitional stage between hunting/gathering and permanentfield agriculture or whether it is an agricultural adaptation particularly suited to the tropics (see Watters 1960, pp. 77 ff.). It could be answered that it is both, but it is really the question itself that contains the fallacy. Both in the tropics and elsewhere, swiddening has been used to clear native vegetation and was often retained for a time because of its relatively light labour requirements under conditions of low population density and because of lack of access to (or profitable motive for using) labour-saving technologies. in other cases, particularly in the tropics, environmental conditions made the elaboration of swiddening more advantageous than its conversion to other agricultural forms. In these areas it is still practiced today because it is particularly suitable. Only the future will decide what sort of "stage" this current use of swiddening may be. Since things change with time. we are all in some sort of ''stage," but there is little reason to believe that we are all on the same path. l have no compelling reason to believe that my ancestors were swiddeners or, if they were, that they bore any major resemblance to Northern Thailand swiddeners today, nor do I expect particularly that in the future Northern Thailand swiddeners will live in high-rise condominiums.
21. See also Clarke (1976), who argues for the support of swiddeners in helping them to maintain natural biota and forest biomass.
22. Hanunóo swidden practices in the Philippines offer an excellent example. See Conklin 1957.
23. There would seem to be general agreement on this conclusion (e.g., Conway and Romm 1973, pp. 1, 20, 24, 26; Watt 1968, p. 50; Schultz 1967; Igbozurike 1971: Dickinson 1972, p. 22; Holdridge 1959, p. 278; Ruthenberg 1971, pp. 27 - 30; Dasmann et al. 1973, p. 162). Although the diversity stability principle in ecology is currently being questioned as a universal generalization, the inherent dangers in overly simplified tropical agro-ecosystems are clear (discussed in Ehrlich et al. 1977, pp. 138 141).
24. This, in fact, is now being done in North Thailand. The Thai-Australian Agricultural Project has conducted crop trials relaycropping various legumes with upland rice. Initial results seem to indicate "that pasture legumes can be established under a rice crop in the highlands without affecting rice yields." (Thai-Australian Highland Agricultural Project, Fourth Report. March 1979, Chiang Mail )
25. To the author's knowledge, despite Greenland's (1975) advice. few, if any, actual production figures have yet been obtained from the application of techniques discussed in this section, under actual farm/field conditions of shifting cultivators. Nevertheless, some production figures (for inputs to upland rice production in shifting cultivation areas) are now available. For details, the reader is referred to the Appendix to this case study.
26. The urgency of finding ecologically viable ways to reduce weeding labour is highlighted by recent observations that many swiddeners are now using salt water (NaCl solution) to suppress weeds (Vitoon Khunthicula, personal communication). If applied too heavily or too often this can lead to toxic soil. When technological assistance is not responsive to local problems, local trial and error occurs due to the need to solve problems.
27. This is not intended as a criticism of the UNPDAC Project. which, if I understand it correctly, has come to the same conclusion and works toward development of primary forest swidden villages, not toward the direct eradication or replacement of opium.
28. A table summarizing swidden rice yields throughout Southeast Asia may be found in Kunstadter and Chapman (1978, pp. 14 15).