This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at http://unu.edu
Contents - Previous - Next
3.2.3. Cash-cropping and other income sources
The technological possibilities for increased income among swiddeners can be considered in the context that the improvements in productivity discussed above will allow the swiddener more time and better land resource possibilities so that the relatively light subsistence inputs will allow for participation and expansion in cash-cropping sectors, thereby allowing the swiddener greater participation in the modern economy and the attainment of greater benefits. If the subsistence sector is essentially self-contained and cash-cost-free (a traditional characteristic of integral swiddening), expansion in the income sector should offer, relatively, a much greater pay-off than among peoples who must spend a substantial portion of their income in order to feed themselves. At the same time, it is in the cash-income sector that the greatest attention to viability will have to be exercised so that desire for short-term gain does not undermine the entire system. As in the preceding two sections, then, the possibilities discussed here cannot stand alone as recommendations, but must be considered in a broader systemic context (to be discussed in section 3.3). It should also be emphasized that the mix of income-generating activities must initially be appropriate to the nature and timing of the subsistence labour activities so that system viability is not lost through conflict between the two. Improvements in the one sector, then, will have to be carefully "matched,'' on the local level, with improvements in the other. If, as time progresses, expansion in the cash-income sector leads to the abandonment of subsistence cropping (assuming viability is maintained), this will be a decision the swiddener makes for himself because of the benefits involved, rather than something that happens to him because he is powerless to defend his preferred lifestyle. Discussion of cash sources for swiddeners will encompass the use of the following: (1 ) the fallow, (2) swidden cash crops, (3) permanent plot crops (including arboriculture), (4) animals, (5) wild forest products, (6) wage labour, and (7) handicrafts and tourism.
1. The Fallow
Use of the fallow for economic gain of swiddeners seems a real possibility in the light of taungya system experiences (Nye and Greenland 1960, p. 137). Kio (1972) has suggested that the exploitative nature of taungya could be eliminated if the system were controlled by the swiddeners themselves and a mix of timber and agriculture were to be maintained, rather than maximizing timber at the expense of agriculture. To do this foresters and agriculturalists will have to get together as early as possible (Gordon 1956), but the approach must be a new one, and should not be expected to succeed if forestry departments themselves rather than local peoples are to be the controllers. The dangers of extensive timber fallows are essentially the same as those of any other monocropping system in the tropics: the risk of pest and disease outbreaks is high; a single species fallow would probably be deleterious to soil regeneration (discussed above); and many wild forest species would be lost, with undetermined but probably disastrous effects on the ecosystem. For these reasons, timber or tree crops in the fallow should be carefully considered and should only be used, if at all, in specific areas, if possible in specific niches of the natural forest fallow. Single species fallows should be avoided or used only on small plots of land, alternating with different species on nearby plots and separated by plots of natural forest regeneration. A sort of ''patchwork" diversity might thus be maintained. Within a particular village territory there are usually one or two areas of rather slow regeneration. These might be planted to commercial soft-wood species that would speed regeneration and provide cash returns as well. In other areas, short-lived trees producing tree crops could be maintained during fallow and then felled and burned before swidden use. Longer-lived species could be cut back and care taken that they survive the burn, in the same way that the Karen now protect the larger natural fallow trees.
2. Swidden Cash Crops
A number of swidden cash crops have been discussed in previous chapters. Cash crops in the main food-producing swiddens should be of low volume and high value, and not overtax the system by their export (e.g., chili peppers). In mountain areas, crops that require cooler climates could be grown to be sold in the valleys. Separate swiddens for particularly suitable cash crops could be maintained. If this were done, these swiddens would probably merit the use of fertilizer and other inputs. If cultivated intensively, special arrangements will be necessary to ensure that the fallow is particularly suitable for regenerating those nutrients depleted by the cash crops. Such swiddens could, in effect, be managed as a separate subsystem from the subsistence swiddens.
3. Permanent Plot Crops
Small plots of particularly good soil on flat land or gentle slopes could be reserved for cash crop cultivation. Such plots could merit intensive use and the expense of chemical fertilizers, etc. These plots would have to be well looked after and care would have to be taken, once the market for the cash crops was established, that the system did not become extensive, expanding into other less suitable areas where viability could not be maintained. On poorer land and on steep slopes, arboriculture (of tea, coffee, fruit trees, etc.) could be practiced (see Douglas 1973; Gourou 1949, pp. 16, 21). Again, diversity should be maintained as much as possible through intercropping and "patchwork" patterns.
Domesticated animals such as pigs and cattle could be integrated into larger regimes. The use of animal manuring has already been mentioned. Some of the animals could be sold.
5. Wild forest Products
The sections of Mature Tropical Forest around streams, headwaters, and wet places could eventually become a source of cash products on a modest scale. They contain exotic resources (such as special medicines) that may be of high value in the future. Secondary forest fallows may also be important. Removal of wild products should be confined to those of high value, low volume, and rapid renewal. Care should be taken that their rate of removal does not disturb essential ecosystemic functioning.
6 Wage Labour
Wage labour will undoubtedly be of continuing importance as a safety valve on local resources. The availability of short-term, seasonal jobs in forestry, mining, or other nearby work will help to ensure that swidden areas are not overtaxed. Satisfactory institutional arrangement in providing such employment should recognize the value of these jobs to overall ecosystemic maintenance, not just to employers alone; thus a degree of governmental control or a subsidy to serve the interests of the swiddeners is advisable. Wage labour among swiddeners themselves could also benefit from close observation to guard against exploitation and undesired directions in swidden economy. . . (to be discussed in section 3.3).
7. Handicrafts and Tourism
One of the benefits of cultural and material diversity is that it is aesthetically appreciated by many as a respite to the ''sameness" of the modern world. Tourism among the integral swiddeners of Northern Thailand is definitely on the rise, as is the sale of the hill people's handicrafts. With better communications, many previously isolated villages are now accessible. The combination of tourist guest-houses and the sale of local handicrafts on site in swidden villages could be an important and remunerative source of income for swiddeners. Governmental regulation and promotion of the routes and locations in this regard might help to ensure that the swiddeners themselves are able to obtain a fairer share of the profits involved.
3.3 Systemic considerations
What has not been covered in the above sections is an appreciation of the ways in which the many different parts of a more productive and viable swidden system are to be successfully integrated, and an appreciation of the complex relationship between society and resources that will undergo changes with the development of swidden agriculture. In the past, development among swiddeners considered itself extremely enlightened in this regard if it proceeded with some sort of overall massive land-classification scheme so that each bit of resource usage was appropriate to some sort of environmental criterion (see, e.g., Holdridge 1959, pp. 275-277). As McKinnon (1977) points out, however, this land-survey type of development is virtually doomed to failure if it disregards the most important element in any resource system: the people themselves. Unless development is people-oriented it can easily become a rather nasty as well as unsuccessful enterprise. Spencer (1966, pp. 16-17), for example, has opposed swidden development unless it pays particular attention to social aspectsto what would happen to the people as the result of any particular agricultural plan and to what would need to be done to reeducate people so that they did not end up being ruined by "development.'' Watters (1971, pp. 283-290) has seen the main problem with development among swiddeners as being not a technological but a social one, particularly with respect to "dual economy." As pointed out in the Preface, the present study does not take the position that there are ''social obstacles" among swiddeners that must be overcome before swiddeners can proceed with more rational economic pursuits but, rather, that development must suit itself to the needs, aspirations, and values of the swiddeners. This entails not an analysis of what are the social ''obstacles" to development and how to overcome them (a difficult task in itself) but, rather, the relatively much more difficult task of assessing the relationship between sociocultural factors (including values) and resource usage so that the effects of changes in the latter on the former can be approximated and made known to the swiddeners themselves, in order that they can then make more informed decisions between alternative courses of action. I say "be approximated" here because, unfortunately, we do not yet have the (social- ) scientific expertise to delineate these effects with any degree of certainty.
If development channels are to be established that would convey the results of technological findings to swiddeners and perform educational functions when requested to, such channels should also involve social scientists who could help to assess the (ongoing) relationship of technological changes to social changes and make this information available too. This need has been recognized in the field of technology assessment, and some of the best research in this new field is now proceeding in this direction (see Koppel 1978). Technological advances alone do not necessarily promote higher living standards, abolish poverty, or lower the gap between rich and poor. Indeed, the effect has sometimes been much the oppositedistribution of wealth may become less rather than more equitable and production may even decline (De Alcantara 1973-1974). Technological advances usually increase the optimal size of land holdings, so that, even after land reform is undertaken, small farmers may lose their holdings and be no better off than before (Conway and Romm 1973, p. 66).
To begin with, we must attempt to arrive at some sort of (very general) picture of the feasible types of improved (i.e., more productive and viable) resource systems among integral swiddeners. What sorts of systems would be likely to find favour among integral swiddeners? What are the "weak points" in such systems, both from the standpoint of productivity and viability and from the standpoint of changes in swidden lifestyle that the swiddener might have to make in order to achieve greater benefits from his labour? Finally, even if we were able to delineate the broad outlines of systems that would be so suitable that integral swiddeners would be eager to employ them, what "down-the-line" effects can we discernwhat future characteristics are likely to evolve as the result of initially adopted changes? As well as these can be discerned they should be made known to the swiddeners themselves. Only armed with such information can the swiddener best decide what to do, and only through informed decision-making on the part of the integral swiddener can development succeed.
Some of the outlines of viable and productive swidden systems are already clear. In areas where there is low population density and fallow periods are long, viability is not an immediate issue. Even in these areas, however, integral swiddeners are being increasingly threatened by encroachment from outside. The best way to protect the interests of these swiddeners and the environment as well is to promote the establishment of village territories, protected by law from outside encroachment. Areas should be sufficiently large (and should contain such good forest) that viability will not be threatened. This can best be done in close consultation with the integral swiddeners themselves, and every effort should be made to conform to the rights and requirements which they themselves already recognize. These territories will have to be protected from more influential "land development" interests, such as forest industries, mining companies, large-scale agriculturalists, and ranchers, in order for swiddeners to have the chance to develop.
In areas where established swiddeners already manage discrete village territories, the first priority should be to grant legal land tenure. Usually such rights are already well recognized by integral swiddeners themselves, but not by permanent-field farmers or other outsiders who may wish to appropriate swidden lands for their own purposes. Modern aerial survey technology can greatly assist in this task and help to overcome the burdensome survey work often cited as one of the reasons for not establishing legal swidden land rights. The nature of these land rights need not amount to outright ownership in the sense that swiddeners can then do anything they like with the land, any more than the various complex building codes and zoning regulations of modern societies grant their owners unlimited rights. Land tenure codes alone, however, will not be sufficient to protect swiddeners from encroachment by others. Broad political implications are involved (discussed below).
Individual land rights within the village territory are a complicated matter. Nye and Greenland (1960, p. 137 ) feel that the greatest obstacle to the improvement of swiddening is the land tenure system, specifically the lack of individual ownership among integral swiddeners. Although some researchers have recommended corporate village ownership for swidden development (the corridor methodssee also Kio 1972), cashcropping experiences among swiddeners have demonstrated that this would probably be unwise for intensively cultivated cash-cropped land and could lead to land degeneration. Opium swiddens among the Hmong, for example, are never corporately owned as long as they are producing. Such plots have been frequently bought and sold. Furthermore, although rice is pooled at the household level, opium is not. Whereas rice plots "belong" to the entire household, opium plots belong to individuals. Fruit trees are planted in worked-out opium swiddens and the orchards thus produced continue to belong to the individual owner. The natural trend of cash-cropping practices, then, may well be in the direction of private individual ownership, not corporate ownership. The lesson here would seem to be that the subsistence sector might be continued with traditional swidden tenure, but that cash-cropped land should be "owned." If permanent plots are maintained this presents no problem, but where cash crops are grown in swiddens the land tenure system will have to be carefully examined. Study at the local level is needed here, but, as long as viability can be successfully maintained, the traditional system should be adhered to as much as possible. If individual ownership of swiddens is deemed necessary or is desired by the swiddeners themselves, this is not an impossible task. Procedures could be instituted for marking trees at key points on swidden boundaries, if no similar system already exists. A simple system of public verification could be used rather than the complicated surveying and recording procedures required for land ownership in the lowlands.
Given the technological options involved for a variety of cash crop and subsistence combinations, it seems likely that at least two and perhaps more categories of land tenure would evolve (e.g., individually owned; individual rights but corporately owned; corporately owned). In time certain types of land would be recognized as suitable for certain types of usage, but this is a process that the swiddeners themselves will have to work through in order to arrive at the best mix. Developers should recommend matching land type with usage, basing their recommendations on solid research. Where necessary, certain types of land use could be rightfully restricted if viability were clearly threatened, or if such usage caused downstream deterioration for others. But this is a different type of approach from starting out with overly detailed land classification programmes, devised by people who have never swiddened and will never have to bear the burden such planning puts on the swiddeners.
Overall, system types which are likely to evolve with the availability of appropriate technological information and assistance will be successful when these system types are appropriate both to the specific local environmental conditions and to the particular socio-cultural characteristics of the local groups involved. On the environmental side, local research might consider not just what types of systems are best in terms of production while maintaining viability, but what systems are possible, so that a wider range of options is then available to suit the socio-cultural characteristics. Nye and Greenland (1960, pp. 76-78) conclude that, due to nutrient run-down being slower in monsoon areas than in equatorial areas, annuals are able to be cultivated for more years in the former, but that weeding may become a real problem and cause the field to be fallowed before nutrient run-down demands it. In equatorial areas, nutrient run-down is rapid and fields must be shifted more often, the leafy weeds in these areas being less of a problem despite their more rapid regeneration. The eventual system mix chosen for a particular area will then affect the periods, labour type, and amount that can be freed from swidden requirements to pursue other ends. The subsidiary cash-generating activities developed will then have to be appropriate to the particular requirements of the systems mix chosen, and to the environment.
On the socio-cultural side, a great deal will depend on the characteristics of the local group. For example, if clear grouping mechanisms (such as lineages) already exist where corporate activities can be reasonably regulated, a larger portion of corporately owned subsystems may be possible. If these do not exist, and the swiddeners are nucleated with little opportunity for corporate activities above the household level, mechanisms will be needed to facilitate group action. If these are initiated by the government, special care will have to be taken that such mechanisms do not become coercive. If they are developed internally, class formation and increasing gaps between classes may be likely so that one section of a village ends up being exploited by another. To prevent this, checks will be necessary to offer more options to the poorer swiddeners, so that they do not end up being labourers employed by others who have managed to accumulate title to the major portions of the resources available. Retaining a larger portion of the system in swidden land, with cash-cropping in swiddens, might help to prevent increasing stratification within the village, complemented by a larger variety of non-swidden income-earning options.
Despite the more extensive nature of developed swidden systems, the same basic economic relationships between man and land will exist as in permanent-field systems. In order to increase resource-to-man ratios, one or all of the following will be necessary: intensification, extensification, birth control, or outmigration (Galbraith 1977). In fact, all should be attended to: intensification and extensification can be accomplished through the various possibilities outlined in section 3.2. Family planning information and methods should be made available. Outmigration will still have to serve as a pressure valve in many areas. Outmigration can be facilitated both through increased information about opportunities and through better opportunities themselves. Alternatives for the poorest swiddeners are the most important, but conditions among the poorest can also be improved by encouraging outmigration of wealthier swiddeners, whose absence could then allow for increased per capita resources for those remaining behind.
Monitoring of "trends'' in swidden areas will have to be an essential part of any swidden development plan. Such monitoring will be necessary both to ensure that sufficient information and options are available to the swiddeners themselves and to satisfy legitimate concerns as to environmental degradation and danger to contiguous ecosystems. On the environmental side, at least two types of monitoring would seem essential. First, to protect contiguous ecosystems, points of interpenetration between marginal and non-marginal ecosystems must be monitored for directions in trend. In mountain areas, for example, procedures might be developed to monitor streamflow for volume and silt content. For environmental viability within the swiddens, methods must be developed to monitor trends in regeneration, based on soil sampling and, of course, vegetation indicators. The object of such monitoring is not to demand a rigid "steady state," since any increase in production is going to be achieved at some cost, but rather to be aware of and anticipate changes so that they may be redirected, compensated for, or halted as deemed necessary. Although it is clear that destructive runaway processes will have to be avoided, the specific criteria for decision-making in this sphere are not yet decided (even in the most developed countries) but they will have to be, sooner or later. The assembling of data that will be necessary to develop these criteria, however, must be begun, and thus actual monitoring should start as soon as possible.
On the socio-cultural side, the monitoring of "trends'' in resource distribution, income distribution, social stratification, class formation, etc., should be accomplished in order to make such information available to the swiddeners themselves. To the extent that methods can be developed to monitor these sorts of trends, runaway processes might be countered, in the socio-cultural realm, by efforts to broaden the range of options open to those becoming increasingly impoverished. Information channels about resource options may do much to begin with, but eventually legislation will be necessary to protect the larger interests of the society in fostering appropriate social goals. Progressive income tax is a familiar example. Given that the development of swidden agriculture may proceed on a rather different course from other forms of development (preservation of dual economy, corporate landholdings, etc.), it seems likely that legislation applying specifically to swiddeners will be needed.
The overall outlines of swidden system development can now be visualized. The nature of swidden society and the nature of swidden resource systems, particularly in marginal areas, suggest that swidden systems with viability, increased production, and increased participation in market sectors would remain essentially "dual''having both subsistence and cash-earning sectors. They would exist as settled demarcated swidden village territories within which a number of subsystems would operate, involving such components as subsistence swiddens, cash-crop swiddens, mixed swiddens, permanent plots, orchards, managed secondary forest fallow regeneration with arboriculture or timber production, managed primary forest sections, perhaps pastures in some areas, etc. Land tenure and land management would also be a mix of appropriate elements suited both to the local environment and to the characteristics of the particular local group involved, these circumstances recommending the particular mix of privately owned permanent plots, private rights to particular swidden plots, corporately owned swidden territories and primary forest pockets, etc. Technological improvements toward increased productivity and viability could be accomplished, drawing on a variety of already existing possibilities as well as through further research in promising directions, as discussed in section 3.2. The initial mix of appropriate components would depend most heavily on already existing conditions, both environmental and socio-cultural, but would probably change over time as particular components were elaborated and expanded, others contracted or transformed. The monitoring of trends in the system would be directed toward ensuring viability and helping to progressively increase potential, through making available the results of research in promising directions and through assessment of the likely socio-cultural consequences of directions being pursued or contemplated by the swiddeners.
Most important, given directions in the system mix that are desired by the swiddeners, development personnel will have to make an attempt to discern the institutional functions that may be required, and to explore ways that these may be developed. If cash crops are to be marketed in other parts of the country or abroad, institutions will have to be created to collect and transport the produce, to establish product standards, and to find and perpetuate markets (see Janzen 1973, p. 1216; Ruddle and Grandstaff 1977). Institutions of some scope will be needed in order to guarantee crop purchases, develop techniques for ensuring against spoilage, monitor quality, etc. (see Burton 1970). The larger the marketing systems, the greater the need for institutions that can work to ensure that the swiddener does not suffer from changing market conditions (cf. Odum 1971, pp. 196-205).
At the village level, it is inevitable that a developing village economy will necessitate some degree of institutional change. With respect to each sector in which such institutional change or development is necessary, the important question will be to what extent the government can help provide the necessary functions and to what extent these will be handled internally. Availability of credit, for example, seems a likely area in which government could easily lend a hand and ensure fair practices as well. Land tenure rules, on the other hand, are an area where the rules of the larger society and the traditional rules of the swiddeners must be carefully articulated. Among many swidden groups, land tenure rules will not in themselves be sufficient to allow the swiddener careful management of his own plot through all phases of the swidden cycle to ensure maximum productivity and viability. But government regulation in this area must not approach the reformulation of land tenure principles that efforts such as taungya and corridor methods attemptedto do so would attack the very basis of swidden society values and bring more harm than benefit. Recommendations in areas such as this will have to be weighed most carefully indeed and will have to be finely tuned to the local swidden group, its existing institutions, and its values.
In the end, however, it is the political relationship between the swiddeners and the larger society claiming national sovereignty over swiddeners and their territories that will be the truly crucial variable upon which swidden development depends. The most obvious method of helping to ensure that swiddeners are adequately represented in this context is to structure political units so that the interests of swiddeners are represented at politically meaningful levels. Although there is justified pessimism about whether this is ever likely to occur within the normal political contexts of many countries (see, e.g., Jones 1978), in others national concern for border security has prompted some governmental elements to favour this sort of course (e.g., Kerdphol 1976). Whether or not active measures can be taken to protect the interests of swiddeners and to develop adequate representation, however, will depend on the more farsighted appreciation by political powers that it is in their own best interests to ensure that policies will equitably benefit all groups within their national borders, especially minority groups with appreciably different lifestyles. Despite some optimism that there are a growing international awareness and a relative openness to innovation in marginal areas, which, when combined with innovative solutions, offer hope (Swift 1978, pp. 17-18), the growing demands that national economies (and extranational interests) are now making on marginal areas mean that it is highly problematical whether the needed enlightenment will arrive in time.
Contents - Previous - Next