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Problems of land use and recent settlement in Thailand's highland-lowland transition zone

Harald Uhlig


Several attempts have been made to classify land use, settlements, ethnic groups. and rural development in Northern Thailand into three geo-ecologically and culturally distinct altitudinal zones. In the modern world, this basic tripartite structure is being changed rapidly by the dynamic processes of higher mobility and by planned and spontaneous development.

The three zones may be characterized roughly by (1) predominantly sedentary (wet) rice cultures and a relatively well developed infrastructure in the valleys and intramontane basins: (2) a zone of intermediate elevation with a mixture of land rotation and permanent agriculture, occupied by ''tribal'' as well as by Thai (Khon Muang) populations; and (3) the upper mountain zone with shifting cultivation (swidden) by hill peoples.

This paper is concerned mainly with the second, or intermediate zone, which may be regarded as the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone. It has been changed by extensive construction of new roads and by lumbering, followed by extensive forest clearings for spontaneous settlement.

While the attention of most observers is focused on the hill peoples (the opium problem!), the pressure initiated by ''land hunger'' end speculative exploitation of the forest and land resources in this transition zone has become equally alarming. Notwithstanding the relatively well balanced landuse practices by some longer established groups (e.g., the Karen), heavy inroads of pioneer settlers during recent years have converted and endangered large areas of this zone. Landless Thai settlers and agricultural entrepreneurs have pushed in with a crude swidden cultivation of maize, cassava, dry-upland rice, and other crops, attracted either by the export boom of maize and cassava or by more modest hopes for self-supply with rice. Additionally, smaller movements by hill peoples, who are normally residents of the upper zone, have increased this pressure.


More than 50 years ago Wilhelm Credner undertook fieldwork in Thailand (1927 to 1929) and focused on the topic of the present symposium on highland-lowland interactive systems. He developed a model of three different cultures occupying three altitudinal zones:

  1. ''Pflughauern der Ebenen (Uberschwemmungsreisbau)''-plough culture of the plains (wet-rice cultivation);
  2. ''Waldhackbauvolker"-swidden cultures of the forests:
  3. ''Berghackbauvolker''-shifting cultivation of the hill peoples.

He demonstrated these by reference to a series of landscape profiles (Credner 1935a). Wissmann (1943) extended this presentation to Yunnan, China, adding data on the natural conditions. The present author gave a more detailed profile for Northern Thailand (Uhlig 1969) which aimed at an integrated graphic expression of the relief, geoecology, settlement, and land-use pattern of the various socio-economic and ethnic groups, including certain extensions of the traditional setting.

Adapted to the recent development of research methods as well as to the changes by the modernization of this region, several authors arrived at a somewhat similar division into three zones-be it in terms of infrastructural development (Hinton 1967), of the differentiation of rice cultivation (Matzat 1973: 1976), or in a spatial model of the inter-ethnic relations ( Bruneau 1974).

Growing mobility, contacts, and exchange between highland and lowland populations, and socioeconomic and political impacts caused by the recent rapid rate of development have resulted in many changes and have disturbed the traditional structure to such a degree that many authors doubt the validity of the concept Kunstadter's paper expresses this by opposing the ''stereotype'' in which the distribution of ecological zones, ethnic groups. and local economies, were arranged in the form of a ''layer cake.''

Apart from later over-simplifications of Credner's abbreviated terms, it is obvious that the dynamic processes of the last two or three decades (and the much more detailed knowledge due to the expansion of research) have brought about a rapid increase in exchange, interaction. and acculturation, thus overriding many distinctions between the three zones. This paper is concerned with these changes and with the dynamic development within the ''Highland-Lowland Transition Zone" (cf. J.D. Ives, this volume). To appreciate fully the recent social and ecological processes. the basic model of three altitudinal zones remains a useful orientation, a nomothetic typology of the original structure, including important integrations of ecological and socioeconomic geofactors.

In traditional Northern Thailand the Khon Muang have been predominantly attached to the wet-rice fields of the valleys and intra-montane plains-the true L an-na (''land of the million rice fields'') However, one group of mountain dwellers of Thai stock penetrated that Highland-Lowland Transition Zone very early, possibly centuries ago-the socalled ''Hill Thai,'' collectors of wild (and later propagated) tea in the mountain forests. Their villages. scattered in the forests between 400 and 800 m, with only a few wet-rice terraces and some dry-upland rice, specialize in the picking and fermenting of tea-leaves into miang pickled tea for chewing. which used to be in strong demand on the market. Van Roy (1966). Le Bar (1967). and Bruneau (1974) gave descriptions of the origin and distribution of these early Thai pioneers in the mountain forests. It should be noted that their estimated number of 75,000 to 100,000 represents one of the largest single ethnic groups of mountain population in Thailand. apart from the Karen. In addition. because of the most recent development of the dramatic last decade. the Hmong in the higher hills have grown rapidly by influx from Laos and Burma.

This study will now turn from those early mountain Thai, whose villages are affected by fast development following the opening of their remote valleys by road-construction and a growing infrastructure, to the present migration from the valleys and plains into the hills. But even earlier certain marginal extensions of the Thai rice farmers occurred which have affected the terraces and foothills. i.e.. the lowest parts of the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone. as a result of population pressure.

Expansion of Lowland Agriculture into the Foothills

The constantly growing subdivision of the irrigated rice fields on the main valley floors enforced the extension of cultivation towards the middle and upper terraces, not reached by the irrigation systems An initial phase was the establishment of marginal wet-rice farming, based on impounded rainfall only, and to compensate its uncertain yields by more intensive cattle-raising (grazing in the degraded dipterocarp forests). Additional shifting cultivation by Thai rice farmers in this bushland (tag) followed, ray des Thai du Nord according to Bruneau (1972), comprising rotations of dry upland-rice (by dibble) with intercropping of various other plants, followed by hoe-cultivation of mixed crops in the second and by bushfallow in the next two to three years before the next swidden cycle. A Thai hill and pioneer settlement, pushing up into the smaller tributary valleys, cultivating the narrow valley floor with wet-rice, accompanied by an additional shifting cultivation (dry-rice) on the slopes, has been described by Uhlig (1969, p. 12 and Fig. 7). Credner (1935a, p. 203), Troger (1960, p. 183), as well as Young (1962), noticed similar small extensions Thai swiddening of dry-rice was reported by Judd (1964) from parts of northeastern Thailand, which had extremenly poor irrigation possibilities, if any. Weber (1968/69) also stressed the existence of widespread shifting cultivation practiced by Thai farmers as soon as wet rice land was no longer available.

In the Nan valley, Chapman's research (1967, 1970, 1973) into the swidden extensions of the wet-rice farmers, restricted to extremely small properties of irrigated land, was followed up by an Australian agricultural project. Deep-ploughing with heavy tractor-driven disc ploughs, uprooting all stumps, roots. Imperata grasses, and associated vegetation, and working the soil deeply, proved to allow continuous dry-rice cultivation, or rotations such as with soya beans. instead of shifting cultivation. This is a contradiction to the ''textbook'' rule of only one or two swidden crops in tropical dry cultivation, which should be followed by several years of bush fallow to avoid degradation of the soil nutrients. It seems that the existence of a regular and pronounced dry season of at least four months is a prerequisite for any attempt at permanent dry-rice cultivation. This allows for evaporation of the soil moisture and reaccumulation of soil nutrients near the surface. This might be as beneficial as crop rotations, or intercropping with soya beans, peanuts. and other legumes. Several heavily populated karst regions of Indonesia with similar climatic conditions. on Java, Madura, or Sulawesi (Uhlig 1976). show comparable well developed examples.

Recent Uphill Extensions into the Intermediate Zone

All these extensions towards shifting cultivation and permanent dry-rice cultivation in the lowlands of Northern Thailand (Chapman 1970), however, were only earlier phases of a process which is now carried further from the terraces and foothills into the intermediate elevations of the mountain forests. the true Highland-Lowland Transition Zone. This process is to a high degree responsible for the rapid decline of Thailand's forest areas from over 50 per cent of the country's surface around 1963 to an estimated 30 per cent in 1978. as Dr. Sanga Sabhasri pointed out during this symposium. The easy access to large stretches of mountain forests, opened by timber exploitation and the rapid construction of new roads. combined with the boom of maize exports, especially during 1971-1974. and of cassava (manioc) in more recent years. caused a new phase of radical clearing and squatting. ''Squatting" as seen by the legal position of the state authorities, as in contrast to most of the extensions of the cultivated land mentioned above, relates to recent clearings usually pushed into "Reserved Forests.'' According to the rural traditions of the Thai as well as of the hill peoples, the clearing of new land from the forest. if it is needed, however. is regarded as common law, practiced since ancient times. This caused several land conflicts, which resulted even in armed clashes and casualties between forest officers and ''squatters.'' readily labeled as communist insurgents, and in land conflicts between various social groups. It is tragic, but almost a rule, that areas of spontaneous land clearing are likely to become politically sensitive areas; a more flexible land policy and effective aid by the authorities to genuine settlers, instead of attempts to prevent cultivation, would be more in the public interest of the country. Obviously. the forest authorities are aware of this and frequently are quite tolerant to prevent deprived settlers from being driven into the arms of communist insurgent groups. At the same time, the rapid extension of the world market for maize and tapioca (manioc) was very favourable for Thailand's agricultural exports. The official land policy, opening up various project areas by the Land Settlement Division (Department of Public Welfare;4 cf. Klempin 1978) was not sufficient to satisfy the growing ''land hunger.'' Uncontrolled clearing, especially of broad strips parallel to the new road alignments or to timber tracks, pushed rapidly into the forests.

Initially, swiddening started with a first crop of upland-rice for subsistence. Fairly soon, however, the cash crops, maize and cassava, became dominant. The fields are usually irregular and dotted with stumps and remaining trees. In most cases it was an initial or incipient shifting cultivation. aimed at opening up the land, with permanent cultivation intended to follow Very often. however. the nutrient content of the soil collapsed after two or three years. New clearings were felled and burnt and the former were left to Imperata grasses. Thus, in practice, a new shifting cultivation of a very crude and unregulated nature emerged, much more harmful to the environment than the old established ''integrated'' swidden systems of some of the tribes (notably of the Karen and Lua'; cf. Kunstadter. this volume).

One of the most outstanding examples evolved along the road from Phitsanoluke to Lomsak across the mountain ranges of Tung Saleng Luang National Park. Constructed in the early 1970s, the new road attracted a large influx of settlers from the northern parts of the Central Lowlands and from the l-san. the poor Northeast. Within a few months they felled and burnt the forests in a most destructive way. Today a belt of several kilometres' width parallels the main road and several side roads, situated at an elevation between 500 and 1.000 m. It is dotted with irregular plots of maize and cassava under the skeletons of dead trees. Nearly two-thirds of the cleanings have been overgrown already by Imperata and Saccharum grasses or bushes. Scattered huts form the settlement pattern, partly for temporary, partly for permanent use. The authorities refuse to grant deeds to the land and the foresters try to defend the National Park, but the local administration is forced to accept the facts and to try to arrange for registration. basic rural organization, schooling. and so on.

The limited success of these attempts can be judged by comparison with enquiries in a similar "village" of spontaneous forest clearing and squatting near Sakaraet Research Station of the National Research Councils along the new highway across the forest mountains of the Khorat escarpment. In 1978 it consisted of some 150 registered households plus nearly 80 more still unregistered!

Four types of settlers may be distinguished. Some are rice farmers from nearby villages who came to the forest for additional shifting cultivation. Accordingly, their housing facilities consist of temporary huts only. Secondly, a similar cultivation is practiced by people coming from long distances. Peasants with limited wetrice land, sometimes from more than 100 km away, migrate temporarily (usually by public transport) to the swidden sites after transplanting their rice fields in their native villages. After harvesting the maize crop in the forest clearings (with temporarily inhabited huts only), they return home to harvest the wet-rice there. Frequently their land in the clearings is held on tenancy from better established, permanent settlers (who may have been squatters themselves).

Of greater importance is the third type of peasants, who are landless or in debt and who attempt to gain a permanent new settlement. They originate both from villages of the nearby valleys and from distant regions. Usually their first shelters are simple bamboo huts again, but the establishment of gardens with fruit trees, spices, and vegetables, and the gradual improvement of the houses, distinguish them from the temporary types. If the settlers lack the capital to hire tractor-ploughing and have to restrict the cultivation to traditional tools (hoes, dibble), after two or three years Imperata grasses invade the fields which were originally planned for permanent use. Then, they have to be abandoned and replaced by fresh swiddening elsewhere. Only a small percentage of the settlers establish themselves successfully; many of them will soon be in debt from purchasing seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, additional food, and goods on credit at high interest rates and from mortgaging crops before the harvest. Their clearings are taken over by middlemen and come into the hands of a "second generation" of usually more well-to-do farmers, while the first settlers have to pioneer fresh clearings. A distinction can be made between poor subsistence colonists and others, who, although smallholders, are cash-crop orientated from the very beginning; they may even buy rice for their own consumption.

Legally, all reserved forest land is regarded as property of the Crown. There are land conflicts arising, however, because many of the settlers find themselves confronted with people claiming property rights to the land the settlers had intended to clear. These may be farmers from the nearest, previously established village, claiming rights of usufruct forest use; road and timber workers, for instance, who claim "stakes'' during the first inroads into the forest. After purchasing their new land from such claimants, the new settlers may think they have acquired property rights, although in reality the former claimant also had little right or none at all to land which the authorities still regard as Crown property. It may be equally complicated if traditional claims to swidden-rotation land by some hill peoples are touched upon

The fourth group. making up a considerable share of the colonization, are those engaged directly (with hired labour) or indirectly (via dependent settlers who are indebted to or otherwise financed by them) as agricultural entrepreneurs. Traders from regional centres and smaller market towns, partly ethnic Chinese, but also officials, professionals, and so on, are similarly engaged, as well as progressive farmers, some of them holding degrees in agriculture. There is a wide range of land-management. It comprises examples of very advanced farming, contributing considerably to land development, the growth of the national agricultural production, and to the provision of jobs for quite a number of wage-earners. Unfortunately, however, there is also a strong involvement of speculative entrepreneurs who ruthlessly exploit the forest and soil resources. and who may be involved in corruption and illegal logging.

Quite distinct from these pioneer types is a more permanent and intense form of upland colonization high-altitude market gardening. This type has only recently emerged in Thailand, while it has been long established in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the Himalayas. After opening up quick transport routes to the lowland markets, the utilization of the cooler upland climate for the cultivation of vegetables and fruits of temperate latitudes became profitable and has been taken up by various groups. These include entrepreneurs acting as pioneers for this agricultural innovation, Thai settlers, and also hill peoples. The most extensive area of upland gardening, to my knowledge. occurs on the Campson Plateau, a few kilometres east of the above-mentioned pioneer clearings along the Phitsanoluke-Lomsak road. The steep and winding road connection down to the latter rural centre (and from there via the new Petchabun Valley Highway to Bangkok) was under construction already around 1962, in a phase of more liberal land policy, which allowed strips up to 2 km alongside new roads to be cleared for settlers. Replacing the original spontaneous colonization. some entrepreneurs consolidated land for fruit and vegetable plantations and gradually also became the innovators, advisors, and marketing organizers for greater numbers of smallholders who followed them into this permanent cultivation of intensely worked vegetable fields (with some wet-rice terraces in suitable valleys for home consumption) By now, some six villages have come into existence, with approximately 7,000 people, including a fast growing central place for marketing and storing of supplies. The farmers, who enjoy title deeds. are partly pioneers and partly ''second generation'' settlers. The favourable soils are derived from basaltic tuffs and. towards the higher mountains at the southern edge. from limestone. The area is an undulating plateau between 700 and 900 m elevation and is deeply ploughed (by hired tractors. crushing local pans in the soil) and worked intensely in holdings of 2 to 20 rai on the average Terracing is still generally lacking and the ploughing of steep slopes in vertical strips may cause soil erosion, but apparently the consistency of the soils. usually well covered by two or three crops per year, is quite satisfactory

Smaller development of a similar type has sprung up since 1971 on both sides of the pass of the Bo Luang-Mae Sariang road. One is worked by a Thai entrepreneur, employing Karen labour from nearby villages (two crops of cabbage per annum. use of fertilizers, transport by own minitrucks to Chiang Mai) and. to the west of the pass. by a number of Hmong families who settled down permanently and do extremely well with such crops as cabbage, bananas. oranges, onions, beans, maize. and dry rice. Kunstadler and Chapman (1970. p. 153) have reported similar innovations by Hmong. cultivating potatoes and vegetables around Mae Tho, Mae Chaem District.

Extensions Downhill from the Upper Mountain Zone

In the foregoing section we have already touched upon a second, gradually growing influx into the Highland Lowland Transition Zone; downhill from the traditional areas of the hill peoples. which is dealt with further below. One of the topics of this symposium. the development of permanent hill people's villages based on the cultivation of vegetables. such as carrots, various other tree and field crops, and even of ornamental flowers for sale to distant markets (instead of former shifting cultivation) as demonstrated by Dr. Pisit Voraurai and his team at the Huai Thung Chao experimental station, is another step in this direction.

An extension of market gardening, an acceleration of population growth, and an increase in ethnic variety are exemplified by seven villages with about 6.700 inhabitants (Mote 1967) of Chinese immigrants from Yunnan. Market gardening is also increasing in some of the settlements adjacent to camps originally established by remnants of the Kuomintang army. However, the latter are more characteristic of the zone of higher mountains along the Burmese border.

As an expansion of the typical 'middleman" function of the older established Chinese traders. some of them have settled down permanently in tribal villages. Their activities cover a wide range. from opium trade to the presently increasing transport and sale of vegetables to the markets. The majority, however, has settled after immigrating from Yunnan via Burma (since 1951/52) in true Chinese villages, manifested by enclosed courtyards and dwellings on flat ground, distinct from Thai habitations. Otherwise. they try to integrate themselves into the Thai state, with agricultural practices of high intensity and permanent rotations of dryupland rice or maize in the rainy season and vegetables in the dry season, supplemented by fruit growing and pig raising. Utilizing the advantages of the altitude zonation, additional cultivation of potatoes at higher elevations is included. At Ban Yang (Fang Province), a small fruit-tinning factory is a first step towards an agricultural industry. supported by a King's Project.

Local Population of the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone

In addition to the many influences pushing uphill from the valleys and plains, we still have to consider the local population of the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone and other groups pouring down from the higher mountains. Kunstadter (1967. p. 70) focused the attention on the formerly underestimated. but recently fast-growing economic. social, and cultural links between the Thai and the minorities in the forests and mountains.

The earlier established inhabitants of the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone. such as Karen and Lua'. are usually concentrated in specific regions of the zone. The settlement density is considerable and they practice an agricultural system which combines swidden and permanent cultivation and preserves carefully the ecological reserves. In contrast to exhaustive practices by the recent colonists, after felling and burning, the Karen have only a single rice harvest, with intercropping of cotton, maize. sorghum, etc., from their swiddens. Afterwards, the land is allowed to rest again under bush-fallow for another seven to ten year. Strips of remaining forest are kept along the watersheds and the courses of streams, protecting them from erosion and serving as reservoirs for reseeding the forest plants. Fairly large tracts of a well regulated field-forest system, with permanent traditional right to the soil for the individual families, are characteristic of this land-use type. A forest-botanical research project by Kunstadter et al. (1978) proved that the establishment of a stable forest/cultural vegetation system seems to safeguard the ecological balance In almost every Karen village, these land rotation plots are supplemented by some irrigated terraces, or valley floors, for permanent wet-rice. They are sited near the village if water is available; otherwise they may be situated at some distance and equipped with temporary huts for shelter. Consequently, the Karen. Iike the Lua', have become sedentary to a fairly high degree.

The relative stability of this agricultural system does not exclude the Karen areas from the influence of fast population growth, modernization, improved communications and, as a result, growing acculturation into the mainstream of Thai society. The advantages of new road access and of labour during their construction may be counterbalanced by the loss of former wages as porters or horse and oxen drovers in the old caravan trade. The same may be said for the introduction of trucks and jeeps, partly replacing the income-from the Karen's traditional working elephants 7 Deriving additional income from livestock (buffaloes, pigs) is facilitated by easier transport to the valleys but hampered by the replacement of many kwei (buffaloes) by tractors and kwei lek (motor handploughs) in a quickly modernizing agriculture. More examples could be quoted; none of them exceed, however, the impact of modernization and change caused by downhill as well as by uphill migration, moving Karen into the towns and nonagricultural jobs. and bringing up more and more Thai into the hills. The tribal broadcasting system, schooling, health services. improved administrative control, and growing motorization are quickly transforming hitherto remote mountain districts.

This introduces further land conflicts, for instance, by the expansion of valley dwellers into potential reserves for the Karen's land rotation. Even worse is direct interference between different shifting cultivators intruding into the other's protected bush-fallow. This has occurred (Kunstadter 1970, Marlowe 1967) as groups of the Hmong, in search of new swidden for dry-upland rice when their older swiddens higher up slope had been overworked by intensive opium/maize cultivation. pushed into the Karen's carefully preserved bushfallow. Usually the conflicts were solved by the authorities in favour of the more vigorous and wealthy Hmong who take advantage of the lack of precise knowledge of some officials about the traditional property rights in remote mountain areas. Another conflict has arisen from the downhill movement of some Lisu groups, allegedly encouraged by missionaries to participate in the swiddening-inroads into protected forests alongside new roads for commercial maize production and illegal timber extraction. Smaller and more isolated groups, Hmong again, also started to acquire wet-rice plots on lower sites (with additional land rotation) and thus to change to permanent habitation. The more promising high-altitude market gardening has already been mentioned.

Moreover. the various Nikhom settlement schemes of the Hill Tribe Welfare Division contribute to the stabilization, development, and infrastructural incorportation of larger parts of the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone into the intensely occupied parts of the country Examples of a successful development may be found around Mae Chan Nikhom. with the establishment of permanent arable rotations (rice, maize, soya beans. sorghum, and sunflowers) for Yao villages. The Mae Salap Scheme has also opened up effective irrigation and terracing systems in quite remote valleys for several Akha villages, which consequently changed from shifting to permanently established villages

The change from the former philosophy of placing development officers in the valleys and trying to persuade the hill peoples to move down, to the policy of sending mobile teams of development workers (teachers, agricultural instructors, nurses, etc.) up into the hills has proved to be more effective.

Despite all the benefits of such development, Iand pressures increase because of continued population growth. The same is true for another, short-term highly beneficial action: the success of malaria eradication, as especially in the foothill regions which had been infected frequently, sometimes preventing a more widespread habitation in this zone (see also Chapman, this volume). In the past. the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone may thus have acted as a buffer zone between hillpeople areas and the valleys, as Kunstadter still observed in 1969. But the recent rapid development has upset this buffer function over a wide area of this region, and many factors are contributing towards a critical pressure on this intermediate altitudinal zone. Thus the viability of this sensitive ecological ''valve'' between the highlands and the lowlands is being progressively reduced


One cannot deny a strong and genuine need for land by landless or underlanded Thai as well as by the rapidly growing hill populations. The hill populations are increasing both by natural growth and through refugee immigration from Laos and Burma. There is, in addition. the need to make up for the restricted opium cultivation in the higher mountains (above 1,100 m). Finally, these pressures themselves are accelerated by equally justified commercial interests in new land for economic cultivation of export crops. All this requires an adequate opening of new agricultural land, which would be mainly available in the forests of the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone Its colonization will only be successful if the best land, rather than marginal land, in terms of soils, accessibility, is provided. The need for land cannot be controlled by restrictive means; this will only cause new problems and produce socially and politically sensitive issues. A recognition and balance of the different legal positions of the rights to land is urgent. especially between valuable forest reserves and the people's traditional rights of land accession Therefore, the Highland-Lowland Transition Zone, as the most important reserve for both demands, requires especially careful consideration and planning. It is climatically favourable; it is usually situated within easy reach of the fully established regions; and, in many cases, it is also the area which is most affected by the construction of new road connections between various lowland districts.

Shifting cultivation-be it'' integral,'' ''additional," or only "incipient"-is still the prevailing means of extending agriculture and settlement into this zone. Many scientists. foresters, and authorities are aware that it is unwise to pass an over-simplified verdict on this old established form of agriculture; that it is unrealistic to declare it illegal without providing alternatives. which not only offer a narrow edge for mere survival, but for a real share in development and growth by earning a satisfactory existence. Grandstaff (unpublished) has given a very thorough and well-documented plea in favour of a well-managed and fully integrated shifting cultivation, or rather, land rotation As most research workers with a high respect for the values of the native cultures, I would subscribe to many of his theses. Still. the problem needs further consideration. Will the pressure of growing population and standards of living and the awareness for the need of preservation of the daily dwindling forest reserves to guarantee an ecological balance really allow the continuation even of a highly controlled and well-managed shifting cultivation? Will it be feasible to continue the maintenance of the amount of land a family of shifting cultivators needs for its existence. even though it is roughly tenfold that needed by a family practicing intensive permanent cultivation? Even in well-organized swidden communities shouldn't attempts be made to transform the practice carefully, for instance, by replanting the swiddens with a cultivated, instead of a natural, secondary forest of commercial tree and bush plantations, or fastgrowing timber species? Some old established practices in parts of Europe, incorporating the peasants or the rural communities into a certain degree of forest-economy. might be considered as long term alternatives, although, of course, it should be different from the taungya and similar forestvillage systems, which are criticized by Chapman (this volume). He thinks rightly that agroforestry would mean also that farmers should have fields as well as forestry plots, or various forms of community forests, which could provide for those vital firewood and lumbering needs that so easily produce uncontrolled forest destruction if they are not adequately met.

There should be no objections against the urgent need to stop those widespread swidden practices which are integrated neither into the culture of hill peoples nor into the ecological balance of the mountain forests. The scientist can only encourage the authorities not to hesitate to spend public money in attempts to prevent further extension of these destructive forms of clearing. Such an input would include recognition of the loss of those forests, which de facto have been occupied already by spontaneous colonization and will be, most likely. irreversible. Instead of restrictive measures, any possible help to improve the infrastructure. to provide better agricultural values by extension work, fertilizers, better tools, credit, and marketing systems. should be offered. This should ultimately reap greater benefits for the nation than would any struggling over legal positions or allowing the decay of exhausted clearings into Imperata savannahs! In return for all concerted attempts to help and establish the settlers, a more effective protection of the remaining forests might be gained. Thus efforts should be made to stabilize the pioneers on the very areas already cleared and which would possibly be abandoned again for new inroads into the forests if they are not preserved from decay through loss of fertility.


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