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close this bookAbstracts on Sustainable Agriculture (GTZ; 1992; 423 pages)
close this folderAbstracts On Traditional Land-Use Systems
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the document1. Sustainability of land use systems: the potential of indigenous measures for the maintenance of soil productivity in sub-sahara african agriculture.
View the document2. Building on local knowledge - the challenge of agroforestry for pastoral areas.
View the document3. Alternatives to the traditional land-use system in alentejo, portugal, with special reference to soil tillage (alternative zum traditionellen landnutzungssystem im alentejo, portugal, unter besonderer ber_cksichtigung der bodenbearbeitung.)
View the document4. Indigenous farming systems and development of latin america: an amazonian example.
View the document5. Socio-economic and institutional considerations in improving shifting cultivation in tropical Africa.
View the document6. Traditional agriculture in southeastern Nigeria: demographic, land tenure, and other socio-economic factors.
View the document7. Appropriate land use systems for shifting cultivators.
View the document8. The sustainability of the impact of the integrated rural development programme (IRDP) Zambia/nw-province.
View the document9. Traditional knowledge about the use of soils in the Solomon Islands.
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on farming systems research and development
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on integrated systems
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on cropping system
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on agroecology
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on agrometeorology
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on agroforestry
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on homegardens
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on seed production
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on plant protection
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on water management
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on soil fertility
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on erosion and desertification control
Open this folder and view contentsAbstracts on potential crops for marginal lands

5. Socio-economic and institutional considerations in improving shifting cultivation in tropical Africa.

In: FAO Soils Bulletin No. 53; FAO, Rome, Italy, 1984, pp. 117-120

The traditional peasant in the tropics has adopted bush fallow or shifting cultivation in response to declining soil fertility and sparse population density, with its implied unlimited land supply. The multiple cropping system to accomodate subsistence production is linked to several factors: the prevailing closed economy, a limited work force, and the low level of technology available. These cropping systems ensured that all the food products the family required or wanted were grown simultaneously on the same plot of land. In addition, these systems allowed the family to reduce the size and number of plots needing clearing. This enabled them to save limited labour for other important household tasks, as well as for leisure. These mixed cropping systems also provided biological disease and pest control.

Today the practice or adoption of shifting cultivation, like other farming systems, results from a combination of factors. Some of these are socio-economic; others are physical, including land, labour, technology, and all forms of capital; still others are institutional, such as cultural values, land tenure systems, social organization, traditional and new or modern institutions, input and output price policy.

Among the inherent disadvantages of these systems a few are listed below:


- The low remuneration of shifting cultivation, relative to its labour requirements and to the shifting cultivator's labour supply. It is also low because shifting cultivators cannot get a good price for their produce, because there are no markets for it.
- The massive and systematic destruction of forests and forest products and the degradation of forest soils which accompany shifting cultivation. This destruction constitutes a tremendous loss of valuable resources.
- Low investment capabilities characteristic of shifting cultivation.

This results from the low remuneration which makes all investments economically unappealing; this in turn leads to low productivity (thus completing a vicious circle).

The disadvantages imposed on shifting cultivation by various socio-economic and institutional changes relate to two phenomena: growing population and a growing need for cash income.

Traditional practices, with their low productivity, cannot produce enough to raise the peasant's consumption above the subsistence level or satisfy new needs which depend on cash.

Shifting cultivators today need more and more cash to buy new goods and services not produced by the family including transistor radios, gas lamps, sugar, schools, medical bills, security, etc. Peasants are finding it more difficult to practise classic shifting cultivation while producing the marketable surplus necessary to meet these new needs.

The major constraints to improving shifting cultivation in the African tropics are, by and large, the same constraints that limit agricultural development generally in those regions. The constraints in this paper deal with socio-economic aspects of the problem.


- Government assistance (financial and otherwise) should be made available to peasants. This will enable total output, per family and per caput, to increase.
- In order to speed up the recovery of initial, costly investments, cleared land could be used simultaneously for tree crops.
- Legislation instituting flexible family or individual land ownership with limited transfer or sales' rights could encourage shifting cultivators to invest more inland, thus increasing their productivity.
- Land settlement schemes used primarily to relax population pressure on over-populated areas could also be used as an indirect means to introduce continuous cropping needing fewer inputs.
- Governments and research institutions, at both the national and international levels, should give top priority to reearch in agronomy, agricultural mechanization, animal husbandry, agro- forestry, and socio-agroeconomics, especially when this research is oriented to the problems and the needs of more intensive exploitation of small-scale farms in tropical forest conditions.

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Traditional land-use systems

Africa, Nigeria, traditional methods, survey, study, land tenure, socio-economy, inheritance, organization of farming, income of farmers, credit, government aid, on-farm diagnostic research


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