Social Forestry at the margins: swidden as small-scale forestry systems

ASFCC’s Panel session at 3.08.00 IUFRO Small-scale Forestry Conference 2018: Transformations Towards a New Era in Small Scale Forestry,
Vaasa, 10-13 June 2018

Social forestry as a form of small-scale forestry has been promoted in South East Asia for decades and could be considered as a new mode of forest management. The areas allocated for or identified as relevant to social (or community) forestry are often in remote areas, in frontier areas near national borders. Here communities practice swidden farming characterized by multi-locality and engagement in multiple resource and information networks. In the presented work, we consider swidden landscapes as part of social small-scale forestry systems as they include diverse forests and fallows which are managed to generate multiple ecosystem services.

These systems, however, are changing. The forested areas where swidden was an integral part of people’s life and livelihoods are slowly being incorporated into the state structure and within the global economy. Drivers of change are manifold. Conversion to large-scale plantations as well as other factors such as population dynamics (increasing population, mobility and migration) are putting pressure on available land leading to shortened fallow periods, and abandonment or conversion of swidden and the accompanying small-scale forestry systems. As well, the global agenda to conserve forests as part of climate change mitigation measures and misconceptions about swidden are contributing to design and implementation of policies aiming to restrict swidden and resettle swidden farmers. At the same time, decentralization and social forestry policies are allocating and (re)creating new forms of forest tenure and rights.

Social forestry at the margins are stories of social and ecological changes taking place within swidden communities in Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam. These dynamics in swidden landscapes are shaped by its proximity to border areas, presence of trans-national agriculture, and community-managed and state protected forests. The findings presented by the individual papers will help to understand how a new era of small scale forestry is unfolding in SEA, and to contribute to a new research agenda required to disentangle the ongoing processes of change. The papers presented here are a result of these studies since 2010. Together, the papers present a dynamic picture of small-scale forestry in the margins of Southeast Asia undergoing rapid transformation.

In this panel, ASFCC presented five papers focusing on different aspects of change, its process, and impacts on local livelihoods and forest resilience:

  • Social Forestry: Why and for Whom? A comparison of policies in Vietnam and Indonesia, (Moira Moeliono, CIFOR, Indonesia)
  • Trapped in the margins of Southeast Asia? Shocks, coping and the swidden-forest socio-ecological system (Grace Wong, Stockholm Resilience Institute, Stockholm, Sweden)
  • Migration and its role in transforming land uses and resilience of swidden landscapes and communities in Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam (Indah Waty, CIFOR, Indonesia)
  • Social Networks, Swidden Systems and Forest Conservation: a comparative analysis from South East Asia (Maria Brockhaus, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland)
  • Constraints and motivations of smallholder maize expansion in a changing swidden landscape in Viengthong District, Huaphan Province, Lao PDR (Maarit Kallio, University of Helsinki, Finland)

For more information including presentation slides, conference proceedings and book of abstracts, click here.