Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Sustainable Land Use and Rural Development in Southeast Asia: Innovations and Policies for Mountainous Areas

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Sustainable Land Use and Rural Development in Southeast Asia: Innovations and Policies for Mountainous Areas

Article excerpt

Sustainable Land Use and Rural Development in Southeast Asia: Innovations and Policies for Mountainous Areas Holger L. Fröhlich, Pepijn Schreinemachers, Karl Stahr, and Gerhard Clemens, eds. Berlin and Heidelberg: Springer, 2013, x+490pp.

There is no promising way of sustainably farming sloping land in a market-oriented economy. Farmers are usually required to offer competitive prices and quality of agricultural products in order to survive in the market. That forces them to increase agricultural production, which in turn leaves them no choice apart from sedentary agriculture and land use intensification. Changes in farming system and land use usually entail degradation of sloping land, because in arable land the outflows of soil, its nutritional content, and water exceed their inflows. Preventing or mitigating land degradation, along with keeping products competitive, is the central problem in agricultural development. Although the issue seems to be straightforward, several factors-from a range of ecological to cultural settings-are intricately tangled. This is likely to be one of the reasons why many agricultural development projects have not been as successful as expected. This volume is a result of the Uplands Program, which is an agricultural development project in northern Thailand and northern Vietnam to help solve the problem.

The objectives of this volume as outlined in Chapter 1 are as follows: first, to investigate drivers, consequences, and challenges of change mainly in land use and agricultural intensification; second, to describe how technology-based innovation processes can address the challenges; and third, to describe how knowledge creation can support changes in policies and institutions. The volume is divided into four parts, an introduction followed by one part for each of the objectives: Part 1, "Overview and Synthesis"; Part 2, "Environmental and Social Challenges"; Part 3, "Technology-Based Innovation Processes"; and Part 4, "Policies and Institutional Innovations."

This project assumes that four drivers of change from traditional swidden cultivation to permanent field cultivation, mainly cash crops, are: economic development, policy change, introduction of new technologies, and population growth. As a result, as discussed in Part 2, mainly due to annual cash crop cultivation, soil erosion increases and pesticide-contaminated water runs off to the valley bottom (Chapters 3 and 4). In other words, sloping land is becoming a region where crops do not grow, and the watershed is getting to be contaminated by pesticide. To keep the soil environment usable as arable land, appropriate soil management is necessary. So, Karl Stahr et al. examine methodologies for making soil maps at a low cost (Chapter 2). Camille Saint-Macary et al. confirm that poverty is associated with land degradation since poor people have limited capital to invest in long-term soil conservation (Chapter 5). In Part 3, techniques of appropriate water use in sloping land cultivation (Chapter 6), effective cropping systems for soil conservation (Chapter 7), and profitability improvement in aquaculture carried out at the bottom of the valley (Chapter 8) are examined. The authors conclude that, technically speaking, there is potential to improve the farming system on sloping land in a way that is compatible with soil conservation and an increase in income. In Part 4, the authors examine and develop numerical models that may be helpful in predicting farmers' responses to a decline in soil fertility and/or conservation activities (Chapter 10). In development studies and agricultural development research, the participatory approach has been thought to be a better way to transfer scientific knowledge and techniques to farmers than the top-down approach. However, the participatory approach has not worked as well as expected, and it is now widely recognized that the approach is inappropriate in some cases. In Chapter 9 Andreas Neef et al. …

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