Options and constraints for crop diversification: A case study in sustainable agriculture in Uzbekistan

This article describes various opportunities but also constraints to greater crop diversification, and the impact on local sustainability in the Khorezm province of Uzbekistan in the Aral Sea basin. At present, approximately 70% of the area in this study region is sown to irrigated cotton and winter wheat under the so-called state mandate. We present evidence of the benefits of moving away from this approach toward more diversified farming with an increasing area of alternative crops in the selected region. We report on a series of studies that included a) crop suitability screening based on secondary data, b) joint farmer experiments, and c) a mathematical simulation model with the overarching objective to assess potential benefits and constraints for crop diversification. The findings of this long-term, multiyear, and multidisciplinary approach show that greater crop diversity can increase water use efficiency, and secure farm income in dryland areas prone to water scarcity and soil salinity. In addition, the findings of the simulation model confirmed that crop diversification could secure income of downstream farmers during the climate-driven decline in water availability. Overall, the findings indicate that greater crop diversity and improved access to markets can lead to a sustainable development path in the region.

Engaging local communities in low emissions land-use planning: a case study from Laos

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and enhancing forest carbon stocks (REDD+) is a performance-based payment mechanism currently being debated in international and national environmental policy and planning forums. As the mechanism is based on conditionality, payments must reflect land stewards’ level of compliance with carbon-efficient management practices. However, lack of clarity in land governance and carbon rights could undermine REDD+ implementation. Strategies are needed to avoid perverse incentives resulting from the commoditization of forest carbon stocks and, importantly, to identify and secure the rights of legitimate recipients of future REDD+ payments. We propose a landscape-level approach to address potential conflicts related to carbon tenure and REDD+ benefit sharing. We explore various land-tenure scenarios and their implications for carbon ownership in the context of a research site in northern Laos. Our case study shows that a combination of relevant scientific tools, knowledge, and participatory approaches can help avoid the marginalization of rural communities during the REDD+ process. The findings demonstrate that participatory land-use planning is an important step in ensuring that local communities are engaged in negotiating REDD+ schemes and that such negotiations are transparent. Local participation and agreements on land-use plans could provide a sound basis for developing efficient measurement, reporting, and verification systems for REDD+.

Shifting cultivation and fire policy: insights from the Brazilian Amazon

Fires in humid tropical forests are increasingly frequent due to severe dry seasons, forest degradation and agricultural expansion. One agent implicated in current discourse surrounding tropical forest fires is the small-scale farming peasantry who rely on fire in swidden (shifting cultivation, slash-and-burn) agriculture. The environmental degradation associated with fire has led to government responses at multiple scales (international, national, state, regional) via policies aimed mainly at managing ignition sources. However, continued increase in forest fires suggests that these policies may be having limited impact and a fresh evaluation of current policy approaches to fire management is needed. We review fire policy measures with insights of caboclo farming practices and perspectives from Eastern Amazonia and examine the congruence between policy and practice. We demonstrate a significant disparity between policy requirements such as firebreaks and actual fire management practices, in which measures rarely meet requirements outlined in legislation. We explore the origins and the impacts of these disparities, focussing on smallholder farm-level management measures and local capacity. Incomplete knowledge coupled with marginal awareness of legal requirements served to propagate widespread erroneous beliefs in what these are. This analysis at multiple scales (international, national, state, regional) will contribute to developing greater congruence between fire policies and smallholder farming practices.

Effects of landscape segregation on livelihood vulnerability: moving from extensive shifting cultivation to rotational agriculture and natural forests in Northern Laos

his study investigates four decades of socio-economic and environmental change in a shifting cultivation landscape in the northern uplands of Laos. Historical changes in land cover and land use were analyzed using a chronological series of remote sensing data. Impacts of landscape change on local livelihoods were investigated in seven villages through interviews with various stakeholders. The study reveals that the complex mosaics of agriculture and forest patches observed in the study area have long constituted key assets for the resilience of local livelihood systems in the face of environmental and socio-economic risks. However, over the past 20 years, a process of segregating agricultural and forest spaces has increased the vulnerability of local land users. This process is a direct outcome of policies aimed at increasing national forest cover, eradicating shifting cultivation and fostering the emergence of more intensive and commercial agricultural practices. We argue that agriculture-forest segregation should be buffered in such a way that a diversity of livelihood opportunities and economic development pathways can be maintained.

Export-oriented deforestation in Mato Grosso: Harbinger or exception for other tropical forests?

The Brazilian state of Mato Grosso was a global deforestation hotspot in the early 2000s. Deforested land is used predominantly to produce meat for distal consumption either through cattle ranching or soya bean for livestock feed. Deforestation declined dramatically in the latter part of the decade through a combination of market forces, policies, enforcement and improved monitoring. This study assesses how representative the national-level drivers underlying Mato Grosso’s export-oriented deforestation are in other tropical forest countries based on agricultural exports, commercial agriculture and urbanization. We also assess how pervasive the governance and technical monitoring capacity that enabled Mato Grosso’s decline in deforestation is in other countries. We find that between 41 and 54 per cent of 2000–2005 deforestation in tropical forest countries (other than Brazil) occurred in countries with drivers similar to Brazil. Very few countries had national-level governance and capacity similar to Brazil. Results suggest that the ecological, hydrological and social consequences of land-use change for export-oriented agriculture as discussed in this Theme Issue were applicable in about one-third of all tropical forest countries in 2000–2005. However, the feasibility of replicating Mato Grosso’s success with controlling deforestation is more limited. Production landscapes to support distal consumption similar to Mato Grosso are likely to become more prevalent and are unlikely to follow a land-use transition model with increasing forest cover.

The role of forest-related income in household economies and rural livelihoods in the border-region of Southern China

Quarterly socioeconomic data from 240 households are used to study the links between forest-related income and rural livelihoods in southern China. Results show average forest-related income shares of 31.5%, which was predominantly derived from cultivated non-timber sources. Forest-related income was important to households at all income levels, although lower income households were more dependent due to a lack of other sources. Higher income households monopolized off-farm income and had more land than low income households. Forest-related income could be increased by making forest land more accessible to the poor, improving productivity, and removing constraints to smallholder engagement in timber marketing.

Dietary quality and tree cover in Africa

The relationship between forests and human nutrition is not yet well understood. A better understanding of this relationship is vital at a time when the majority of new land for agriculture is being cleared from forests. We use Demographic Health Survey data on food consumption for children from 21 African countries and Global Land Cover Facility tree cover data to examine the relationship between tree cover and three key indicators of nutritional quality of children’s diets: dietary diversity, fruit and vegetable consumption, and animal source food consumption. Our main findings can be summarized as follows: there is a statistically significant positive relationship between tree cover and dietary diversity; fruit and vegetable consumption increases with tree cover until a peak of 45% tree cover and then declines; and there is no relationship between animal source food consumption and tree cover. Overall our findings suggest that children in Africa who live in areas with more tree cover have more diverse and nutritious diets.

Combining auctions and performance-based payments in a forest enrichment field trial in Western Kenya

Cost-effectiveness is an important aspect in the assessment of payments for environmental services (PES) initiatives. In participatory field trials with communities in Western Kenya, we combined procurement auctions for forest enrichment contracts with performance-based payments and compared the outcomes with a baseline scenario currently used by the Kenyan Forest Service. Procurement auctions were the most cost-effective. The competitive nature of the auction reduced contracting expenses (provision costs), and the result-oriented payments provided additional incentives to care for the planted seedlings, resulting in their improved survival rates (service quantity). These gains clearly exceeded increases in transaction costs associated with conducting an auction. The number of income-poor auction participants and winners was disproportionately high and local institutional buy-in was remarkably strong. Our participatory approach may, however, require adaptations when conducted at a larger scale. Although the number of contracts we monitored was limited and prohibited the use of statistical tests, our study is one of the first to reveal the benefits of using auctions for PES in developing countries.

Decentralisation and devolution in Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region: Natural resources and indigenous peoples’ rights

A number of governments, particularly in Latin America, have begun to recognise the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities to the lands on which they live. Recognition has often taken the form of constitutional provisions or laws that grant use rights in perpetuity or provide land titles. These provisions usually establish rights for multiple communities over a large territory, at a scale that may be ideal for promoting broader, ecosystem management approaches. At the same time, however, indigenous communities often do not have existing territorial governance structures at these scales. Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region provides a rich setting in which to study issues of multilevel natural resource governance. In addition to the devolution policies that have created official indigenous territories, the central government has decentralised important powers over natural resources to the regional autonomous authority, while municipal authorities still exist but it is unclear what their role will be in the future. At the same time, however, the community scale is the one at which local people have traditionally managed resources. This paper examines these issues in light of efforts to establish democratic governance institutions at the territory level and argues that communities continue to lose out under multilevel governance regimes without concerted efforts to level the playing field. The findings are based on several years of research in the region, emerging research on newly titled territories and a six month training and dialogue with territory leaders, organised by a consortium of international and local NGOs.

Non Timber Forest Product income from forest landscapes of Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria: incidental or integral contribution to sustaining rural livelihoods?

This paper discusses the relative importance of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) for rural households in Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. It aims to compare and contrast the significance of NTFPs for income generation in rainforest areas, both within and across these countries to draw out regional patterns in a wider ecological, social and political context. In doing so, we bring the added value of highlighting the different roles which NTFPs currently play, or might likely begin to play out, in wider landscapes. The contribution NTFPs make to rural livelihoods depends largely on the availability of forest resources and access to markets, as well as socio-economic variables including wealth, gender and migration status. The findings indicate that remote communities and poorer households rely more on NTFP-based income compared to more accessible communities and wealthier households. NTFPs are relatively unimportant as an income source for households in more accessible rural areas, where farm-related income dominates. These findings support the theory that NTFPs are an important component to rural livelihoods and make significant and timely income contributions to poor households. Furthermore, in times of economic and climatic uncertainty, NTFPs and the forest and agricultural landscapes within which they are found, make a significant contribution to the resilience of rural forest dwellers’ livelihoods.