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Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3120; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093120

Wetland Raised-Field Agriculture and Its Contribution to Sustainability: Ethnoecology of a Present-Day African System and Questions about Pre-Columbian Systems in the American Tropics

1
Centre d’Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive (CEFE, UMR 5175), CNRS, University of Montpellier, University Paul Valéry Montpellier 3, EPHE, IRD, 1919 route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier, France
2
Laboratoire Ecologie, Environnement, Interactions des systèmes amazoniens (LEEISA, UMR 3456), CNRS, University of Guyane, Ifremer, Centre de recherche de Montabo, 97334 Cayenne, French Guiana
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 July 2018 / Revised: 14 August 2018 / Accepted: 28 August 2018 / Published: 31 August 2018
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Abstract

One adaptation for farming wetlands is constructing raised fields (RF), i.e., elevated earth structures. Studies of RF agriculture have focused mostly on the vestiges of RF that were cultivated by pre-Columbian populations in the Americas. Ironically, whereas RF agriculture is still practiced nowadays in many parts of the world, including the Congo Basin, these actively farmed RF have received scant attention. Yet, studying how RF function today can shed new light on ongoing debates about pre-Columbian RF agriculture. Also, in a context of climate change and widespread degradation of wetlands, the study of RF agriculture can help us evaluate its potential as part of an environmentally sustainable use of wetlands. We carried out an ethnoecological study of RF agriculture combining qualitative and quantitative methods over a total of eight months’ fieldwork in the Congo Basin. We found that RF show great diversity in size and shape and perform several functions. Incorporation of grasses such as green manure, allows RF to produce high yields, and RF agriculture decreases flooding risk. However, it is labor-intensive and is likely always only one component of a multi-activity subsistence system, in which fishing plays a great role, that is both resilient and sustainable. View Full-Text
Keywords: raised fields; tropical floodplains; wetland agriculture; wetland conservation; pre-Columbian archaeology; historical ecology; Congo basin; multi-activity subsistence system raised fields; tropical floodplains; wetland agriculture; wetland conservation; pre-Columbian archaeology; historical ecology; Congo basin; multi-activity subsistence system
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Comptour, M.; Caillon, S.; Rodrigues, L.; McKey, D. Wetland Raised-Field Agriculture and Its Contribution to Sustainability: Ethnoecology of a Present-Day African System and Questions about Pre-Columbian Systems in the American Tropics. Sustainability 2018, 10, 3120.

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