Special Issue "Trade-offs between Large-Scale and Small-Scale Forest Commercialization"

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A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2014)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Aaron J.M. Russell (Website)

Scientist, Forests and Governance Programme, Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia
Phone: +62-8111-779454
Interests: adaptive collaborative management; organisational learning; ecosystem-based adaptation; action research; decentralisation; power; gender; impact assessment
Guest Editor
Dr. Krystof Obidzinski (Website)

Scientist, Forests and Governance Programme, Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia
Guest Editor
Dr. Harpinder Sandhu (Website)

School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia
Interests: theory and practice of ecosystem services; Land use/cover change and impacts on ecosystem services; Poverty and biodiversity interactions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Decade of 2000 witnessed transactions of 106 million hectares of land (40-50% forested land) in developing countries for large-scale agricultural investment. It is estimated that by 2050, up to 70 million hectares of new land will have to be brought under cultivation to meet the global demand for food, fuel, fiber and other commodities. Various countries in Asia have endeavoured to take advantage of this demand to further national development objectives by opening up their forested areas to domestic and foreign investments. Among all continents, this pressure is expected to be greatest in Asia, where projections middle class growth and associated consumption during the next decade will surpass that in all other regions of the world.

Much of the recent literature is focused on examining the perceived negative impacts of large scale land investments in specific geographical regions or specific commodities. A missing element informing the policy debate has been the comparative assessment of the societal and ecological costs and benefits of: a) large-scale conversion of forest for alternative (and frequently capital intensive) land-use, with b) small-scale land conversion and/or forest product commercialization, and c) the maintenance of customary uses of the forested lands. Additionally, whether land-use change and intensification is large or small in scale, or whether forest resources are privatized or managed under a common property regime, the transformation has an impact on, and interacts with ecosystem services from those forest commons that remain.

This special issue will explore the drivers contributing to the transformation of forests into small and large-scale land-use systems and their impacts on society and the environment. Submissions comparing both local and national/regional case studies are welcome. This special issue will focus on studies from the greater Mekong and Himalayan regions of Asia.

Dr. Aaron J.M. Russell
Dr. Krystof Obidzinski
Dr. Harpinder Sandhu
Guest Editors

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 300 CHF (Swiss Francs). English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.

Keywords

  • land-use change
  • ecosystem services
  • forest conversion
  • land concessions
  • land-use intensification
  • livelihood resilience

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Economic Valuation of Land Uses in Oudomxay Province, Lao PDR: Can REDD+ be Effective in Maintaining Forests?
Land 2014, 3(3), 1059-1074; doi:10.3390/land3031059
Received: 31 March 2014 / Revised: 8 August 2014 / Accepted: 18 August 2014 / Published: 1 September 2014
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Abstract
The rapid economic growth in Lao PDR over the last two decades has been driven by the natural resource sectors and commercialization in the agriculture sector. Rural landscapes are being transformed over the past decade from land use mosaics of subsistence and [...] Read more.
The rapid economic growth in Lao PDR over the last two decades has been driven by the natural resource sectors and commercialization in the agriculture sector. Rural landscapes are being transformed over the past decade from land use mosaics of subsistence and smallholder farms to large-scale plantations dominated by a few commercial crops. The capacity of these commercial agriculture plantations to alleviate rural poverty, part of the Government of Lao PDR’s national development policy, is increasingly weighed against its long-term impacts on ecosystem services and sustainability of land and forest resources. We used an extended cost-benefit approach (CBA) to integrate certain environmental elements to traditional financial analysis for a comparative look at four land use systems in the northern part of the country. The CBA results demonstrate that commercial agriculture (maize and rubber plantations) does have the potential to support poverty alleviation in the short-run. It, however, exposes the land to serious environmental risks. By comparison, the traditional land uses studied (upland rice farming and non-timber forest products collecting) are largely subsistence activities that are still considered as sustainable, though this is increasingly affected by changing market and population dynamics. The results suggest that longer-term environmental costs can potentially cancel out short-term gains from the commercialization to mono-crop agriculture. Incentives for conserving ecosystem services (such as the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) mechanism) may have a potential role in supporting diversification of traditional livelihoods and increasing the competitiveness of maintaining forests. Full article
Open AccessArticle Land Redistribution and Reutilization in the Context of Migration in Rural Nepal
Land 2014, 3(3), 541-556; doi:10.3390/land3030541
Received: 21 March 2014 / Revised: 17 June 2014 / Accepted: 18 June 2014 / Published: 27 June 2014
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Abstract
Land is an integral part of people’s culture, economy, and livelihoods. Social and temporal mobility of people affect land acquisition, distribution, and utilization, which consequently impacts on food security and human wellbeing. Using the data collected by means of household survey, focus [...] Read more.
Land is an integral part of people’s culture, economy, and livelihoods. Social and temporal mobility of people affect land acquisition, distribution, and utilization, which consequently impacts on food security and human wellbeing. Using the data collected by means of household survey, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and participant observation, this paper examines the dynamics of land-people relationships, mainly acquisition, redistribution, and reutilization of land, in the context of human migration. The study reveals that food self-sufficiency, household size, age of household head, household asset, total income from non-agricultural sources, and migration status, affect the acquisition or size of landholding in a household. Moreover, land appears to be mobile within and across villages through changes in labour availability, changing access to land, and ethnic interactions caused partly by migration of people. We conclude that mobility of land appears to be an inseparable component of land-people relationships, especially in the context of human migration that offers redistribution and reutilization of land. Full article
Open AccessArticle Forest Transitions and Rural Livelihoods: Multiple Pathways of Smallholder Teak Expansion in Northern Laos
Land 2014, 3(2), 482-503; doi:10.3390/land3020482
Received: 30 January 2014 / Revised: 4 May 2014 / Accepted: 27 May 2014 / Published: 10 June 2014
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (353 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Smallholder teak (Tectona grandis) plantations have been identified as a potentially valuable component of upland farming systems in northern Laos that can contribute to a “livelihood transition” from subsistence-oriented swidden agriculture to a more commercially-oriented farming system, thereby bringing about [...] Read more.
Smallholder teak (Tectona grandis) plantations have been identified as a potentially valuable component of upland farming systems in northern Laos that can contribute to a “livelihood transition” from subsistence-oriented swidden agriculture to a more commercially-oriented farming system, thereby bringing about a “forest transition” at the landscape scale. In recent years, teak smallholdings have become increasingly prominent in the province of Luang Prabang, especially in villages close to Luang Prabang City. In this paper, we draw on a household survey conducted in five teak-growing villages and case studies of different household types to explore the role that small-scale forestry has played in both livelihood and land-use transitions. Drawing on a classification of forest transitions, we identify three transition pathways that apply in the study villages—the “economic development” pathway, the “smallholder, tree-based, land-use intensification” pathway, and the “state forest policy” pathway. The ability of households to integrate teak into their farming system, manage the woodlots effectively, and maintain ownership until the plantation reaches maturity varies significantly between these pathways. Households with adequate land resources but scarce labor due to the effects of local economic development are better able to establish and hold onto teak woodlots, but less able to adopt beneficial management techniques. Households that are land-constrained are motivated to follow a path of land-used intensification, but need more productive agroforestry systems to sustain incomes over time. Households that are induced to plant teak mainly by land-use policies that threaten to deprive them of their land, struggle to efficiently manage or hold on to their woodlots in the long term. Thus, even when it is smallholders driving the process of forest transition via piecemeal land-use changes, there is potential for resource-poor households to be excluded from the potential livelihood benefits or to be further impoverished by the transition. We argue that interventions to increase smallholder involvement in the forestry sector need to take explicit account of the initial variation in livelihood platforms and in alternative transition pathways at the household scale in order to pursue more inclusive “forest-and-livelihood” transitions in rural areas. Full article
Open AccessArticle Agrosilvopastoral Systems in Northern Thailand and Northern Laos: Minority Peoples’ Knowledge versus Government Policy
Land 2014, 3(2), 414-436; doi:10.3390/land3020414
Received: 28 January 2014 / Revised: 2 May 2014 / Accepted: 13 May 2014 / Published: 20 May 2014
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (895 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Traditional agrosilvopastoral systems have been an important component of the farming systems and livelihoods of thousands of ethnic minority people in the uplands of Mainland Southeast Asia. Drawing on a combination of qualitative and participatory inquiries in nine ethnic minority communities, this [...] Read more.
Traditional agrosilvopastoral systems have been an important component of the farming systems and livelihoods of thousands of ethnic minority people in the uplands of Mainland Southeast Asia. Drawing on a combination of qualitative and participatory inquiries in nine ethnic minority communities, this study emphasizes the complex articulation of local farmers’ knowledge which has been so far excluded from governmental development and conservation policies in the northern uplands of Thailand and Laos. Qualitative analysis of local knowledge systems is performed using the Agroecological Knowledge Toolkit (AKT5) software. Results show that ethnic minorities in the two countries perceive large ruminants to be a highly positive component of local forest agro-ecosystems due to their contribution to nutrient cycling, forest fire control, water retention, and leaf-litter dispersal. The knowledge and perceptions of agrosilvopastoral farmers are then contrasted with the remarkably different forestry policy frameworks of the two countries. We find that the knowledge and diversity of practices exercised by ethnic minority groups contrasts with the current simplified and negative image that government officials tend to construct of agrosilvopastoral systems. We conclude that local knowledge of forest-livestock systems can offer alternative or complementary explanations on ecological cause-and-effect relationships which may need further scientific investigation and validation. Full article

Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview The Fall and Rise Again of Plantations in Tropical Asia: History Repeated?
Land 2014, 3(3), 574-597; doi:10.3390/land3030574
Received: 21 January 2014 / Revised: 18 June 2014 / Accepted: 23 June 2014 / Published: 30 June 2014
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (344 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The type of agrarian structure employed to produce tropical commodities affects many dimensions of land use, such as ownership inequality, overlapping land rights and conflicts, and land use changes. I conduct a literature review of historical changes in agrarian structures of commodities [...] Read more.
The type of agrarian structure employed to produce tropical commodities affects many dimensions of land use, such as ownership inequality, overlapping land rights and conflicts, and land use changes. I conduct a literature review of historical changes in agrarian structures of commodities grown on the upland frontier of mainland Southeast and South Asia, using a case study approach, of tea, rubber, oil palm and cassava. Although the production of all these commodities was initiated in the colonial period on large plantations, over the course of the 20th century, most transited to smallholder systems. Two groups of factors are posited to explain this evolution. First, economic fundamentals related to processing methods and pioneering costs and risks sometimes favored large-scale plantations. Second, policy biases and development paradigms often strongly favored plantations and discriminated against smallholders in the colonial states, especially provision of cheap land and labor. However, beginning after World War I and accelerating after independence, the factors that propped up plantations changed so that by the end of the 20th century, smallholders overwhelmingly dominated perennial crop exports, except possibly oil palm. Surprisingly, in the 21st century there has been a resurgence of investments in plantation agriculture in the frontier countries of Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, driven by very similar factors to a century ago, especially access to cheap land combined with high commodity prices. As in the last century, this may be a temporary aberration from the long-run trend toward smallholders, but much depends on local political economy. Full article

Submitted Papers

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Impacts of Land-Use Change on Ecosystem Services: A Case Study of Savannakhet Province, Lao PDR
Authors: Harpinder Sandhu1,*, Aaron J.M. Russell2 and Joost Foppes3
Affiliations: 1,* School of the Environment, Flinders University, Adelaide SA 5001 Australia; harpinder.sandhu@flinders.edu.au
2 Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), Bogor, Indonesia; a.russell@cgiar.org
3 Integrated Nature Conservation, Thakhek, Khammouane, Lao PDR; jfoppes@gmail.com
Abstract: Natural and managed forests are the most important global providers of ecosystem services and a significant proportion of the population in developing countries is dependent on forest resources for their livelihoods. However, ecosystem services are frequently left out of the decision making process in managing forests due to the limited information on the economic valuation of these services for local and downstream users. Moreover, recent climate projections indicate that developing countries are more likely to suffer from climate variability and change in climate patterns. Forests can play greater role in enhancing resilience to climate change and thus it is important to understand the value of ecosystem services provided by forests for managing them more sustainably. This study quantified impacts of alternative land-uses on ecosystem services in Savannakhet Province in Lao PDR. It describes an ecosystem services valuation framework and approaches to identify economic impacts of three land use types – agriculture, dry forest and plantations. This study provides as economic valuation of ecosystem services associated with these three land-use types and conclude with some policy options for the sustainable management of forest resources and livelihoods of communities.
Keywords: agriculture; ecosystem services; land-use; Lao PDR; livelihoods

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Land acquisitions, land use conflicts and the potential role of mediation in transforming conflict in Cambodia
Authors: Ahmad Dhiaulhaq *, James Bampton, Toon De Bruyn, Julian Atkinson, David Gritten
Affiliaiton: RECOFTC - The Center for People and Forests. Kasetsart Post Office P.O. Box 1111, Bangkok, 10903, Thailand; E-Mails: ahmad.dhiaulhaq@recoftc.org (A.D.), james@recoftc.org (J.B.), toon.debruyn@recoftc.org (T.D.), julian.atkinson@recoftc.org (J.A), david.gritten@recoftc.org (D.G.)
Abstract: The nature of land (and subsoil) acquisitions by domestic and transnational investors in the Greater Mekong subregion (GMS), compounded by weak governance, make land use conflict inevitable. The existing and potential impacts of these conflicts highlight the importance of effectively addressing them to firstly mitigate the negative impacts and secondly to transform these conflicts to maximise the positives. This paper aims, using case studies from Cambodia, to get a deeper understanding of how land acquisition, even if legally recognised, results in conflicts and how the resulting conflict is an opportunity for social transformation. An analytical framework was developed to identify the conflict triggers which can flag the issues that need to be addressed to transform these conflicts. Data was collected through literature review, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and field observation. The results indicate that land acquisitions in Cambodia, particularly through economic land concessions, often results in conflict between local communities and outsiders. Ambiguous property rights, overlapping claims, lack of coordination among government agencies, and lack of consultation and impact assessment were the underlying causes of the conflicts. The study found that mediation has played a crucial role in transforming the conflicts, beyond reducing the conflict intensity, reaching agreement and fostering improved relationships between the conflicting parties. The paper suggests that the large scale land projects in the GMS must address the conflict triggers to minimise conflict, and additionally include appropriate conflict transformation mechanisms, including mediation, as an integral part of their development and management.
Keywords: Cambodia; Conflict transformation; Conflict mediation; Conflict triggers; Economic land concessions; Land acquisitions; Over-lapping user claims

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Silvopastoral Systems in Northern Thailand and Northern Laos: Ethnic Minority People’s Knowledge and Perception versus Government Policy and Decision-Making
Authors: Chalathon Choocharoen1, Andreas Neef2,*, Pornchai Preechapanya3 and Volker Hoffmann1
Affiliations: 1Institute for Social Sciences of the Agricultural Sector, Rural Communication and Extension (430a), University of Hohenheim, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany; c.choocharoen@uni-hohenheim.de
2,*
Chair of Resource Governance and Participatory Development, Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, Japan; neef.andreas.4n@kyoto-u.ac.jp
3
Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, 50180, Thailand .
Abstract: Traditional silvopastoral systems have been an important component of the livelihood strategies of thousands of ethnic minority people in the uplands of Mainland Southeast Asia. Drawing on a combination of qualitative and participatory inquiries in nine ethnic minority communities, this study emphasizes the complex articulation of local farmers’ knowledge which has been so far excluded from governmental development and conservation policies in the northern uplands of Thailand and Laos. Qualitative analysis of local knowledge systems is performed using the Agroecological Knowledge Toolkit (AKT5) software. Results show that ethnic minorities in the two countries clearly perceive large ruminants to be a highly positive component of local forest agro-ecosystems due to their contribution to nutrient cycling, forest fire control, water retention, and leaf-litter dispersal. The knowledge and perceptions of silvopastoral farmers are then contrasted with the remarkably different forestry policy frameworks of the two countries. We find that the knowledge and diversity of practices exercised by ethnic minority groups contrasts with the current simplified and negative image that government officials tend to construct of silvopastoral systems. We conclude that local knowledge of forest-livestock systems can offer alternative or complementary explanations on ecological cause-and-effect relationships which may need further scientific investigation and validation.
Keywords: local ecological knowledge, ethnic minority groups, forest-dependent people, conservation policy, Southeast Asia

Type of Paper: Article
Title: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again?) of Plantations
Author: Derek Byerlee
Affiliation: Independent Researcher, Washington DC, USA; dbyerlee@gmail.com
Abstract: A key determinant of the development outcomes of agricultural commodity exports is the type of agrarian structure resulting from export agriculture. This paper will look at the period since the first period of globalization to analyze changes in agrarian structures and long-run economic growth for a few key commodities grown largely on the upland frontier, such as sugar, tea, rubber, cocoa and oil palm. Nearly all of these industries were initiated by 1900 through large plantation structures. However, over the course of the 20th century most industries have moved to dynamic smallholder systems. Three major groups of factors are posited to explain this evolution. First, for classic plantation crops (tea, oil palm) that require processing or shipping soon after harvesting, ways have been found to overcome high transactions costs of coordinating delivery of smallholders to large processing units. Second, high pioneering costs and risks of introducing new crops in new areas (or domesticating a wild species) have fallen over time, allowing inherently more efficient smallholders to rapidly take over the industry. Third, policy biases and prevailing development paradigms that initially favored plantations over smallholders have shifted over time, starting in the late colonial period. By the end of the 20th century, only oil palm was still largely grown on plantations and even there, smallholders are rapidly gaining market share. However, in the 21st century there has been a resurgence of investments in plantation agriculture in large part due to a reemergence of policy biases favoring large operations, such as cheap land concessions and credit, brought about by a growing state collusion with private interests. I illustrate these through examples from SE Asia, noting major differences in structures within the region such as the predominantly smallholder systems of Thailand and Vietnam on one side, versus the newly emerging plantation economies in Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Keywords: Asia, agricultural commodity, oil palm plantations, tea

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Economic Valuation of Land Uses in Oudomxay Province, Lao PDR: Can REDD+ be Effective in Maintaining Ecosystem Services?
Authors: Grace Y.Wong1,*, Souphith Darachanthara2, Thanongsai Soukkhamthat2
Affiliations: 1,* Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia. E-mail: g.wong@cgiar.org
2 National Economic Research Institute, Vientiane, Lao PDR.
Abstract: The rapid economic growth in Lao PDR over the last decade has been driven by the natural resource sectors and in particular, the commercialization of agriculture. As rural landscapes transform dramatically from mosaics dominated by subsistence and smallholder farms to commercial mono-crop agriculture in a very short timeframe, the capacity of commercial agriculture plantations to alleviate rural poverty is increasingly weighed against its impacts on ecosystem services and sustainability of land resources.
A comparative cost-benefit analysis of four land use systems in Northern Lao PDR demonstrates that commercial agriculture (rubber and maize) has some capacity to alleviate poverty in the short-run, a primary goal of the Government. It, however, exposes the land to serious environmental risks. By comparison, the traditional land uses that were studied (upland rice farming and non-timber forest products collecting) are largely sustainable practices but unable to contribute significantly to household incomes.
Results suggest that longer-term environmental costs can potentially cancel out short-term gains from commercialization to mono-crop agricultural. Also, incentives for conserving ecosystem services (such as REDD+) can have a role in supporting diversification of traditional land uses and increasing the competitiveness of maintaining forests.
Keywords: ecosystem service valuation; cost-benefit analysis; land use change; REDD+; Lao PDR

Type of Paper: Article
Title: Smallholders, Land Sharing and Small-Scale Commercialization
Author: Pashupati Chaudhary
Affiliation: Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (LI-BIRD), P.O. Box 324, Pokhara, Nepal; pchaudhary@libirid.org
Abstract: Several thousands of smallholders across the world cultivate in the forestlands and its fringes in order to secure their livelihoods. While the majority of them perform subsistent farming, only a few produce a limited amount of surplus food to sell in the local small-scale markets. Due to lack of technologies, poor access of roads and markets, and several sociocultural and demographic (e.g. outmigration of males for job) factors the smallholders are mired in poor production and small-sale commercialization, which is one of bottlenecks for improving food security among them. Over time, the intricacy between smallholders and forest is becoming weaker, with its negative implications for quality of forest ecosystems and wellbeing of people. It is imperative to study such dynamics and suggest enabling policies for the betterment of smallholders. This paper examines on the role land sharing of smallholders with forests plays in food security, how it is changing over time, what are the drivers of such change, what implication such changes have for food security and human wellbeing, and what are the solutions. The case presented here is from the hills of Nepal, which is the epitome of the aforementioned dilemma.
Keywords: land sharing; small holder agriculture; Nepal; wellbeing

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