The persistence of shifting cultivation in northeastern ...

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Sep 8, 2017 - Shifting cultivation: 1) Deforestation mainly through shifting cultivation. 2) No increase in the amount of rice produced through shifting cultivation.

The persistence of shifting cultivation in northeastern Madagascar ICRD, 8 September 2017 Julie G. Zähringer


Drivers of tropical deforestation From small-holders’ subsistence farming…. … to large-scale agro-industrial companies


Changes in shifting cultivation around the world

 Madagascar is an exception to a global trend

Van Vliet et al. 2012


Madagascar: Noah’s ark under threat



Under threat, yes! But: Madagascar did not loose 90% of its forest cover! Wrong assumption: Madagascar was once 100% covered with forest (based on Humbert und Perrier de la Bâthie 1927) Different ecosystems existed already before the arrival of humans, see evidence from: • Soil analysis (e.g. Bourgeat und Aubert 1972) • Fossil fauna (e.g. Dewar 1984) • And especially pollen analysis (e.g. Burney 1987, 1993, 1996, 1997…) Elephant bird (Source: Wikipedia)


Northeastern Madagascar: a conservation hotspot



Is shifting cultivation still responsible for deforestation?


What can we learn from classical land cover change analysis? Net land cover change 1995-2005-2011

Shifting cultivation: 1) Deforestation mainly through shifting cultivation 2) No increase in the amount of rice produced through shifting cultivation 3) Rotational shifting cultivation prevails 4) Pioneering shifting cultivation targeting mainly small forest fragments outside protected areas

Zaehringer et al. (2015). Land.


Did shifting cultivation expand or decrease as a land use system in the region?


Step 1: Analysis of spatial patterns of land cover pixels Moving window: 5x5 km

Forest Burnt plots Flooded veg. Low-height veg. Medium-height veg.

20% 5% 10% 45% 20%

Zaehringer et al. (2016). Applied Geography.


Step 2: Contextual interpretation

Zaehringer et al. 2016.


Landscapes in northeastern Madagascar 2011

Zaehringer et al. 2016.


Landscape change in northeastern Madagascar,1995-2011

Zaehringer et al. 2016.


What percentage of land users are using shifting cultivation and why?

Picture: Eva Keller


Household survey sampling • 1,187 households • 45 villages • 3 landscape types

Zaehringer et al. (2017). Ecosystem services.


Rice production systems of local households in 45 villages

• About 30% rely uniquely on shifting cultivation • Overall, about 80% use shifting cultivation


Ecosystem service benefits from shifting cultivation obtained by land users


… and so many other reasons why shifting cultivation persists > > > >

Rice is the only staple food and culturally very important (rice supply on markets not reliable) Irrigated rice paddies limited due to terrain; more labour intensive; prone to cyclone damage; need inputs to remain fertile Shifting cultivation is the traditional way of expanding and securing land for future generations Shifting cultivation is managed through a clan-based system versus individual management of agroforestry or paddy plots


Take home messages

Shifting cultivation in northeastern Madagascar: >

is mainly rotational yet eradicating the remaining forest fragments in the region


is still present in 80% of the region (area) and applied by 80% of land users (n=1,185)


has many benefits and thus can not be eradicated through single activities



@julie_gwen | [email protected] @R4Telecoupling |


References: Zaehringer, J.G., G. Schwilch, O.R. Andriamihaja, B. Ramamonjisoa, and P. Messerli. 2017. Remote sensing combined with social-ecological data: The importance of diverse land uses for ecosystem service provision in north-eastern Madagascar. Ecosystem Services 25:140–152. Zaehringer, J.G., C. Hett, B. Ramamonjisoa, and P. Messerli. 2016. ‘Beyond Deforestation Monitoring in Conservation Hotspots: Analysing Landscape Mosaic Dynamics in North-Eastern Madagascar’. Applied Geography 68 (March): 9–19. Zaehringer, J.G., S. Eckert, and P. Messerli. 2015. ‘Revealing Regional Deforestation Dynamics in NorthEastern Madagascar—Insights from Multi-Temporal Land Cover Change Analysis’. Land 4 (2): 454–74

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