Early research on shifting cultivation provided intricate analyses of how these systems function whereas more recent research increasingly focus on how rapid land use transitions in current and former shifting cultivation areas affect people and environment. While being a farming practice that is in decline or in a functional transition in some areas, it persists or increases elsewhere. Its impact – and especially the impacts of transitions to other land uses – on ecosystem services such as greenhouse gas emissions and sequestration, biodiversity conservation, land degradation and water resources management are increasingly debated in the literature and of concern to international environmental agreements such as UNFCCC and CBD. Simultaneously development actors are concerned with linkages between shifting cultivation and human well-being. In most countries, where shifting cultivation is still common, governmental systems remain convinced that shifting cultivation has negative social-ecological impacts, but there is little agreement in the literature on the direction of these impacts. A recent meta-analysis of social-ecological outcomes of land use intensification demonstrated that outcomes vary widely from win-win to lose-lose, with many combinations of win-lose in between (Rasmussen et al. 2018: Social-ecological outcomes of agricultural intensification. Nature Sustainability 1:275-282).
The objective of this session is therefore to outline a future agenda of research on the outcomes of shifting cultivation and transitions to other land uses. Moreover, the session will initiate a GLP Working Group entitled “Social-ecological outcomes of shifting cultivation in transition”, including an outline of activities for the coming 3-4 years.
The format of the session will be four invited flash talks (5 minutes each, max 30 minutes in total with questions) that 1) set the stage for current critical research on shifting cultivation, 2) provide overviews social-ecological research on shifting cultivation in Africa, Asia-Oceania and Latin America. This will be followed by ‘café-style’ small break-out groups of 3-4 session participants who will discuss the shifting cultivation research agenda and the more practical matters on how the working can be organized, including funding of activities. The final part of the session will be a plenary where the ideas for the research agenda and the working group are put together and an action plan developed. Invited participants to the session will be both scientists and as broad a representation from other stakeholders and civil society as possible to allow for co-design of the research agenda.
Session Organizers: Ole Mertz, Andreas Heinimann, and Thilde Bech Bruun