Evidence Based Forestry (EBF) Systematic Review of Long Fallow Swidden Systems in Southeast Asia. A Longitudinal Analysis.

Project Timeframe:
Mar 2014 to Jan 2015

Related country(s)

Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand


CIFOR evidence based forestry programme


University of Melbourne | World Agroforestry Centre | University of the Philippines Los Baños | National University of Singapore | Australian National University(ANU) | University of Queensland


Swidden fallow systems have recently been described as ‘living landscapes’, where the interlinkages between forest, farm and land support livelihoods and the potential to sequester carbon to mitigate climate change. Indeed, UN-REDD policy debates have now touched on the role of mixed forest landscapes providing ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, among a mosaic of smallholder land uses, including swidden and agroforestry systems.

Despite this, REDD+ governance continues to press for the replacement of swidden with other land uses, seeing swidden as destructive to forests and inefficient in carbon storage, suggesting that mono-croppings of rubber, palm oil and teak can produce both carbon and livelihood gains. However, a relatively small, but growing body of research shows that swidden fallows can be carbon neutral or positive when compared with these land uses, particularly when governed by locally appropriate institutions. Considerable uncertainty remains in how changing land use systems affect both livelihood security and carbon storage as swidden transitions to intensified land uses.

Main activities:

This systematic review will synthesize, contrast and compare past and present knowledge to assess the extent to which long-fallow swidden systems support livelihood security, forest cover and carbon storage at the landscape scale in Southeast Asia. The objectives of the review will be to:

  1. Review past and present studies on the key forest and agricultural policies that affect swidden (fallow) in terms of national land use objectives and rural-to-urban population dynamics;
  2. Identify swidden fallow’s changing socio-economic and ecological role in supporting livelihood security and forest cover change in the uplands; and
  3. Examine swidden fallow’s changing biophysical role in supporting carbon storage at the landscape scale.

Lead reviewers: Dr Wolfram Dressler, University of Melbourne; Dr Rodel Lasco, ICRAF