An alternative production system to slash-and-burn cultivation is urgently required to satisfy both increasing subsistence needs and environmental conservation objectives in the rainforest region of Madagascar. This paper investigates the current land-use management practices of smallholder farmers that have faced tight land-use pressures due to rapid population growth and stricter forest protection laws. Spatio-temporal patterns of land use were analyzed for lowland and hillside households by using data obtained from a ground survey of 316 fields. Both household groups retained longer fallowing periods for upland rice cultivation (lasting 5.4 to 6.8 years) than those previously reported (of 3 to 5 years). Recent dynamic changes in the agricultural systems included bottomland saturation with irrigated paddies and a rapid transition of coffee-growing areas into slash-and-burn and terraced paddy areas, in order to meet subsistence needs. A shift in dependence from slash-andburn cultivation to lowland paddies was particularly significant among lowland households due to the expansion of terraced paddies and adoption of a double-cropping system in the irrigated lowlands. The hillside households intensified cassava cultivation in short-term fallowing periods, as also reflected by their high dependence on cassava for caloric consumption. The difference in countermeasures adopted by both household groups to deal with land-use pressures was partly due to the accessibility to extension services. The results suggest that such intervention to promote intensification in lowland paddies was apparently an effective approach to reduce dependence on slash-and-burn cultivation. Given the limited land areas in which to further expand paddy fields, higher crop productivity is needed in the future to achieve a smooth transition to an agricultural system not dependent on slash-and-burn practices.
ASJC Scopus subject areas