Shifting Cultivation in Transition

Short Description

Early research on shifting cultivation provided intricate analyses of how these systems function whereas recent research increasingly focuses 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 use types) on ecosystem services such as carbon storage, biodiversity, nutrient cycling and hydrology are increasingly debated in the literature and of concern to international environmental agreements such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Simultaneously development actors are concerned with linkages between shifting cultivation and human well-being. In most countries, where shifting cultivation is common, governmental systems remain convinced that shifting cultivation has negative social-ecological impacts and work determinedly on eradicating the system. However, the scientific literature provides evidence of complex and location specific social-ecological outcomes of shifting cultivation systems and transitions away from these. 

The purpose of this working group is to bring together researchers and practitioners from all disciplines working with shifting cultivation and the land use systems that replace it. Specifically, the purpose is to 1) create a forum for synthesizing contextual insights and knowledge across the diversity of shifting cultivation systems in transition; 2) facilitate development of joint activities for improving the understanding of shifting cultivation systems, including the drivers and outcomes of transitions to other land use types; and 3) develop policy outreach activities and engage in a science-policy dialogue.

As a GLP Working Group has the aim to engage a wide array of actors into the GLP, the membership application will be open. All members are encouraged to participate in working group events although participation in some topical workshops may be by invitation only due to limited funds and having a manageable group size for discussions.

Goals and Objectives

  • Supporting synthesis activities concerning shifting cultivation systems and their transitions at the pantropical level 
  • Bridging the existing gap between science and policy in countries where shifting cultivation is present by engaging in a dialogue with policy makers and producing policy relevant outputs
  • Raising funding for research activities within social-ecological outcomes of shifting cultivation in transition and initiation of research activities related to this topic
  • Using the WG as a platform to engage a wider array of scientist from different disciplines as well as practitioners interested in shifting cultivation issues, into GLP
  • Creating synergies by bringing together researchers that are working with shifting cultivation systems in different parts of the world. This is expected to foster new collaborations and new joint research initiatives – perhaps also joint field campaigns or multisite studies.

GLP Themes: Telecoupling of land use systems, Land governance, Land change trade-offs for ecosystem services and biodiversity , Land management systems, Land use and conflict


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Following up on his previous blog post, Zsolt Pinke writes that the drought situation demands an urgent solution to the European agriculture and the recharge of soil moisture. The latest drought map published by the flagship journal of European agronomy draws attention to the most critical areas in Europe, which includes Ukraine, France and other important grain exporters of Central Europe. Post includes a one-minute animation of the July droughts in Europe based on the maps of EDO JRC.   Read full post

Related Information


July 29, 2021

The authors conclude that the narrow focus on specific ES categories strongly limits understanding of SF in shifting cultivation areas and that it is more relevant to compare SFs with other agricultural systems rather than with old-growth forests.

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