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Deprived land‐use intensification in shifting cultivation: the population pressure hypothesis revisited


  • Unai Pascual
  • Edward B. Barbier


This article provides a theoretical framework, based on optimal control theory, to analyze farm households' land‐use intensification decisions in forest‐based shifting cultivation (slash‐and‐burn) agroecosystems. The main results from the analysis generally coincide with the “Population Pressure Hypothesis” (PPH) as an important driver of soil degradation due to the so‐called “fallow crisis” or “deprived land‐use intensification” in shifting cultivation. However, the model also shows, from a supply perspective, that such a vicious circle of lower yields and greater forest land clearing may be avoided when the production elasticity of on‐farm labor outweighs the elasticity of substitution between farm labor and soil fertility. Furthermore, using data from shifting cultivating households from Yucatán, Mexico, we calibrate the effect of changes in population density. The numerical analysis suggests that by contrast to better‐off households, when population density increases, poorer shifting cultivating households' optimal labor allocation strategy is to further extensify land use by clearing more forest in the village common property land, or ejido land.

Suggested Citation

  • Unai Pascual & Edward B. Barbier, 2006. "Deprived land‐use intensification in shifting cultivation: the population pressure hypothesis revisited," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 34(2), pages 155-165, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:agecon:v:34:y:2006:i:2:p:155-165

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    Cited by:

    1. Vallino, Elena & Aldahsev,Gani, 2013. "NGOs and participatory conservation in developing countries: why are there inefficiencies?," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers 201318, University of Turin.
    2. Amy Ickowitz, 2011. "Shifting cultivation and forest pressure in Cameroon," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 42(2), pages 207-220, March.
    3. Richard J. Thomas & Emmanuelle Quillérou & Naomi Stewart, 2013. "Economics of Land Degradation Initiative: A global strategy for sustainable land management," Working Papers hal-01954823, HAL.
    4. Tanui, Joseph & Groeneveld, Rolf & Klomp, Jeroen & Mowo, Jeremiahs & Ierland, Ekko C. van, 2013. "Explaining investments in sustainable land management: The role of various income sources in the smallholder farming systems of western Kenya," 2013 Fourth International Conference, September 22-25, 2013, Hammamet, Tunisia 161275, African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE).
    5. Pascual, Unai & Martinez-Espineira, Roberto, 2006. "Poverty and environmental degradation under trade liberalization: searching for second-best policy options," Economia Agraria y Recursos Naturales, Spanish Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 6(12), pages 1-24.
    6. Nin-Pratt, Alejandro, 2015. "Agricultural intensification in Africa: A regional analysis:," IFPRI discussion papers 1433, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Barbier, Edward B., 2012. "Natural capital, ecological scarcity and rural poverty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6232, The World Bank.

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