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A model of shifting cultivation: can soil conservation reduce deforestation?


  • Yoshito Takasaki


Shifting cultivators manage soil not only by adjusting soil use on already-cleared lands, as in continuous cultivation, but also by clearing forests to obtain new fertile soils. This study examines the crucial link between on-farm soil conservation and deforestation in shifting cultivation by modeling forest clearing as an investment in soil for a private farmer. More generally, by doing so the study attempts to integrate deforestation and soil conservation models which have been separately developed in the literature. Our policy goal is to arrest tropical deforestation-as destruction of global commons-caused by land degradation in shifting cultivation while improving the well-being of poor shifting cultivators. Our integrated approach enables joint policy analyses of deforestation and land degradation. Three welfare-enhancing policies are considered. The first is agricultural and nonagricultural subsidies affecting farm and nonfarm income opportunities. The second is fiscal and tenure policies affecting discount rates. Our question is whether the link between forest clearing and soil fertility alters the outcomes of these two standard macroeconomic policies commonly found in the literature. The third policy (or program) is various soil conservation measures affecting soil regeneration and erosivity on already-cleared lands. This article examines a very important question which has received little attention in previous theoretical works: can soil conservation reduce deforestation? This study confirms anti-deforestation effects of the promotion of nonfarming activities-a common and often emphasized finding in previous works-among shifting cultivators. More importantly, it also demonstrates that improving various soil conservation measures not only discourages forest clearing among shifting cultivators but also tends to have greater effects on forest protection than promoting nonfarming activities. Contrarily, agricultural price subsidy or technological progress gives rise to the opposite outcome, and lowering the farmer's discount rate or improving tenure security encourages him/her to clear more forests just to accumulate soil. Copyright 2006 International Association of Agricultural Economists.

Suggested Citation

  • Yoshito Takasaki, 2006. "A model of shifting cultivation: can soil conservation reduce deforestation?," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 35(2), pages 193-201, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:agecon:v:35:y:2006:i:2:p:193-201

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    Cited by:

    1. Yoshito Takasaki, 2011. "Economic models of shifting cultivation: a review," Tsukuba Economics Working Papers 2011-006, Economics, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba.
    2. Yoshito Takasaki, 2013. "Deforestation, forest fallowing, and soil conservation in shifting cultivation," Tsukuba Economics Working Papers 2013-003, Economics, Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Tsukuba.
    3. Yoshito Takasaki & Oliver T. Coomes & Christian Abizaid & Stéphanie Brisson, 2014. "An Efficient Nonmarket Institution under Imperfect Markets: Labor Sharing for Tropical Forest Clearing," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 96(3), pages 711-732.
    4. Kuhn, Arnim & Gaiser, Thomas & Gandonou, Esaïe, 2010. "Simulating the effects of tax exemptions on fertiliser use in Benin by linking biophysical and economic models," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 103(8), pages 509-520, October.

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