Drivers of Deforestation? Facts to be considered regarding the impactof shifting cultivation in Asia

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An estimated 260 million indigenous peoples live in Asia. Most of them inhabit forested uplands where a large number of them practice shifting cultivation, which is also called as swidden cultivation or rotational farming. For them, shifting cultivation is not merely a technique of farming; it is their way of life. Government policies and laws have attempted to limit or outright ban shifting cultivation since it is considered a primitive and destructive form of land use. Recently, several governments of the region involved in REDD have identified shifting cultivation as a driver of deforestation in their REDD Readiness-Plan Idea Note (R-PIN) and Readiness Preparation Proposals (RPP).

Decades of research on virtually every aspect of shifting cultivation has generated sufficient evidence to prove that its sweeping condemnation by government bureaucrats, politicians or professionals is based on insufficient and erroneous information, or quite simply myth. Past state intervention aimed at restricting or eradicating shifting cultivation has had serious negativeconsequences for the affected indigenous communities, and we therefore call on SBSTA to ensure thatthe discussion on shifting cultivation in the context of identifying drivers of deforestation is not basedon the old prejudices, but on the facts that have been well established by scientific researcher and iseasily accessible.

To that end we are presenting a brief summary of key issues that should be taken into account:

  • Key findings of research on shifting cultivation, underpinning the dire need to earnestly consider indigenous peoples’ perspectives while assessing its impact on forests and climate change
  • The human rights violations and other impacts resulting from state policies prohibiting or unduly restricting shifting cultivation

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