Ecological Succession of Usable Plants in an Eleven-Year Fallow Cycle in Northern Lao P.D.R.
AbstractIn all tropical countries shifting cultivators (swiddeners,
slash-and-burn farmers) are being encouraged – or forced
– to stop swiddening. However, shifting cultivators obtain
from the forest most of the plants that they need to survive.
Once shifting cultivation has been curtailed, fallow areas
gradually age, and there is an ecological transformation in
the forests that surround the villages of the swiddeners.
The impact of this ecological transformation on the
availability of usable plants is not well understood, as
there is little research on the habitats of origin of the
plants that shifting cultivators gather from fallow areas.
This article presents the results of a survey of the plant
taxa used in a Kammu village in northern Lao P.D.R,
and found in an 11-year long fallow cycle. The Kammu
identified a total of 141 usable plant taxa. The Kammu and
Lao names were recorded along with their use, the part of
the plant used, and the age of the fallow(s) in which they
were found. The results indicate that very few plants are
available throughout the entire 11-year fallow cycle, and
that the Kammu would experience considerable losses in
resource diversity if shifting cultivation was outlawed or
the fallow period shortened.
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