Field days with improved tef varieties in Debre Zeyt, Ethiopia

Photo: Zerihun Tadele
Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture
Publication article

Drivers and consequences of archetypical shifting cultivation transitions

Shifting cultivation, a vital system in tropical landscapes, is undergoing exciting transitions. Eight archetypes, from perennial plantation crops to restored secondary forests, encapsulate these transitions. Factors like higher expected land rents, resulting form increased market access, crop price surges, secure land tenure, and state interventions are the main drivers of archetypical transitions to perennial plantation crops, permanent agroforestry, permanent non-perennial crops and wood plantation.Meanwhile, prioritizing other on- and off-farm activities leads to transitions to regrown secondary forests and non-cultivated non-forested lands.


The consequences of these transitions are diverse and context-dependent. Positive environmental outcomes are seen in transitions to permanent agroforestry, regrown secondary forests, and restored secondary forests. However, economically profitable transitions to perennial plantation crops, permanent non-perennial crops, pasture, and wood plantations often result in negative environmental impacts. This diversity calls for a critical and contextualized appraisal of shifting cultivation and its transitions in designing land system policies that benefit both people and nature

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