Farmers' Perspectives on Slash-And-Burn as a Land Clearing Method for Small-Scale Rubber Producers in Sepunggur, Jambi Province, Sumatra, Indonesia.

TitleFarmers' Perspectives on Slash-And-Burn as a Land Clearing Method for Small-Scale Rubber Producers in Sepunggur, Jambi Province, Sumatra, Indonesia.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsKetterings Q, Wibowo TT, van Noordwijk M, Penot E,
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Call NumberJA0132-04
Keywordsagronomic survey, farmer's survey, Fire, Indonesia, Jambi Province, shifting cultivation, slash and burn, Small rubber producers, social economic, Sumatra
AbstractOn 10 September, 1997, President Soeharto of Indonesia renewed a ban on the practice of burning forests to clear land. At that time a thick haze caused by land-clearing related fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia, blanketed large parts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines and Thailand. These fires, aggravated by the El Nino weather pattern and described as the worst in Southeast Asian history, renewed a long-term debate on slash-and-burn (S&B) as a method of land clearing. Acceptable alternatives to S&B should address both the problems and the benefits of the use of fire. A social/economic/agronomic survey was therefore conducted among 37 small-scale rubber producers in Sepunggur, Jambi Province, Sumatra. The objectives were to: (1) characterize S&B techniques; (2) characterize farmers' perspectives on land clearing methods related to agronomic/economic factors (soil fertility, plant growth, production); and (3) evaluate alternatives to S&B that would be acceptable to individual farmers at present and in the near future. Small rubber producers (average farm size _5 ha) were selected because rubber gardens are the major land use type in this area, small producers are the main contributors, and most of the forest that is presently converted for agricultural use is being planted with rubber seedlings. Farmers generally start slashing in March and burn in the month of August. Burning takes place in 2 steps: broadcast burning followed by piling-and-burning. The 5 advantages of using fire cited by the farmers were: (1) burning creates space (51%); (2) ash acts as a fertilizer (23%); (3) burning improves soil structure, thus enabling faster establishment of seedlings (15%); (4) burning reduces weed/tree competition (5%); and (5) burning reduces the occurrence of pests/diseases (3%). Alternatives to S&B should be economically acceptable. Mulching does not provide an alternative to any of the benefits of burning. Slash-and-remove-wood addresses only the first advantage and requires a tremendous effort in labor. If forced to accept either of these alternatives, farmers expect a reduction in income due to difficulties in establishing new rubber gardens, reductions in yield, and an increase in labor costs.