Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn: summary report and synthesis of phase 2 in Cameroon uri icon


  • The Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn programme (ASB) involves a global consortium of national and international research institutes and is a system-wide initiative of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). ASBâ??s origins lie with the Rio de Janeiro Environmental Conference of 1992. The programmeâ??s purpose is to develop and test strategies for reducing environmental degradation and improving rural livelihoods along the forest margins of the tropics. Its objectives are the development of improved land-use systems and policy recommendations capable of alleviating the pressures on forest resources that are associated with slash-and-burn agricultural techniques. Research is conducted in benchmark sites across the pan-tropics. For the recently completed Phase II of the project, research was mainly concentrated in three global sitesâ??the western Amazon of Brazil, the diptocarp forests of Sumatra in Indonesia, and the Atlantic and Congolese forests of southern Cameroon. This report presents a synthesis of findings from Phase II in Cameroon. In Central Africa, ASB research efforts are focused on slash-and-burn agriculture in the Congo basin and the six countriesâ??Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Gabon, CAR, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroonâ??whose borders encompass the worldâ??s second largest contiguous rainforest. FAO (1997) estimates a deforestation rate of 0.6% yr-1 (1,142,000 ha yr-1) for the Congo basin. By comparison, other ASB benchmarks in Indonesia and Brazil are tackling estimated forest losses of 1.0% yr-1 (1,084,000 ha) and 0.5% yr-1 (2,554,000 ha), respectively. In Cameroon, the rate of deforestation is estimated at 0.6%, with about 100,000 ha of closed canopy forest lost annually. Unlike Indonesia and Brazil, where large-scale agricultural operations play an important role, most of the deforestation in the Congo basin is attributed to smallholder agriculturalists using extensive slash- and-burn techniques. In Cameroon, over 85% of deforestation is attributed to smallholder agriculture. Thus, rural population density plays a significant role in determining the extent of closed canopy forest and the stock of woody biomass in a given area, but the relationship is far from linear and depends on a complex assortment of factors. Measures of land and labor productivity in the Congo basin are low and have shown little growth. The low productivity of agriculture, in combination with rapid population growth, results in the continual extension of the forest margins. To alleviate the situation, Serageldin (1991) and others have called for a doubling of agricultural productivity at the household level. To achieve this ambitious goal, farmers will require access to disease-resistant varieties that are better at exploiting the relatively high levels of nutrients that characterize the first year of cropping, following the medium to long fallow periods of the region. Where rural population densities are high and fallow periods have shortened, farmers are forced to intensify their production. In these areas, the use of soil amendments (organic and chemical fertilizers, leguminous green manures, kitchen wood ash), in conjunction with better varieties, are suggested. Implementing an intensification strategy to increase agricultural productivity will require strengthening of agrarian services such as extension, plant and seed multiplication, farmer organizations, rural credit and savings organizations, and rural infrastructure

publication date

  • 2002