Get the CIFOR publications update

CIFOR publishes over 400 publications every year on forests and climate change, landscape restoration, rights, forest policy, agroforestry and much more in multiple languages.

Who counts? demography of Swidden cultivators in Southeast Asia

Who counts? demography of Swidden cultivators in Southeast Asia

Swidden cultivators are often found as a distinct category of farmers in the literature, but rarely appear in population censuses or other national and regional classifications.
This has led to a worldwide confusion on how many people are dependent on this form of agriculture. The most often cited number of 200–300 million dates back to
the early 1970s, but the source is obscure. We assess available, published data from nine countries in Southeast Asia and conclude that on this basis it is not possible to
provide a firm estimate of the number of swidden cultivators in the region. A conservative range of 14–34 million people engaged in swidden cultivation in the regionis suggested, however. We argue that along with improved knowledge of swidden livelihoods, there is an urgent need to develop techniques that will allow for better estimates of swidden populations in order to secure appropriate rural
development and poverty reduction in swidden areas.

Authors: Mertz, O.; Leisz, S. J.; Heinimann, A.; Rerkasem, K.; Thiha; Dressler, W.; Pham, V.C.; Vu, K.C.; Schmidt-Vogt, D.; Colfer C. J. P.; Epprecht, M.; Padoch, C.; Potter, L.

Topic: shifting cultivation,population growth,censuses

Geographic: South East Asia

Publication Year: 2009

ISSN: 0300-7839

Source: Human Ecology 37(3): 281-289

DOI: 10.1007/s10745-009-9249-y

Altmetric score:

Export Citation

Related viewing


CIFOR website usability survey

We're conducting research on our website and we'd love to hear from you about your experience on This will help us make improvements and prioritize new features. The survey should only take 5 minutes, and your responses are completely anonymous.

If you have any questions about the survey, please email us:

We really appreciate your input!

Start survey
I don’t want to participate
Remind me later