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Personal preferences and intensification of land use: their impact on southern Cameroonian slash-and-burn agroforestry systems

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Agroforestry Systems, Springer, Volume 68, p.53–67 (2006)


Household modelling, Intensification, Preferences, Shifting cultivation, Spatiotemporal modelling, Sustainable forest use


<p>Where long forest-fallows are no longer practiced, productivity declines in the absence of input substitution, as does the ability of subsistence farmers to earn an adequate livelihood from shifting cultivation. Land availability, population density and productivity-related factors such as soil fertility and labour requirements are not the only factors that affect fallow length and land use intensification in shifting cultivation agroforestry systems. Households surveyed indicated that various other decision criteria (e.g., proximity to other fields and the protection of land use rights) are important in land use decisions. Even though one quarter of households reported insufficient land resources to maintain soil fertility, few actually indicated that their choices were constrained by land availability. In fact, many cleared much younger fallows than strictly necessary based on the age of fallows available in their land holdings &ndash; even those with fallows of sufficient age to maintain long-term productivity. This paper outlines an approach to quantify information about the household preferences that influence land use decisions, discusses the implications of these decision criteria for land use intensification and uses them to model household decision-making in a way that effectively simulates the spatial and dynamic mosaic of land use characteristic of shifting cultivation. Not only are non-productivity related decision criteria important in land use decisions in general; they also have a significant impact on land use intensification. In fact, the research described here demonstrates that both household-specific preferences and household-specific initial conditions can lead to intensification of land use apart from that arising due to increasing population density.</p>