Understanding risk and coping strategies in forest-agriculture landscapes

Shifting cultivation
Shifting cultivation pattern found in the mountains of Northern Laos. The landscape is characterized by fragments of primary forest, secondary forest, fallow vegetation, and upland rice, and more recently also maize fields. Photo: CDE

The incomes of farm households in developing countries are notoriously low and uncertain. Coping strategies might include relying on safety nets such as forests and fallows for food and non-timber products, varying crops and farming patterns, cashing in on savings, selling family assets, migrating elsewhere in search of work, relying on remittances and wage labour, and accessing informal forms of insurance and credit. This project in cooperation with CIFOR asks whether the structure of environmental incentives (as credit, insurance, or payments) influences land use behaviour.

Visualizing shifting-cultivation dynamics
Visualizing shifting-cultivation dynamics. The map depicts shifting cultivation in Northern Laos, with different ages of slash-and-burn fields. The most recently burnt fields are illustrated in yellow. Red shows fields cultivated in 2013; bright green: 2012; and dark green: 2011. Graphic: Sandra Eckert, CDE

It aims to link various strands of work relating to payments for ecosystem services (PES), risks, and insurance.

Satellite data-based assessment of land cover

Within the project, CDE is responsible for a satellite-based assessment of land cover and land use patterns in northern Laos with the focus on permanent and shifting cultivation. Landsat 5 and Landsat 8 data sets between 2011 and 2014 are used to perform several multi-seasonal land cover classifications applying maximum likelihood as well as support vector machines. Spatial analysis of the derived land cover maps resulted in detailed information regarding the current and past extent of shifting cultivation areas in Xieng Khoung and Luang Prabang provinces, Laos.

Results of this research will be of particular interest to institutions in the rural development sector, and institutions developing or implementing environmental incentive systems such as PES.

Project duration: 2013 – 2015