Shifting cultivation is considered to be an important cause of degradation and carbon emissions in tropical dry forests. Under REDD+, two sets of solutions have been proposed:
(1) switching to permanent cultivation (sedentarization and intensification of production, to allow ´sparing´ of some forest) and
(2) lengthening of the fallow cycles, to allow more time for recuperation of stocks.
In InfoBrief 4, which can be downloaded from the side menu, we calculate the carbon emissions that would result from production of one tonne of maize in shifting cultivation and compare this to emissions in a permanent cultivation system. We find that emissions from loss of biomass under shifting cultivation are higher than in permanent agriculture, but this does not take into account the much higher inputs of carbon in the form of agro-chemicals and energy in permanent agriculture.
We then calculate the impacts of shortening and lengthening the fallow cycle. We find that contrary to common perceptions, in many cases shortening of the cycles increases standing carbon stocks across the affected landscape and reduces emissions.