The cash crop boom in southern Myanmar: tracing land use regime shifts through participatory mapping

TitleThe cash crop boom in southern Myanmar: tracing land use regime shifts through participatory mapping
Annotated RecordNot Annotated
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsZaehringer JG, Lundsgaard-Hansen L, Tun_Tun_Thein _, Llopis JC, Nwe_Nwe_Tun _, Win_Myint _, Schneider F
Secondary TitleEcosystems and People
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Key themesAgriculturalModernization, Conversion-FoodSecurity, Environment

Tropical forest landscapes are undergoing vast transformations. Myanmar was long an exception to this trend–until recent policy reforms put economic development at the forefront. Under ambiguous land rights, commercial agriculture has spread rapidly, causing an unprecedented loss of biodiversity-rich forest. In south-eastern Myanmar, where land tenure is highly contested due to several decades of conflict, scientific evidence on these complex social-ecological processes is lacking. In the absence of past satellite data, we applied a participatory mapping approach and co-produced annual land use information with local land users between 1990 and 2017 for two case study landscapes. Results show that both landscapes have undergone a land use regime shift from small-scale farmers’ shifting cultivation to plantations of rubber, betel nut, cashew, and oil palm. These changes are likely to have long-term impacts on land users’ livelihoods and the environment. We call for a reconsideration of land governance arrangements and concerted land use planning that respects the rights of local land users and strengthens their role as environmental stewards. Applied with careful facilitation, participatory mapping could be an important tool to engage communities in the highly challenging process of transforming land governance to achieve more sustainable outcomes in this post-conflict context.


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Journal Article