Small farmers in many tropical developing countries practice swidden agriculture. A key aspect of swidden agriculture is the time period during which the land is left fallow. This paper uses a new ecological-economic approach to study the fallow period and to determine the optimal length of this period in swidden agriculture. We first construct a theoretical model of a parcel of forest land that has been cleared for swidden agriculture. We then show how the dynamic and the stochastic properties of this cleared land can be used to derive two objective functions for a small farmer that are ecologically meaningful. Finally, using these two objectives, we discuss a probabilistic approach to the determination of the optimal length of the fallow period. In this approach, the focus of the small farmer is on maintaining the ecological and the economic sustainability of swidden agriculture on the cleared parcel of forest land (CPFL).

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Department, Program, or Center

Department of Economics (CLA)


RIT – Main Campus