Beyond Boserup: Cameroonian Agroforestry Systems in Space and Time

40 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2004

Date Written: August 2004


Shifting cultivation is the primary means of livelihood for subsistence farmers in the Congo Basin of central Africa. This agroforestry system, which depends on long periods of forest-fallow to maintain soil fertility as well as for the provision of non-wood forest products, is under pressure as populations increase. Where long fallows are no longer possible, productivity declines in the absence of input substitution or the forest frontier is pushed further back as new land is brought into the rotation. Conversely, where the system is in equilibrium the landscape is characterized by a dynamically stable mosaic of land use that provides an adequate rural livelihood.

The landscape and household level impacts of shifting cultivation and ex ante assessment of alternative agroforestry systems are best captured by a model that accounts for spatial and temporal factors. To do so requires an approach that explicitly accounts for the differing relative importance of various economic (e.g., fallow type and soil fertility) and non-economic (e.g., proximity to other fields and protection of land use rights) decision criteria in the household's choice of location to cultivate in any one year. This paper outlines an approach to soliciting this information, discusses the implications of the 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-economic 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 intensification that arises due to increasing population density a la Boserup (1965).

Keywords: Household modelling, intensification, preferences, land use, shifting cultivation, spatiotemporal modelling, sustainable forest use

JEL Classification: Q12, Q23, Q24, O12, O13, D13

Suggested Citation

Brown, Douglas R., Beyond Boserup: Cameroonian Agroforestry Systems in Space and Time (August 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Douglas R. Brown (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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