Forest, ethnicity and settlement in the mountainous area of northern Laos

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This paper aims at clarifying the relationship between traditional forest use, ethnicity and settlement location in the mountainous area of northern Laos, by observing cash income activities, focusing particularly on non-timber forest product (NTFP) gathering. As ethnic Lao settlements are located along the river, many households engage in non-agricultural activities. Khmu settlements are located throughout the whole region, with agriculture as the main activity of most households. Hmong settlements are located only in mountainous areas; almost all households have both rice farming and opium poppy cultivation as main farming activities. The most important activity contributing to cash income is NTFP gathering. A large quantity of NTFPs is grown as secondary vegetation after burning the forest for swidden agriculture. The most notable of these is the styrax tree (Styrax tonkinensis) which produces a balsamic resin known as benzoin. As a regeneration of styrax trees is performed in combination with swidden agriculture, this land use system of combined benzoin gathering and swidden agriculture is comparable to the concept of an agro-forestry. This type of forest use has long been practiced in the study area. However, the present study shows that this agro-forestry mode of forest use, or indigenous sustainable forest use system, is at risk of collapse, due to political regulations against forest utilization.

Satoshi Y.



Secondary Title

Southeast Asian Studies









Agro-forestry, Benzoin, Fallowed swidden, Non-timber forest product (NTFP), Northern Laos, Styrax tonkinensis, agroforestry, ethnicity, forest resource, mountain region, nontimber forest product, resin, Asia, Eastern Hemisphere, Eurasia, Laos, Southeast Asia, World

Form: Journal Article
Geographical Area: Laos

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