Struggling to survive in an increasingly degraded environment, the hilltribes of the Golden Triangle region have less freedom to practice traditional swidden agriculture as once lush tropical forests, naturally capable of regenerating the hill fields, are dwindling. Additionally, access to land that is adequate to support rotational farming is increasingly restricted.
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Consequently, many upland fields are too small and degraded to provide adequate yields of important staples such as upland rice or certain cash crops (e.g.,field corn).
UHDP is partnering with hilltribe farmers to determine viable options needed to attain a more sustainable approach to upland farming where land, forest and water resources are in short supply. Appropriate responses include soil conservation and improvement as well as crop diversification.
Planting viny legume cover crops among crop residues as well as refraining from burning and intensive tillage are ways to improve hill field soils.
Crop diversification in upland fields and orchards helps to extend crop production and lessens the risk of complete crop failure under adverse conditions
Agroforestry – growing crops and trees on the same land – helps upland farmers to generate food and income through the production of both agriculture and forest products. Certain useful forest crops (e.g., rattan, forest pepper, prickly ash) can be grown among field or orchard crops. Likewise, some shade-tolerant crops, such as tea and coffee, can be produced beneath trees. Native forest crops usually do not require irrigation, fertilizing or pest control.
Bob Morikawa (Floresta) lifts a mature rattan vine in an agroforest plot. Rattan, a viny palm,produces cane used for weaving and has edible shoots.