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Rubber agroforestry systems in Indonesia and Thailand for a sustainable agriculture and income stability

Penot E.. 2016. Pékin : Chinese Academy of Sciences, p. 1-26. Conference Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG), 2016-10-17/2016-10-19, Xishuangbanna (Chine).

Promoting environmental friendly and socially responsible rubber cultivation is relatively new in current agricultural policies in Asia. However, agroforestry systems based on rubber are very old, their interest and recognition is relatively recent since the beginning of the 2000's. If rubber has been introduced in South Asia as a colonial crop, it has been immediately adopted by local farmers as soon as the 1910's and developed as a very extensive agroforestry system based on unselected rubber seedlings: the jungle rubber, in Indonesia, Malaysia (North-Borneo) and southern Thailand. Very early, Malaysia in the 1950's and Thailand in the 1960's developed specific institutions and policies to replace jungle rubber by clonal monoculture and implement rapidly highly productive new plantations when Indonesia began in the 1970's to a lesser extend. If there is no more jungle rubber in Thailand and Malaysia (except a little bit in Sabah/Sarawak), there is still between 1 and 2 million hectare of jungle rubber in Indonesia. Meanwhile, local famers began to experiment by themselves in the 1990's agroforestry practices with clonal rubber trough association of rubber to fruits trees, wood/timber trees and other plants susceptible to produce a diversified source of income(roots, tubers, rattan, medicinal plants, vegetables and leaves for food, etc ¿¿) or to produce timber and non-timber forest products that could be also used for self-consumption and save expenses (timber, health etc ..). Such systems have been documented in the 1990's in Southern Thailand (less than 4 % of the total rubber area), Kalimantan and Sumatra in Indonesia (jungle ruber and transformed clonal SRDP plantations) and research began to have interest in optimizing existing farmers agroforestry practices (PSU/TU/KKU in Thailand, the SRAP project with ICRAF in Indonesia¿). The rubber price volatility has left many farmers vulnerable to global market fluctuations. Strategies of income diversification became priority and in a context of land scarcity agroforestry appears as the best-bet alternatives to combine productions. The environmental and social consequences of current rubber cultivation practices as a monoculture, international rubber market developments and even climate change threaten potentially the sustainability of the industry in the region. Local extension or research institutions began to recognize agroforestry as valuable practices to overcome monoculture constraints (relying on one source of income only, rubber prices volatility¿) and profit from environmental services provided by complex agroforestry systems. This new opening of local institutions to alternative agroforestry systems lead to more recognition and now promotion of environmental friendly and socially responsible rubber cultivation. Meanwhile, studies in the 2000's in Indonesia and recently in Thailand in 2015/2016 show that agroforestry systems do limit various types of risks under different socio-economic conditions (erosion, price volatility¿). The presentation focus on 20 years of research and improvement of rubber based agroforestry systems in Indonesia and Thailand....

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