Agriculture intensification releases land for household plantation forestry.   Farm households do engage in plantation forestry as an alternative form of biological production.

A recent publication explores emerging issues

A recently published study by Sandewall et al (2015) examines recent trends and impacts of expanding tree plantation by households at a global, national and local level in different corners of the world (Ethiopia, China, Vietnam and Sweden). It aims at exploring emerging issues to be addressed in policy development.

A world-wide transition of small-scale plantation forestry

Plantation forestry is continuously increasing world-wide as part of a transition driven by exogenous and endogenous factors. One of the globally most dynamic forestry developments in recent years is the expansion of small-scale plantation forestry on a large scale. With an annual global increase of about 2% the cultivated share of world’s forests has increased to about 7 %. It varies much across countries and is nearly 40% in China. Mostly, plantation has not directly contributed to the loss of natural forest. On the studied sites, the plantation has occurred on land which had previously been used for agriculture during 20-60 years. When given the appropriate conditions, farm households do engage in in plantation forestry, which to them is just an alternative form of biological production.

Agriculture intensification releases land for household plantation forestry

In most of the local tree-plantation sites there was a trend of decreasing area used for food production. The areas abandoned were often the least productive ones, which were either planted to be wood lots or not cultivated at all. Various policies and market trends had promoted this development. The expansion had increased incomes for some farmers but had not brought poor farmers out of food insecurity. The poorest farmers had not had time and resources to invest in forestry but cut trees at young age, and they lacked adequate extension service. Finding policy arrangements and opportunities for rural people to subsist in their home environment under economic change was an issue in all the studied countries.

Similarities between China, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Sweden on different scales

There are similarities when comparing development over 30 years in China, Vietnam and Ethiopia with that over 150 years in Sweden. All four countries initially experienced poverty, rapid population growth and extensive agriculture leading to deforestation. All four countries are now in various stages of forest transition, partly through tree plantation, underpinned by economic, institutional and socio-economic development and increased agriculture yields, which has released land for tree plantation. As in Sweden in the past, there is now a trend to strengthen formal property rights to forest land for households through national policy processes. Meanwhile, market conditions and access have improved as a result of economic reforms and globalization.

 Reference for further reading

Sandewall, M., Kassa, H., Wu, S., Khoa, P.V., He, Y. and Ohlsson, B. 2015. Policies to promote household based plantation forestry and their impacts on livelihoods and the environment: cases of Ethiopia, China, Vietnam and Sweden. International Forestry Review 17(1), 98-111.


Authors: Dr. Mats Sandewall, SLU and Dr. Bo Ohlsson, Gesala International AB

Editor: Dr. Fredrik Ingemarson, SIFI

Photo: Mats Sandewall, from Vietnam