Agroforestry in the uplands of Southeast Asia

Upland systems are characterized by mosaics of diverse, small landholdings mixed with patches of forests (both primary and secondary), larger-scale industrial plantations of commodity crops, and private sector or government landholdings. Perennial (that is, trees) agricultural systems are common, with naturalized and exotic species dominating. Native ecosystems are usually limited to forests. Infrastructure and access to urban resources vary greatly by location. Upland systems comprise 19% of the land area and support 27% of the agricultural population in Southeast Asia and the Pacific (Dixon et al. 2001).

Upland agroforestry systems have been proven to have a positive impact on smallholders livelihoods: they contribute to economies from local through to global and also provide valuable environmental services. However, these systems are often overlooked and face several major barriers.

Upland smallholders are particularly vulnerable to the threats of climate change, notably, erratic rainfall patterns and more frequent extreme weather. Consequently, upland populations are increasingly migrating to urban areas where opportunities are perceived to be better. However, with improved support, upland farmers can enhance their agroforestry systems and livelihoods and thereby strengthen local through to global economies and also enhance environmental services.