Jonathan Locqueville, master student at Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, France spent 5 months on the field, studying the vegetation cover and the dynamics around slash and burn practices. Even though some areas (in particular hill tops) are deforested and prone to erosion and landslides, Jonathan found out that, in contrast with the preconceived ideas of most inhabitants and the local government, the forest cover has globally increased since the 80’s, especially around Latag, a Mangyan settlement in the mountain, 10 kilometres inland from Bugtong.
Why is that? Is it because there is less commercial logging for exportation ? or because reforestation programs and political efforts to reduce deforestation are bearing fruit ? it could also be because of Latag's inhabitants awareness that the forest is a resource they need to care for ? or thanks to the reduction of cattle rising resulting in less deforestation for grazing areas?
Most probably, it is a combination of all of the above reasons.
So, what is « Kaingin » ? « Kaingin » means slash and burn, and actually, it can be a quite sustainable and diversified cropping system IF it it is used by the communities for their own consumption (non-commercial production) AND within the limits of demographical growth. But today, we might be at a cross road or a tipping point where demographical growth is such that it increases the pressure on the forest : more areas are being exploited giving less time for the forest to recover before being exploited again.
Jonathan's studies highlight that « Kaingin » is starting to become “destructive” for the environment resulting in dangerous erosion when commercial activities like charcoal making, coconut plantations for copra, commercial scale root-crop plantations, are included and developed to a larger scale.
Above figure, courtesy of Jonathan Locqueville.