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The impact of policy and institutional environment on costs and benefits of sustainable agricultural land uses: The case of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

  • Thapa, G. B.
  • Rasul, G.

As in other mountain regions of Asia, agricultural lands in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh are undergoing degradation due primarily to environmentally incompatible land-use systems such as shifting cultivation (jhum) and annual cash crops. The suitable land-use systems such as agroforestry and timber tree plantation provide benefit to the society at large, but they might not provide attractive economic benefits to farmers, eventually constraining a wide-scale adoption of such land-use systems. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate agricultural land-use systems from both societal and private perspectives in the pursuit of promoting particularly environmentally sustainable systems. This article evaluated five major land-use systems being practiced in CHT, namely jhum, annual cash crops, horticulture, agroforestry, and timber plantation. The results of the financial analysis revealed the annual cash crops as the most attractive land use and jhum as the least attractive of the five land-use systems considered under the study. Horticulture, timber plantation, and agroforestry, considered to be suitable landuse systems particularly for mountainous areas, held the middle ground between these two systems. Annual cash crops provided the highest financial return at the cost of a very high rate of soil erosion. When the societal cost of soil erosion is considered, annual cash crops appear to be the most costly land-use system, followed by jhum and horticulture. Although financially less attractive compared to annual cash crops and horticulture, agroforestry and timber plantation are the socially most beneficial land-use systems. Findings of the alternative policy analyses indicate that there is a good prospect for making environmentally sustainable land-use systems, such as agroforestry and timber plantation, attractive for the farmers by eliminating existing legal and institutional barriers, combined with the provision of necessary support services and facilities.

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  • Journal:
    Environment Management (2007) 40:272?283
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