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Cultivated landscapes off the Southwest Pacific

CollectionsANU Resources, Environment & Development Group (RE&D)
Title: Cultivated landscapes off the Southwest Pacific
Author(s): Kennedy, Jean
Clarke, William
Keywords: agriculture
prehistory
Canarium
Pandanaceae
Southwest Pacific
cultivated landscapes
Papua New Guinea
agro forestry
arboriculture
Publisher: Canberra, ACT: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP), Division of Pacific and Asian History, Research School for Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University
Series/Report no.: Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program (RMAP) Working Paper: No. 50
Description: 
Brookfield’s comments about farmers would seem unexceptionable to geographers and anthropologists who have lived in and come to know the landscapes of smallholders in the tropics. High modernists and many development specialists might accept that smallholder farmers plant trees within their territories, but would baulk at Brookfield’s further argument that the landscapes in question have long been subject to a dynamic management wherein “nature” and human productive activities are not antithetical. In such smallholder landscapes the farmers — though often tagged “traditional” — are constantly experimenting and learning and then modifying their productive technologies. Adaptation — development if you like — has been and is going on all the time. And today, the changes most useful to smallholders still arise largely from local initiative, not from external projects. The particular aspect of tropical landscapes that we examine in this paper is the humanisation of forests, a process that creates Brookfield’s “cultivated forests.” But that term does not imply stasis because on any particular site there is a shifting and merging over time of different sorts of vegetation, each subject to different degrees of management. The primary focus of our examination is the southwest Pacific, but similar productive techniques are found throughout the tropical world. We begin the paper with examples of the management of productive landscapes of which trees are an integral part. That these examples are drawn from ethnographic and ethnobotanical rather than agricultural or agronomic sources is significant but not surprising. We then review archaeological evidence of tree crops in New Guinea prehistory and focus on five taxa of significant tree and tree-like crops, to show that landscapes which include managed assemblages of tree species are of great antiquity throughout the New Guinea region, and that recurrent associations among particular useful tree species, far from being happy accidents of provident nature, are the result of long-term selection and deliberate agricultural practice, extending beyond the confines of the “garden” in both space and time.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/39955

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