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extensive agriculture

  In opposition to intensive forms of agriculture which involve the repeated cultivation and/or grazing of the same area of land using supplementary energy inputs, extensive forms of agriculture are characterized by seasonal or other temporal patterns of transitory land use over large areas (Mannion, 1995). They are, in other words, land-extensive and tend to be associated with environments considered to be marginal, or inhospitable, for permanent agriculture. Extensive forms of agriculture range from traditional practices like shifting cultivation in tropical regions and various systems of livestock and dairy production such as nomadic pastoralism and transhumance (Galaty and Johnson, 1991) (see also pastoralism), to more recently established practices like ranching associated with the European settlement of the USA and Australia (Jarrige and Auriol, 1992).

Nomadic pastoralism occurs in arid and semi-arid regions in low and high altitudes and underpins distinctive cultural communities such as the Saami reindeer herders in the Arctic region of northern Europe and Scandinavia (Back, 1993) and the Tuareg camel herders of the Sahel region of Africa. transhumance is practised in montane regions where livestock, usually goats, sheep or dairy cattle, are moved between valley and uplands on a seasonal basis, for example in the Montes de Pas in north-western Spain or the Himalayan foothills in Uttar Pradesh.

While some of these practices date back many centuries they remain the basis of the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. For example, it has been estimated that some 250 million people in Latin America, Africa and Asia rely on shifting cultivation today. These forms of agriculture have faced growing threats from the incursion of settlement; alternative land uses and property systems; and political boundary disputes on their effective range. Such incursions can undermine the social and environmental viability of these agricultural practices (see also agricultural geography; carrying capacity; intensive agriculture). (SW)

References Back, L. 1993: Reindeer management in conflict and co-operation. Nomadic peoples 32: 65-80. Galaty, J. and Johnson, J., eds, 1991: The world of pastoralism. London: Belhaven Press. Jarrige, R. and Auriol, P. 1992: An outline of world beef production. In R. Jarrige and C. Beranger, eds, Beef cattle production. Amsterdam, Elsevier, 42-85. Mannion, A. 1995: Agriculture and environmental change. Chichester, Wiley: ch. 4.



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