HISTORY OF RUBBER AGROFORESTRY SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT IN INDONESIA AND THAILAND AS ALTERNATIVES FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE AND INCOME STABILITY
Promoting environmentally friendly and socially responsible rubber cultivation is relatively new in current agricultural policies in Asia (since the 2010’s). However, agroforestry systems based on rubber are very old, based on local know-how. Their interest and recognition is relatively recent since the beginning of the 2000’s. If rubber was introduced in South Asia as a colonial crop, it would have been immediately adopted by local farmers since 1910’s and developed as a very extensive agroforestry system based on unselected rubber seedlings: the jungle rubber, established in Indonesia, Malaysia (North-Borneo) and southern Thailand. Malaysia in the 1950’s and Thailand in the 1960’s developed specific institutions and policies to replace jungle rubber by clonal monoculture and rapidly implemented highly productive new plantations based on clones. Indonesia started rubber clone development programs in the 1970’s. Though there is no more jungle rubber in Thailand and Malaysia (except a little bit in Sabah/Sarawak), there still exists between 2 and 2.5 million hectares of jungle rubber in Indonesia. Meanwhile, local famers started experimenting agroforestry practices themselves in the 1990’s, with clonal rubber, with fruits trees, wood/timber trees and other plants for additional source of income. Such systems have been reported in the 1990’s in Southern Thailand, West-Kalimantan and south/central Sumatra The rubber price volatility and its vulnerability to global market fluctuations in the last 30 years (from 0.5 to 5 US $ /kg) have compelled many farmers to leave the cultivation. Strategies for income diversification became priority. In a context of land scarcity, agroforestry appeared as the best-bet alternative to combine production and environmental and social issues. Local extension and research institutions have realized that agroforestry is a viable practice to overcome monoculture constraints (relying on one source of income only, rubber prices volatility etc) and provide environmental services. This new opening of local institutions to alternative agroforestry systems lead to more recognition and now promotion of environmental friendly and socially responsible rubber cultivation. Meanwhile, studies in the 2000’s in Indonesia and recently in Thailand in 2015/2016 show that agroforestry systems do limit various types of risks under different socio-economic conditions (erosion, price volatility etc.). The focus of the communication is put on rubber agroforestry systems history, advantages and recent findings in Thailand to overcome rubber price un-stability and maintain farmers’ income and resilience through diversification (fruits, legumes and timber) where innovation platform could be developed on existing knowledge and know-how.
Keywords: rubber agroforestry, Indonesia, Thailand, resilience, price volatility, sustainability, smallholders