How Does the Iban of Sarawak, Malaysia Select Sites for Shifting Cultivation? A Case Study on the Iban Communities in Lubok Antu Region.
Mohd Effendi Wasli1, Sota Tanaka2, Joseph Jawa Kendawang3, Logie Seman3, Brangking Unang3, and Katsutoshi Sakurai1. (1) Faculty of Agriculture, Kochi Univ, B200 Monobe Otsu Nankoku 783-8502, Kochi, Japan, (2) Graduate School of Kuroshio Science, Kochi Univ, B200 Monobe Otsu Nankoku 783-8502, Nankoku, Japan, (3) Forestry Dept Sarawak, Wisma Sumber Alam 93660 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Site selection method for shifting cultivation by the Iban of Sarawak, Malaysia was studied to clarify the indigenous knowledge on indicator plants to discriminate soil fertility and to analyze the correlation between the plants and soil physicochemical properties. This study was conducted at 5 Iban's longhouses in Lubok Antu region. Two methods were applied for this study: field survey and interview on the knowledge of the local farmers. For the field survey, 18 suitable sites and 21 unsuitable sites for shifting cultivation were selected according to the farmer's perception for site selection based on their knowledge on indicator plants. Vegetation survey was conducted in the sites and the plants observed within the quadrates were recorded based on the Iban's nomenclature system. Soil survey was conducted and soil samples were collected for chemical analysis. The interview was conducted to the land owners to clarify whether each plant observed in the sites indicated fertile or infertile land and also about their indigenous knowledge on indicator plants in the site selection method. Totally, 275 kinds of plants were observed and only 51 plants observed in more than 4 sites were selected for further analysis. The plants which were strongly perceived to indicate infertile land by the Iban were Selap padi (Lycopodium sp.), Lalang (Imperata cylindrica) and Bedega' (Pteridium caudatum). These plants were commonly found in the unsuitable sites, especially at the early stages of fallow. On the other hand, those which were strongly perceived to indicate fertile land were Tekalong (Artocarpus elasticus), Bintangor (Callophyllum blancoi) and Terentang (Bucchannia arborescens). They were found with higher density in suitable sites compared to in unsuitable sites. The growths of these trees were higher at suitable sites in terms of the diameter. The relationship between these plants and the soil physicochemical properties were analyzed by using detrended correspondence analysis. Based on the results, during the early stages of the fallow period, the Iban discriminate soil fertility from the observation of the plants indicating infertile land but at the later stages of the fallow period, soil fertility were indicated based on the growth of the plants indicating fertile land. Keyword: site selection method, shifting cultivation, the Iban, indicator plants, Sarawak