Secondary forests, commodity frontiers and the micro-politics of land claims: Struggling to build smallholder forest futures

Last changed: 28 November 2022

How do specific commodity frontiers reshape smallholder secondary forestry and with what effects? How do different social actors understand what secondary forest areas should be used for? The project examines how the cultivation of two commercial crops (cocoa, oil palm) in Peru generates new borderlands and drives interconnected processes.

Secondary forests account for 70% of tropical forest areas. Despite the importance of these forests’ re-growth to climate change mitigation and livelihoods of poor smallholders living in them, they are almost invisible in research and of low priority in climate change agendas.

Secondary forest areas are typically located in rural ‘frontiers’, where commodity crops expand and where government presence, authority and legitimacy is limited and land rights are contested.

Taking the Peruvian Amazon as a case, this research will engage with two commodity frontiers (cacao, oil palm). We will explore how these commodity frontiers reshape smallholder secondary forest and the role of the law, the state, the market and smallholder land claims in relation to the making of diverse tropical secondary forest landscapes.

We will explore the assemblages of commodity frontier actors around these commodity frontiers. Knowledge of how regrowth is enabled or hindered socially and politically in tropical landscapes, where competition for land is high and the state has limited control, is crucial for supporting future global/national forest policy and climate adaptation/ mitigation agendas.

It also contributes to improving the livelihoods of poor and forest dependent households. We will use village studies to capture the local dynamics of commodity frontiers. This will be combined with analyses of commodity markets, relevant policies and laws and their implementation.


Project leader

Kristina Marquardt, Associate Professor, Researcher, Division of Rural Development, SLU, +4618672099
Read more about Kristina Marquardt on her CV page
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Project participants

Örjan Bartholdson, Senior Lecturer, Division of Rural Development, SLU, +4618673395
Read more about Örjan Bartholdson on his CV page
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Adam Pain, Researcher, Division of Rural Development, SLU, +4618671140
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Project time


External funding

Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet)

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