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Does ‘jungle rubber’ deserve its name? An analysis of rubber agroforestry systems in southeast Sumatra


Jungle rubber is a blanced, diversified system derived from swidden cultivation, in which man-made forests with a high concentration of rubber trees replace fallows. Most of the income comes from rubber, complemented with temporary food and cash crops during the early years. Perennial species that grow spontaneously with rubber provide fruits, fuelwood and timber, mostly for household consumption. Jungle rubber enables lower incomes per land unit or man-day than weed-free plantations using selected rubber clones. Yet it requires much less input and labour since wild woody species protect rubber from grass weeds and mammalian predators. With a structure and biodiversity similar to that of secondary forest in its mature phase, jungle rubber belongs to complex agroforestry systems. It has accommodated increasing population densities, while preserving a forest-like environment.

Yet farmers' income from jungle rubber is declining due to the exhaustion of forest reserves and reduced land availability. New research and extension options could help in improving the productivity of jungle rubber. Better transportation and marketing are needed for increasing the income from non-rubber output. Short-term, small-scale credit schemes could help farmers adopt high-yielding rubber varieties. Research should participate in creating new management methods for selected rubber based on agroforestry to reduce maintenance costs, enabling smallholders to plant high-yielding rubber at lower cost, and without losing too much of the present biodiversity and economic diversity.


Dérivées de l'essartage, les forêts à hévéa forment un système de culture équilibré et diversifié, où le recrû forestier est remplacé par une forêt anthropique à forte concentration d'hévéas. L'essentiel du revenu provient des hévéas, complétés par des cultures vivrières et commerciales pendant les premières années. Les espèces prérennes qui se développent spontanément avec les hévéas fournissent des fruits et du bois, principalement pour l'autoconsommation. Le revenu tiré de ce système est inférieur à celui de plantations d'hévéa clonal entretenues. Il nécessite cependant moins d'investissements en intrants et en travail grâce au rôle protecteur de courvert forestier vis-à-vis des adventices herbacées et des mannifères prédateurs. Avec une structure et une diversité d'espèces comparable à celles d'une forêt secondaire, ce système fait partie des agroforêts complexes. Il a fourni depuis 1910 l'essentiel du revenu d'une population en croissance rapide tout en préservant un environnement forestier.

Le revenu que tirent les paysans des forêts à hévéa est en déclin en raison de l'augmentation de la population. De nouvelles orientations de la recherche et du développement pourraient permettre d'améliorer la productivité de ce système. Le revenu tiré de la composante nonhévéa pourrait être augmenté grâce à une amélioration des transports et de la commercialisation. Le crédit à court terme et à petite échelle permettrait aux paysans d'adopter des variétés d'hévéa sélectionné et d'augmenter ainsi leurs revenus. La recherche devrait aider à mettre au point de nouvelles méthodes de gestion des hévéas sélectionnés, de type agroforestier, afin de réduire les coûts d'entretien. Les paysans purraient ainsi planter des hévéas hauts producteurs à moindres frais, et conserver partiellement la diversité économique et écologique du système actuel.

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Gouyon, A., de Foresta, H. & Levang, P. Does ‘jungle rubber’ deserve its name? An analysis of rubber agroforestry systems in southeast Sumatra. Agroforest Syst 22, 181–206 (1993).

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Key words

  • Indonesia
  • Sumatra
  • smallholder
  • rubber
  • fruit trees
  • timber
  • firewood
  • agroforestry
  • farming system
  • economics