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Swidden being a widespread form of land use in the tropics comprehensively defining it become a difficult task. Its characteristics embrace different types of topography, demographic feature, ethnic and ecological diversities. It also varies in terms of cropping pattern, frequency of land use, tools and methods of practice. It is argued that the institutions governing swidden are static in nature and do not adapt to the requirements of the changing ecological and social needs. This necessitates understanding what characterise institutions in a traditional swiddening society, and hence, changes in these characteristics to appreciate whether swidden is a static form of agriculture or changing over the time and space. There are a few aspects, which underscore the institutional face of swidden. Though, population growth plays a crucial role in swiddening system, it is not a necessary condition that the changes in agricultural institutions are guided by the population factor alone. There are also other forms of institutions to understand whether the swidden system of production is static or not. These include, land -use choices vis-a-vis property right structures and labour sharing arrangements, forms of integration with market, changing technology. They depict the economic interface with institutions. Development and changes in the customs and norms are a few of the analytically complex and notable in stitutional changes in swidden. Considering these factors, we attempt to understand the institutional changes observed in the swidden system. Based on the field survey in five swiddening villages of Orissa, we find varying characteristics of changes in the above discussed institutions that call for a comprehensive understanding of the development processes.


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