1 minute read

Slash-and-Burn Agriculture

Shifting Cultivation, Problems Of Tropical Deforestation

Slash-and-burn is an agricultural system used in tropical countries, in which a forest is cut, the debris is burned, and the land is then used to grow crops. Slash-and-burn conversions are relatively stable and long-term in nature, and they are the leading cause of tropical deforestation.

Usually, some type of slash-and-burn system is used when extensive areas of tropical forest are converted into large scale, industrial agriculture, usually intended to supply commodities for an export market, rather than for local use. The slash-and-burn system is also widely used by individual, poor farmers when they develop agricultural land for subsistence farming and to supply cash goods to a local market. The poor farmers operate on a smaller scale, but there are many such people, so that huge areas are ultimately affected.

Slash-and-burn agriculture often follows soon after the natural tropical forest has been commercially logged, mostly because the network of logging roads that is constructed allows access to the otherwise almost impenetrable forest interior. Slash-and-burn agriculture may also be facilitated by government agencies, through the construction of roads that are specifically intended to help poor, landless people convert the forest into agricultural land. In other cases, slash-and-burn occurs in the absence of logging and planned roads, as a rapidly creeping deforestation that advances as poor people migrate to the forest frontier in search of land on which to grow food.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Semiotics to Smelting