Shifting cultivation

Shifting cultivation is a traditional, sustainable method of agriculture which has been practised by indigenous tribes for centuries. It occurs in areas of the Amazon rainforest, Central and West Africa and Indonesia. Along with other aspects of their culture and traditional way of life, it is under threat from large-scale clearance of the forests.

A burning section of the Amazon in Para State, Brazil
A burning section of the Amazon in Para State, Brazil
  • A small area of land is cleared and the vegetation burned, providing a source of nutrients from the ash.
  • For a few years the soil remains sufficiently fertile for the tribe to grow crops.
  • When the soil's fertility is exhausted, the tribe moves on and clears another small area of forest.
  • The original area is regenerated, as it receives nutrients and seeds from surrounding vegetation.
  • As no lasting damage occurs, this method of agriculture is sustainable.
  • It is sometimes called 'slash and burn' agriculture.