“Slash and burn” farming is at least more sustainable than intensive farming, because it works on a rotating crop system. Typically a slash and burn system uses several fields, only one of which is in use at a time. The others are allow to grow over in the mean time. When it comes time for that field to be in use again, the farmers burn the vegetation that had grown over, which makes the soil more fertile. The problem with slash and burn farming is that it requires a relatively large amount of land relative to land that’s used for residence, so it can’t support a very large population.
Source: Cultural ecology class
Yes it is, if it is done correctly. It is also called shifting cultivation. Most cultures that use slash and burn have been doing it for a very very long time. So they know everything that has happened in their area. They can remember when a field was slashed and burned, and how long a field as been left fallow.
One important factor is timing the different phases. Some pieces of land that were slashed and burned many years ago may appear to be original forest because it has grown over with trees and underbrush. When a field is losing productivity, it is left fallow so that it can recover from being used to grow crops. Another field is slashed and burned so that the ashes can fertilize the soil. The process repeats every several years. Some fields may be left fallow for a decade or more. With enough space, time, and good knowledge of the land, slash and burn farming is sustainable.
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