Shifting Cultivation, also known as slash-andburn agriculture, is when farmers clear land by slashing vegetation and burning forests and woodlands to create clear land for agricultural purposes. It was a remarkable innovation during primitive cultures and a transition between food gathering and food production. Even in the modern age, the system is widely adopted in different parts of the world. Shifting cultivation was a first step in the direction of food production during early civilization. Shifting cultivation is the oldest system of cultivation of crops. Now shifting cultivation has become a source of ecological degradation, soil erosion and converting good forest areas into waste lands. Ingty and Goswami (1979) suggest that abrupt change from shifting cultivation to settled cultivation may not succeed due to various problem. Therefore, the shifting cultivators may first be involved in Taungya cultivation and gradually efforts may be made for settled agriculture.
Process of cultivation
First, farmers have to find a designated spot where they want to plant, somewhere that is close to their villages or settlements. Before they can plant, they have to remove the plants and vegetation that
normally covers the land. Using axes and machetes, farmers cut down most of the tall trees, which normally help bring down the smaller tress. Next the farmers burn the debris under carefully controlled conditions. Whenever it rains, the rain comes and washes the fresh ashes into the soil, providing the needed nutrients. The cleared area, is known as a swidden. The cleared land can support crops only up to three years or less. After those three years, the soil nutrients are rapidly depleted and the land becomes too infertile to nourish crops. When the swidden is no longer fertile, the villagers and farmers find a new site to begin clearing out. They leave the old site uncropped for many years, allowing it to go back to its normal vegetation state, this could take up to twenty years.
Crops Of Shifting Cultivation
Most families grow for subsistence purposes, just to eat and live, so one swidden might have a large variety of crops. In other cases, the crops grown by each village vary by local customs and taste. The predominant crops include upland rice in Southeast Asia, maize (corn) and manioc (cassava) in South America, and sorghum in Africa. Yams, sugarcane, plantain, and vegetables are also grown in some regions. These crops have originated in one region of shifting cultivation and have diffuses to other regions in recent years.
Advantages Of Shifting Cultivation
1. It helps used land to get back all lost nutrients and as long as no damage occurs therefore, this form of agriculture is one of the most sustainable methods. 2. The land can be easily recycled or regenerated thus; it receives seeds and nutrients from the nearing vegetation or environment. 3. Shift farming saves a wide range of resources and provides nutrients because a small area is usually cleared and the burned vegetation offers many nutrients. 4. It helps to ensure more productivity and sustainability of agriculture. 5. In shift farming, it is easy to grow crops after the process of slash and burn. This is why shifting agriculture is also popularly known as slashandburn farming. 6. It is an environmentally friendly mode of farming as it is organic. 7. Shift cultivation is a mode or form of weed control. 8. It also plays a crucial role in pest control. 9. Soil bone diseases is also reduced significantly through shifting mode of farming. 10. It also reduces the rate of environmental degradation.
Disadvantages Of Shifting Cultivation
1. It can easily lead to deforestation because when soil fertility is exhausted, farmers move on and clear another small area of the forest.
2. Shift farming can easily cause soil erosion and desertification. 3. It destroys water sheds.
4. Shift farming is uneconomical.
5. It easily leads to loss of biodiversity. 6. Water pollution in coastal areas easily occur because of raw sewage and oil residue. 7. Shifting mode of farming restricts the intensity of land use.