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Would slash-and-burn be a better title? A-giau 03:50, 8 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Some people wouldn't think to put in the hyphens, so it should probably accept both. But grammatically it is indeed better (imo). Katzenjammer 18:07, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

I removed the "more efficient" characterization of the methods that replaced slash and burn ag; the nature of efficiency in ag systems is a complicated and slightly controversial topic, and seemed beyond the scope of that paragraph. --Belgrano 19:36, 12 August 2005 (UTC)but the herbs, who are chronicly insane.

To merge Slash-Burn with Shifting cultivation, or not to merge Slash-Burn with Shifting cultivation; that is the question.[edit]

I respectfully offer several arguments for leaving the Slash-Burn article:

  1. If you link to the term “slash-burn”, it is useful to get an article that actually describes what the term “slash-burn” traditionally means & not an article that begins by advising you that shifting cultivation is “In some cases wrongly as bush fallowing or slash and burn” without even explaining why slash-burn is an incorrect term.
  2. There are two views of a Wikipedia. One is traditional-length articles on a limited number of topics, similar to a traditional encyclopedia. Another view is that the Wikipedia should contain a number of useful short articles which are directly relevant to the topic. Those who favor the latter believe that in the Wikipedia, short articles frequently become absorbed by poorly structured, rambling larger articles. As a result they lose their usefulness as a link since the reader is now required to sort through unrelated material to gain the insight they seek.
  3. And avoiding the use of slash-burn, I feel, may be a form of political correctness (i.e., real or perceived attempts to impose limits on language, terms, and viewpoints in public discussion in order to avoid potentially offensive terminology). Slash-burn may be viewed by some as primitive and possibly sounding pejorative. It is, however, a term that has been used for years and is found in many publications. It has a more limited meaning than shifting cultivation. It is a historically useful term and should not be discarded so casually.

I recognize my views are not shared by all, and will respect the actual majority position. But I would request that if the decision is to proceed, someone post an interim copy of slash-burn while it is being integrated so others can confirm those elements some of us value are carried into the integrated article. Williamborg 01:48, 18 March 2006 (UTC)"SLASH AND BURN" means that Emily is the most common beautiful name in the world and I personally think that! Also that it came from amoung the emilay's of the world.BAM!

To my amusement, I see the slash-burn discussion link comes here while the discussion appears on the Shifting cultivation page. Williamborg 02:03, 18 March 2006 (UTC)

Merge - Provided that Slash and burn remains as a redirect to Shifting cultivation. The term "slash and burn" is undeniably loaded, but more seriously, it only identifies one aspect of this agricultural technique. Broadening the concept's treatment is, I think, a valuable thing. Waitak 03:56, 25 March 2006 (UTC)

Leave 'Slash-and-burn' is the traditional term for this very primitive, potentially disasterous method of agriculture. I think most people who know about it at all know about it under that name (for my part, I'd never heard of 'shifting cultivation' in my life). Katzenjammer 18:07, 15 April 2006 (UTC)

strongly oppose merger....these are separate objects. as far as political correctness, the natives who do this im madagascar call it "slash and burn". Covalent 04:05, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

time to tally merger vote[edit]

we ve had plenty of time to vote on this merger...over 8 months. i count 7 opposed and 3 in favour by reading both pages' entries. lets take a week for any last comments, but really the benefit of the doubt on mergers should always go to those who believe the articles are intrinsically about different things. regards Covalent 23:16, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

Ok, then would someone please tell what should be in one article and what should be in the other? And keep in mind WP:RS. Guettarda 02:39, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

slash and burn article: describes the practice of slash and burn as a short term strategy of maximizing ag yield, without regard for long term (more than five yrs) consequences. almost invariably leads to either long term soil loss through erosion or soil exhaustion denying future use. the natives that use slash and burn methods in madagascar acknowledge the practice and the term. they would think it foolish to refer to their activities by a politically correct (and wrong) term as "shifting agriculture". the natives who practice slash and burn may not be ecological idealogues but they arent stupid. they do this to allow their families to survive for another year.
shifting cultivation, i believe, is a broader term than slash and burn. i think we need several different authors to piece this whole thing together, because i believe shifting cultivation properly embraces many centuries of somewhat differing practices (including conversion of temperate forest land into sustainable grazing land and in some cases proper crop rotation), whereas slash and burn generally refers to the tropics and subtropics in present day subsistent farming. in short i think slash and burn is a small subset (in time and location) of slash and burn. regards Covalent 04:48, 28 May 2006 (UTC)
And your sources are...? "I believe" does not meet policy requirements for reliable sources. Without sources, the above violates policy on original research. Guettarda 15:43, 28 May 2006 (UTC)
rather argumentative arent we guettarda :) ? first of all this is a talk page and we dont post the citations here customarily. as i do editing on these articles i shall attempt to cite references whenever applicable. For example in an edit i just made to shifting cultivation i cited a good technical article on Belgian Congo practices. (by the way you can check out my articles created and see that i tend to use voluminous citations when i write on wikeipedia :). secondly i stated that i dont have all the answers, but i attempted to state my beliefs (perfectly appropriate for a talk page} on how the two articles might differ. perhaps you could lighten up and contribute in a constructive way to what is happening here Covalent 17:56, 28 May 2006 (UTC)
In my experience, the terms are synonymous. Now, I may be wrong in my interpretation, my readings of the literature may be overly limited - but if that's the case, would someone please provide sources to support their position? Is that an unreasonable request? Your suggestions above violate WP:NOR - you have taken your view on things and come up with a novel distinction between the terms. There's a reason we have a policy on original research.
It appears that the argument towrds keeping the articles separate boils down to the idea that we should keep "slash and burn" (which is bad) separate from "shifting cultivation" (which is not bad). That is a clear violation of WP:NPOV and probably is a POV fork.  :::::So, you are asking me to "contribute in a constructive way" to what appears to me to be a clear violation of policy. That's an insult. Crappy articles hurt Wikipedia's credibility. Simple enough. You are making the assertion that these are separate ideas. This is, in my experience, a novel idea. That is, of course, entirely aside from the fact that you closed a vote in which you had participated - yet another unacceptable action. And, when asked for sources, you reply with "I believe..." Would someone please do the simple courtesy of supplying a source which supports your interpretation? Surely someone is basing their actions on something more than OR? Guettarda 18:33, 28 May 2006 (UTC)
whoa guettarda !!! now look who really has the POV. you are saying "slash and burn" is bad. "slash and burn" is simply a technique of farming...who are you to say it or its name is "bad". the term is used extensively in the literature and by the natives who do it. now as for the source, ive posted it in two different places. i ll just refer you here to the article itself of shifting cultivation and you can see a reference to Belgian Congo farming which illustrates that shifting cultivation can be a long term stable practice with little or no "slash and burn" component... by the way i certainly meant no insult by inviting you to constructively participate. i just wanted to stimulate you to provide some substantive ideas instead of complain about other people. cheers Covalent 03:07, 29 May 2006 (UTC)
Wow. Talk about twisting someone's words. If I say that they are the same, how can honestly say that I am saying one is bad and one is good? How about reading what people wrote? The general sense in the discussion what that some people in favour of the split wanted to keep the "good" use separate from the "bad". And it isn't limited to this discussion - people who want to portray it in a negative way tend to use "slash and burn" (which sounds destructive). People looking for a more neutral term use "shifting agriculture". Of course, as I said, the terms are synonymous. But you chose to ignore that and misrepresent what I had to say, twisting my words into something I did not say. As for your "Bantus" in the "Belgian Congo", "natived" in Madagascar...seriously, what century do you live in? The paper did not, as you claimed in the article, describe a system of shifting agriculture which did not include "slash and burn". It made the kind of clueless, patronising recommendations about how to "improve" agriculture - the kinds of recommendations that have led to huge failed colonisation programmes in Brazil and Indonesia. Using cattle pasture to regenerate fertility? Yeah, right. Cattle pasture leads to soil compaction and soil erosion and often an irreversible loss of soil fertility. Of course, the source you dug up to support your allegation was 50 years old. And it still didn't say what you tried to make it say. Why do you insist on POV-pushing and on twisting what others say (both me and your source), claiming that people say what they don't say? Are you serously trying to make Wikipedia into a joke? Belgian Congo? Did you somehow miss the last 46 years, three majors wars and the Rwandan genocide? Guettarda 14:49, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

lets try to focus on the subject here. your digressions to genocide, failed colonisation, major wars and ad hominem attacks such as "which century do you live in" only reveal an inherent POV agenda. you have provided a number of sources, most of which merely use "slash and burn" and "shifting cultivation" in the same article. using the phrases in the same article doesnt make them the same. now your definition quotes are your best offerings. the definitions themselves are different. "slash and burn" is correctly stated as a method (some call it an element or technique within a larger farming system). your quoted definition says "shifting cultivation" is a system. as many of us know a system can embrace and include many elements or methods. "shifting cultivation" often employs "slash and burn" as an element or method within its total cycle of clearing, cropping, fallowing etc. by the way who says "slash and burn" is bad. its just a tool (of many) available to shifting cultivators. regards Covalent 17:49, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

My "inherently POV agenda"? What the heck are you talking about? You're the one who is misquoting 50-year-old references to support your POV, choosing to refer to non-existent countries. I have asked for any references to support your POV - you have failed to supply any that actually do (your misquoted reference doesn't count, since it doesn't say what you claim it says - maybe you should have read it). You also ignore copious references, from highly reputable sources, from the experts on the subject, and continue to adhere to your original definition of the terminology. Guettarda 21:44, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Great Improvement[edit]

Thanks. You've done what this article has needed for a while—clarified that it is actually a subcategory of Shifting cultivation. If one waits long enough at Wikipedia (and sometimes you have to wait since you don't have the expertise yourself) somebody steps up and does the job right! This is what I like about the Wikipedia; many hands make easy work. Williamborg 13:20, 28 May 2006 (UTC)

thanks for the kind words. but there is a lot of work left to do on these two articles. cheers Covalent 17:50, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Sources II[edit]

These terms actually are used synonymously. For example

OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms

  • Slash and burn: Slash-and—burn agriculture is a method of cultivation whereby areas of the forest are burnt and cleared for planting. When soil fertility declines, cultivation shifts to a new plot. [1]
  • Shifting agriculture: Shifting agriculture is a system of cultivation in which a plot of land is cleared and cultivated for a short period of time, then abandoned and allowed to revert to producing its normal vegetation while the cultivator moves on to another plot. [2]

From The Peregrine Fund [3] Shifting cultivation--also known as swidden agriculture or slash-and-burn farming, and in México and Central America, as "milpa" agriculture--is the predominant style of farming in many portions of the globe's humid tropics, supporting millions of families worldwide

Towards a Practical Classification of Slash-and-Burn Agricultural Systems - Sam Fujisaka and German Escobar (UK Overseas Development Institute 1997)

Since 1992 the International Centre for Research on Agroforestry (ICRAF) has coordinated a global project seeking to develop technical and policy ‘Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn’ (ASB), where slash-and-burn is taken to include shifting cultivation and swidden agriculture.

Holscher D.; Ludwig B.; Moller R.F.; Folster H. 1997. Dynamic of soil chemical parameters in shifting agriculture in the Eastern Amazon. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 66, Number 2, 1 December 1997, pp. 153-163 [4]

From the abstract: In Northeast Para, Brazil, shifting agriculture by land settlers has been practiced for around 100 years. After a common cropping period of 2 years the fields are left fallow for 4 to 8 years. Changes in extractable cations and C, N, and P of soils were studied on six fields which were under different phases of the rotational cycle. The chemical composition of soil solutions was also monitored for a period of 19 months. In topsoils, the differences in C and N contents and extractable Ca and Al could be related to the landuse history expressed as time elapsed since last burn. Repeated sampling on two ' slash and burn ' plots, showed significant increases in pH, CEC, extractable K, Ca and Mg, but decreases in extractable Na and Al, C and N content in the plots from 7-year old fallow to the first-year cropping field.

Bowman DMJS, Woinarski JCZ, Sands DPA, Wells A, McShane, VJ. 1990. Slash-and-burn agriculture in the wet coastal lowlands of Paua New Guinea: reponses of birds, butterflies and reptiles. Journal of Biogrography 17:227-239

From the article (second paragraph): With the notbale exception of Australia, slash-and-burn or swidden agriculture is a major land-use impact upon tropical forest ecosystems. In Papua New Guinea, swidden agriculutre has occurred for at least 5000 years... Powell (1976) provides a description of shifting cultivation in the lowlands of PNG.

Toky OP, Ramakrishnan PS. 1983. Secondary succession following slash and burn agriculutre in north-eastern India. I. Biomass, litterfall and productivity. Journal of Ecology 71(735-745)

From the article (first paragraph): Over large areas of north-eastern India, slash and burn agriculture (known as 'Jhum') is practised and secondary succession on abandoned farms rehabilitate the land for renewed cropping. (second paragraph): The agricultural system involves cutting the vegetation, burning the debris and cropping for a year or more before abandoning the site. The farmer then moves to other sites. The interval before returning o to the same site used to be about 20-30 years but has been reduced to 4-5 years owing to an increase in human population density (Ramakrishnan & Toky 1978, Ramakrishnan et al. 1981). This recent shortening in the shifting agriculture cycle...

So, again - would someone please provide a reference which actually says that the two terms are different? Because everything I can find says that they are the same. Guettarda 14:51, 29 May 2006 (UTC)

Deforestation versus slash and burn.[edit]

Deleted the material: "THIS WAS VASTLY OVERSHADOWED by the 26,000 square kilometers of forest that was lost throughout the Amazon in one year, mainly for cattle ranching. In fact, for every 1/4 lb hamburger consumed in the US from rainforest beef, about 55 square feet of rainforest was cleared. Although many fast food chains claim not to use rainforest beef, this claim is simply not valid. The USDA doesn't have an adequate system of labeling where beef is from. Thus beef grown in the rainforest can pass through a processing plant in the US and still be labeled as domestic meat."

This material, with appropriate references, could legitimately be added to deforistation.

If you transfer it, please provide an appropraite reference in the deforestation article as some of the assertions are likely to be subject to debate (and Wikipedia has plenty of debate, but minimizing it with references saves time and emotional distress).

Thanks for this contribution to Wiki - Williamborg 01:38, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

Cleanup Needed[edit]

- This article does not cite any sources.

- This article needs to be cleaned up slightly to make the distinction between deforestation through burning, and burning of forests in general. It can give the impression that all burning is detrimental, which can lead to misconceptions as fire is a natural occurance, and necessary in many forests to prompt ecological cycles of birth and decay - such as germination of vegetation, or clearing out old growth to make way for new. Burns are done intentionally in some types of forest for beneficial purposes, to follow the required ecology, or avoid later large-scale fires that damage the forest significantly or threaten habitation.

- This article needs to be presented in a more encyclopedic NPoV style. The agricultural method is not the problem directly, much of today's excessive use and deforestation are, and are major concerns. This is similar to how the hunting of buffalo (by a large number of people) was sustainable in North America for thousands of years in a stable ecological balance, while excessive hunting (link) by significantly fewer numbers drove the population to near-extinction in a generation. The misuse or overuse of an otherwise sustainable method (hunting) is the problem (in this case, an agricultural method).

Proposed organization of the article:
1) Method and Use: description, and how it is part of a) shifting agriculture or b) permanent removal of the forest.
2) History: examples and background, current use, locations where it is used today.
3) Problems in Today's World: a) their causes (overpopulation, missing knowledge of soil conservation, intention for permanent deforestation) and b) effects (soil depletion, loss of diversity, loss of sustainability, deforestation). More extensive details on each subject (soil fertility, deforestation, and the ramifications of transitioning from a shifting agricultural system to a stationary irrigation system) can be cross-summarized, and mutually included in each others' Further Reading, to keep each article concise.

If it is OK, I will attempt to organize these articles in a few week's time and find sources for citation.

Thalassicus01 03:51, 30 November 2006 (UTC)

your interest in this article is welcomed. the need for sources is particularly welsome. your proposal for re-organization is puzzling. considerable work has been applied by multiple authors to produce the present organization. the main problems i see in your outline is the compression of so much important material into a "problems" section. perhaps the "causes" discussion could go into the history section.

now to the tricky part. you are entering this discussion in a cloak of NPOV and yet your very premises are highly POV. who says fire in ALL forests is "necessary"? furthermore your statement of slash and burn being "not the problem directly" seems very POV on your part, and scientifically unfounded; in fact, slash and burn in many tropical forests is in many cases irreversible in consequences. slash and burn is being applied today in some forests that have never been touched, and with the tropical nutrient deficient soils, the outcome can lead to desertification and in many cases species extinction. one thing we certainly agree on is the need for sources and getting rid of the trivia section. why not go slow and see what a consensus can evolve here. regards Anlace 06:05, 30 November 2006 (UTC)


Forgive me, I did use too many absolutes, and have reworded my post. I didn't even realize this topic had any attention, it hasn't been addressed in some time and the article on Shifting Agriculture (especially) is in need of organization, which led me here.

In regards to the question of organization, the above outline is the same structure as the agricultural articles on Crop Rotation, Irrigation, and Farming (Method, History, Problems, the third included in the last two articles). The first section can be approximately as long as the current "Defined" section, and History the same length, with the third about twice that length (about the same length as the second two sections in the current article). Overall article length would be current + History, as there's not much discussion of the history in the article right now, which would include an overview/maps of where it is used today. The third section can detail specific regions today while discussing overpopulation, knowledge dispersion, and intent of use, leading to the effects of soil depletion, loss of diversity, and loss of arable land.

Human agriculture depletes the soil of nutrients to convert those nutrients into a form which we can use. The key to sustainability is if there a net gain or loss of nutrients when taking in to account a specific: method, location, use of method. All of these factor into it, location, method, or use alone are not the sole cause. Monocropping, excessive herding, excessive slash-and-burn, and other practices can all lead to severe, permanent soil depletion, which US farmers suffered the effects of in the 1930's. This is supported in the fields of soil science, biology, anthropology, and agriculture, and an understanding of the underlying systems is important to understanding how misuse can be so destructive. Here are some examples I was able to dig up in just a few minutes, I will have more time to do proper source-gathering in a few weeks.

"The objective of this study was to assess the near- and long-term impact of traditional slash-and-burn agriculture on soil fertility in the village of Kembera, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Soil fertility is widely viewed as one of the key limits to sustainable production in slash-and-burn agroecosystems. A chronosequence of sites ranging from currently cultivated swiddens to a 28-yr fallow was surveyed. Organic C, cation exchange capacity (CEC), pH, nitrate, extractable basic cations, available and total P, and extractable Al were measured as indicators of soil fertility. Inferred short-term trends point to significantly improved soil fertility conditions after burning in currently cropped swiddens relative to fallows. During the fallow, soil organic C, CEC, nitrate, total P, and extractable basic cations all manifest positive associations with fallow length after 3 to 11 yr of fallow. No declines in soil parameters were detected between plots based on the frequency of past slash-and-burn activity. Therefore, there is no evidence that slash-and-burn agriculture in Kembera has degraded these soil resources. While the results of this study suggest that slash-and-burn agriculture in Kembera has been ecologically sustainable, recent changes in socioeconomic factors influencing farmer's land-use decisions cast doubt upon the future sustainability of this agroecosystem." --

"It is true that rain forests are being burnt for farming and grazing land. This practice has been common for thousands of years and is not necessarily harmful, although a major concern today. Small groups of people can survive indefinitely by clearing and burning a small area, planting a garden, and then moving on after a few years when the soil fertility declines to the point where plants do not grow well. These small plots cultivated by "swidden" horticulturists recover to original wild vegetation within a few years, and are not a threat to the long-term viability of the rain forest ecosystem. However, the last few decades have seen a different kind of "slash-and-burn" agriculture taking place: commercial cattle herders will clear huge tracts of forest in order to allow grasses and shrubs to grow for animal fodder. The cattle are grazed for a few years and then taken to market and sold for a profit. The practice is very profitable because forest land is cheap, and sometimes governments of tropical countries just give it away. However, tropical soils are very poor and cannot sustain growth for more than a few years without the rain forest cover to recycle nutrients rapidly. When a large area is cleared, the wild forest around the edges cannot reclaim the whole area very quickly so large clearings take longer to recover than small plots. If all the wild forest is cleared, the land may never again be productive." -- Don Libby, PhD.

"The ensuing agrarian reforms provided a firmer footing for some of the rural poor, but they marginalized indigenous lifeways. By pressing peasants to grow more of certain crops to sell at market, they eroded indigenous knowledge of crop varieties and techniques. Amazonian groups were affected by land reforms in a special way. The reforms failed to recognize the indigenous, swidden-based use of the forest, which involved cutting and burning patches of forest to create temporary fields, and later letting the forest regenerate. Governments thought swidden lands were unused. By opening them to ranchers, planters, and loggers, all of whom permanently clear-cut the land, reformers unintentionally wrecked ecologically sound practices." -- "Native Americans of Middle and South America,"

Thalassicus01 07:36, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

Merge from Slash and burn farming[edit]

I merged a redundant article into this one, adding two paragraphs. They still need some cleanup of their own, including sources. The second paragraph may repeat some information, as well. - Bootstoots 04:30, 6 January 2007 (UTC)


I searched for Swidden and ended up here, where there is a link to swidden, which redirects here again. The page Shifting cultivation has some info on swidden tucked away in it. I'm still not quite clear on what swidden means, but perhaps Swidden should redirect to Shifting cultivation instead of Slash and burn, since that is where there is some actual info about swidden? Pfly 03:54, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Makes sense. -- Paleorthid 15:43, 30 January 2007 (UTC)
Well, after thinking about it, and reading more, I decided to just add a brief definition of swidden here, as it is more directly related to slash and burn than shifting cultivation, as I understand it. Plus the shifting cultivation page is rather rambling. Pfly 03:39, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Swidden as a relatively NPOV name for article?[edit]

I only just found this page the other day, so I may be coming from left field, but it sounds like there is debate over what to call an article on the practice of agriculture using fire to burn fields before planting. It seems that both "slash and burn" and "shifting agriculture" are used to refer to this practice. But "slash and burn" as a term has negative connotations. The OED even offers secondary definitions of "slash and burn" that mean a general destructiveness of any kind ("slash and burn politics" for example). On the other hand, "shifting agriculture" seems a vague term. I didn't think it would always imply the use of fire, although a quick bit of research seems to indicate it does. So neither term seems ideal.

I've been reading Stephen J. Pyne's book "Vestal Fire", which seems to be a grand history of the use of fire. Early on in the book he notes this problem with the terms slash and burn and shifting agriculture and says, on pp. 35-36, "...the fire-fallow cycle begged for a common term, and anthropologists responded. Shifting cultivation, slash-and-burn agriculture, field-forest rotations have all served. But swidden has generally triumphed as the generic designation since the time it was introduced into the literature in 1951 by K.G. Izikowitz... Its origins as Norse, transferred to northern England during the Viking era. ... By the twenthieth century it was virtually forgotten. ... for that reason, perhaps, it lacked the denigratory connotations attached to alternative terms, and can serve ably as a generic expression. Certainly swidden is simpler than fire-fallow system."

Through the rest of the book, Pyne uses the term swidden in this way. I don't know if Pyne is a well-respected and established fire historian or a marginal one, or if swidden really is a good generic term that has "triumphed" over slash-and-burn and shifting agriculture. But the argument that it lacks the negative connotations seems apt.

Anyway I'm just throwing the suggestion out there. Other pages could redirect to Swidden, which could have an introduction explaining essentially what I just wrote above about terms for this ancient, still widespread, not-always-bad but today generally frowned-upon practice. The text of the article could use whatever terms seem best -- slash and burn perhaps mostly since it is a common one today. Thoughts? Pfly 04:04, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

Oppose use of swidden for name for the following reasons.
  • First, the term "swidden" is most commonly associated with temperate regions, whereas most of the phenomena today occur in the tropics.
  • Second, the term "swidden" is most associated with past eras. Wikipedia serves its readers best by being in the present.
  • Third, the term "slash-and-burn" is by far the most widely used term in the literature compared to "swidden".
  • Fourth, the term "slash-and-burn" is very descriptive. Wikipedia already suffers from many articles lacking descriptive names.
  • Fifth, the term "swidden" would be a desperate attempt to be politically correct, but only result in more confusion.
  • Sixth, the term "swidden" is really technically incorrect, since temperate soils can recover from nutrient extraction in a way that tropical soils cannot, with their nutrient poor state. Thus the renaming would apply temperate soil chemistry to the regimes where "slash and burn" is most commonly practised.
  • Seventh, this naming discussion has quite a history covering several talk pages on Wikipedia articles with the result being the present namings. I hope we wont re-open the same long painful discussions. Covalent 04:38, 31 January 2007 (UTC)

References needed[edit]

I added a "citation needed" tag to this claim:

... most of the Madagascar central highlands plateau is permanently rendered infertile and unproductive, due to large scale erosion that resulted from the adverse surface runoff deriving from the practice of slash-and-burn.

Because, for one, "permanent" means "forever", which is an awfully long time. Two, as I understand it, slash and burn was just one factor among many that contributed. A countertheory to the usual one blaming slash and burn is that under French control, attempts were made to control and restrict traditional burning, which along with the creation of forest reserves and parks where fire was strictly forbidden, encouraged large catastrophic wildfires and much more soil erosion than had been the case before French control. In addition, there is a widely held theory that sees Madagascar as an island once completely covered in a dense forest, which the Malagasy ruined through massive deforestation and fire. This theory, as I understand it, is based mainly on a romantic speculation rather than good science.

For these reasons I've added the "citation needed" tag. My sources give quite a different picture of the environmental history of Madagascar. I am not trying to defend slash and burn (I am overly fond of forests!), but I think the prevailing views of the Western world are too sweepingly negative, condemning any practice of woods-burning by default. Smoky the Bear, spokesbear for the timber industry, tells us so! Pfly 07:36, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Wow, this has been here close to a year. I'd forgotten. Since a reference does not seem to be coming, I'll remove the claim. Pfly (talk) 23:55, 3 January 2008 (UTC)

Ecological implications[edit]

This section is biased. Any of the problems mentioned would be far worse with static farming, and the example given of returning to the same site is not a classic slash-and-burn technique.

It would be simpler to say clearing forest leads to deforestation. But that is a truism.

In fact, if done on an appropriate level, i.e. at which the forest is allowed to regenerate, slash-and-burn is ecologically neutral.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:04, 22 September 2012 (UTC)


Someone seems to have a axe to grind about Madagascar. Consider this passage:

In some cases such as parts of Madagascar, as well as many other places, slash-and-burn may have no cyclical aspects (e.g., slash-and-burn activities can render soils incapable of further yields for decades), or may be practiced on its own as a single cycle farming activity with no follow on cropping cycle. Shifting cultivation normally implies the existence of a cropping cycle component, whereas slash-and-burn actions may or may not be followed by cropping.

If it is not followed by cropping it is not slash-and-burn agriculture. If it is not shifting, then it hardly fits the bill either.

I'm deleting this.--Jack Upland (talk) 08:14, 22 September 2012 (UTC)

Actually, it seems that the section of ecological impacts is superficial and should be developed. What is happening in Madagascar probably is more of an example of what happens with commercialization, not so much a lesson about slash and burn generally. Note that at the top of the article, slash and burn is introduced as a technique which can be a part of shifting cultivation. But then confusion is introduced when it is presented as a form of agriculture in its own right. Perhaps it can be said that sometimes the term has been used to refer to shifting cultivation. But it can also be a method of forest clearing and deforestation, particularly under conditions of commercialization. Because of this, legitimate swidden cultivators are often removed from land to establish depopulated parks and preservation areas, or else to move people off lands to open them up to commercial exploitation of various sorts. For this reason many people working with indigenous groups are vary careful to specify what they are doing is swidden. The anthropologists John Bodley and Robert Mc Netting, and the economist Ester Boserup, all use the term "forest fallow." I think confusion arises when slash and burn is presented as a form of agriculture in its own right and not just a technique. Perhaps there should be discussion over the use and development of the term.Singing Coyote (talk) 23:44, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

If it is not shifting cultivation, then all "slash-and-burn" amounts to is a method of clearing forest. Even so, it is more ecologically sound than logging as the nutrients are returned to the soil.--Jack Upland (talk) 04:57, 26 September 2013 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

Prior content in this article duplicated one or more previously published sources. The material was copied from: Copied or closely paraphrased material has been rewritten or removed and must not be restored, unless it is duly released under a compatible license. (For more information, please see "using copyrighted works from others" if you are not the copyright holder of this material, or "donating copyrighted materials" if you are.) For legal reasons, we cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or published material; such additions will be deleted. Contributors may use copyrighted publications as a source of information, but not as a source of sentences or phrases. Accordingly, the material may be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously, and persistent violators will be blocked from editing. While we appreciate contributions, we must require all contributors to understand and comply with these policies. Thank you. SM5POR (talk) 17:07, 23 June 2013 (UTC)

Copyright problem removed[edit]

Prior content in this article duplicated one or more previously published sources. The material was copied from: Copied or closely paraphrased material has been rewritten or removed and must not be restored, unless it is duly released under a compatible license. (For more information, please see "using copyrighted works from others" if you are not the copyright holder of this material, or "donating copyrighted materials" if you are.) For legal reasons, we cannot accept copyrighted text or images borrowed from other web sites or published material; such additions will be deleted. Contributors may use copyrighted publications as a source of information, but not as a source of sentences or phrases. Accordingly, the material may be rewritten, but only if it does not infringe on the copyright of the original or plagiarize from that source. Please see our guideline on non-free text for how to properly implement limited quotations of copyrighted text. Wikipedia takes copyright violations very seriously, and persistent violators will be blocked from editing. While we appreciate contributions, we must require all contributors to understand and comply with these policies. Thank you. SM5POR (talk) 17:07, 23 June 2013 (UTC)


The usage of Slash (edit | talk | history | protect | delete | links | watch | logs | views) is under discussion, see talk:Slash (musician) -- (talk) 05:36, 5 September 2013 (UTC)

Historical Origins[edit]

I am not sure that locating the origins of agriculture in the river valleys of Mesopotamia and Egypt is quite correct. As I understand it, domestication and agriculture had their origins in uplands. As technology and techniques developed, it moved down into the river valleys. Also, weren't there more centers of development of domestication agriculture than just Mesopotamia? Or am I thinking of urban civilizations when I would offer that agriculture developed in Mesopotamia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Meso-America? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Singing Coyote (talkcontribs) 22:33, 24 September 2013 (UTC)

Also, doesn't "in grasslands as well as woodlands" contradict the opening sentence, "Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique which involves cutting and burning of forests or woodlands to create fields"? Perhaps to add specificity the more specific terms "forest fallow" and "brush fallow" (or sometimes together, "long fallow") as defined by Ester Boserup (The Conditions of Agricultural Growth, 1965), should be added. Robert McNetting's work (Smallholders, Householders: Farm Families and the Ecology of Intensive Sustainable Agriculture, 1993) should also be entered here. I'd say an argument could be made that slash and burn could be seen as a technique rather than an agricultural system. Dr. John Bodley in his textbook "Cultural Anthropology" uses the term "Forest Fallow" to emphasize the validity of this system done by indigenous peoples as opposed to the slash and burn deforestation being done by commercial colonizers of the Amazon and elsewhere. Boserup is important because she looked at population density and labor dynamics in evolution of agricultural systems, showing how people tend to resist leaving slash and burn, or forest and bush fallow, because it requires much more less labor than more intensified systems. McNetting in his work in Africa documented that people will also go back to it when colonizing less densely populated areas and then revert again as the population density increases.Singing Coyote (talk) 23:01, 24 September 2013 (UTC)


There appears to be a large section commented out under the culture heading on the page, is anyone aware why this happened as I cant find anywhere (yet) that shows when it was commented out. There are some sections in there that might need review with regards to comments and opinions on homosexuality and it being natural or not that I dont feel experienced enough to decide upon myself. If someone could advise/assist it would be appreciated Amortias (T)(C) 17:18, 4 May 2014 (UTC)

Are you on the wrong page?--Jack Upland (talk) 10:20, 6 May 2014 (UTC)
Nope. If you look under the edit page of the article under the culture heading the whole section has been marked up as a comment and isnt showing on the article. Hoping someone watching this page might be aware why it was blanked out. Amortias (T)(C) 00:00, 9 May 2014 (UTC)
True. I think this is because (a) it's somewhat incoherent, (b) some of it (including the references to homosexuality) isn't strictly relevant. I suspect the intention was for the relevant material to be incorporated into the article, but this hasn't happened. By the way, I don't think the History/Historical References/Cultures structure is very logical. It would be better to divide the information chronologically and geographically.--Jack Upland (talk) 19:29, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

Clarification needed in lead.[edit]

In case the edit summary wasn't enough (and it shouldn't be), that tag's because we (new readers) don't know who estimated the Brazil clearance thing, and which years they considered to come to "per year". That should be fixed before the tag's removed. The given source is offline, or I'd have fixed it myself.

Thank you, more knowledgable editor. InedibleHulk (talk) 03:54, July 2, 2014 (UTC)

Subsistence or commercial?[edit]

Swidden agriculture is used for both subsistence and commercial purposes. Many commercial crops (e.g., taro, pineapples, rice) are grown using swidden systems in tropic highlands where a commercial economy parallels subsistence needs.Trevorking (talk) 02:04, 18 September 2014 (UTC)


I think the opening definition is inaccurate and possibly ethnocentric, to wit: 'Slash-and-burn is an agricultural technique that involves the cutting and burning of plants in forests or woodlands to create fields'. This definition is a good description of the practice of clearing vegetation for pastoral and other extensive land uses (more, land titles) in the Brazilian Amazon or in temperate-climate lands such as Europe and colonial New Zealand. In the great many more intensively-populated tropical regions such as in SE Asia, Central America, Africa or the Pacific Islands, however, swidden* clearing does NOT aim to create (permanent) fields, but rather to create a place to grow and cultivate crops, for a few short years, in at least partially-forested places. In the moist tropics, these clearings quickly revegetate after the initial harvest, often modified by the addition of useful agroarboricultural plants (e.g., yams, bananas, citrus) that continue to be harvested in the following seasons until they can no longer compete with the developing secondary vegetation (but yam vines compete well). It is well worth remembering that soil fertility is often of lesser importance here than absence of weeds, the major benefit of firing. The point is that the term 'field', which imbricates permanence, does not well describe the somewhat temporary, diverse polycultural and multilayered mosaic of crops and arboriculture typical of tropical swidden clearings whether created by slash then burn, burn then slash (observed in Fijian droughts), or slash then mulch.

  • swidden (Old English dialect) = fire-cleared forest niche.

Trevorking (talk) 03:12, 18 September 2014 (UTC)

Slash and burn Indians?[edit]

This section doesn't mention Indians of any sort. What's up? Kortoso (talk) 21:06, 22 April 2016 (UTC)