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Slash and Burn Agriculture

Photo Credit: Todd Shapera Photography

Slash and burn agriculture is a widely used method of growing food in which wild or forested land is clear cut and any remaining vegetation burned. The resulting layer of ash provides the newly-cleared land with a nutrient-rich layer to help fertilize crops. However, under this method, land is only fertile for a couple of years before the nutrients are used up. Farmers must abandon the land, now degraded, and move to a new plot—clearing more forest in order to do so. 


Slash-and-burn agriculture has been used in Central America and Mexico for thousands of years. But today, with more people than ever trying to survive in the midst of dwindling natural resources, its impact is particularly destructive and unsustainable. There are many problems that result from this method of growing crops, including deforestation, a direct consequence of cutting down forests for crop land; loss of habitat and species; an increase in air pollution and the release of carbon into the atmosphere—which contributes to global climate change; and an increase in accidental fires. 


Slash and burn agriculture also results in significant soil erosion and accompanying landslides, water contamination, and/or dust clouds, as without trees and vegetation and their root systems, soil washes away during heavy rains and blows away during droughts. EcoLogic helps local people adopt sustainable methods of agriculture, including alley-cropping, an agroforestry technique where people plant food crops alongside trees. We also promote planting a diversity of food crops, the creation of buffer zones of native trees around existing forests, and the reclamation of degraded land through reforestation and other practices. 


Learn more about the tools EcoLogic uses, such as Sustainable Agriculture and Economic Incentives to help rural & indigenous people in Central America and Mexico address challenges like slash-and-burn agriculture.

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Slash and Burn Agriculture

Today, with more people than ever trying to survive in the midst of dwindling natural resources, the impact of slash-and-burn is particularly destructive and unsustainable. It exacerbates destructive impacts on already-fragile ecosystems and contributes to climate change.