Slash-and-Burn Agriculture: A System in Transformation

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Slash-and-burn agriculture has been practised for thousands of years in the forests around the world, especially in the tropics, where it provides for the livelihood of countless poor rural populations. Characterized by an array of techniques based on crop diversification and shifting land use, this cultivation system has on the utilization of forest decomposing vegetation's energetic capital its main asset. Many studies claim that slash-and-burn agriculture is sustainable when performed under conditions of low human demographic density, maintaining or even increasing local biodiversity. However, it is growing in the academic literature, as well as in development debates, the concern regarding the role that this system has been playing in the deforestation of the planet's tropical forests. This process appears to be closely linked to changes in land use patterns (agricultural intensification) and urban and rural demographic growth. On the thread of these concerns, this article presents a critical review of the international and national academic literature on slash-and-burn agriculture. Thus, this review intend to draw a broad scenario of the current academic debate on this issue, as well as to identify the main alternatives strategies proposed to maintain or replace this cultivation system.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Current Trends in Human Ecology
    Anthropology, sociology, and ecology come together in this book, where the unifying goal of theorizing and practising interdisciplinarity in human ecology is shown by, closely tracking examples of current trends and developments. This book is a harvest from the XV International Meeting of the Society for Human Ecology, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, October 4-7, 2007. This volume ends by indicating several lines of thought and of analyses on current subjects, as follows: sustainability in different cultural contexts and perspectives, methods towards approaching sustainable systems, and current global concerns. Those include agriculture in tropical areas (slash-and-burn practices), climate change, and nature and human behavioural patterns, among others.
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