Thursday, 11 October 2012

Shifting cultivation

The traditional way of life in the equatorial rainforests depended very much on the flora and fauna of the area. A common type of farming is "shifting cultivation".

Shifting cultivation  is a farming system in which a small tribal group cuts and burns the natural vegetation before cultivating the land. After a number of years the land becomes depleted and the group moves to a new area.

 The original land will recover after a period and the group usually rotates through three or four locations.

Despite appearances, the rainforest soils are not very fertile. The heavy rainfall leaches out the important nutrients from the soil and sometimes the whole topsoil itself can be eroded by the tropical downpours. The native people realised this and so would clear an area of forest, plant crops such as manioc and cassava, and after 3 or 4 years when the soil was losing its fertility would move on to a new patch of forest, which would be cleared and cultivated.