Búsqueda alfabética
Search by Word

Search by Topic

Glossary of Terms >


Term Slash and burn agriculture

Traditional system of indigenous and peasant agriculture in which the rainforest is cut, dried and then burned. Crops obtained during the first harvest are plentiful because the ashes provide nutrients. However, after one or two years, the productivity of the soil is depleted and requires fertilization in order to remain useful for agriculture. Although for centuries indigenous people practiced slash-and-burn farming, it was conducted in a careful way-- on a small scale and using crop rotation, which ensured a relative sustainability. Nowadays, high population densities and the pressures from land occupation have destabilized the system, turning it into a destructive factor.1 Among the environmental ills caused by this type of cultivation are deforestation,  loss of biodiversity and land degradation (erosion and reduction of nutrients and moisture). This is also known as migratory or nomadic cultivation.

In the Dominican Republic, the slash and burn technique is still very common in rural communities living in the vicinity of large tracts of forest. Poverty and the lack of access to land create a subsistence problem that forces communities to generate immediate revenue through the unsustainable use of natural resources. The result is often the uncontrollable and extensive practice of short term agriculture, where the "slash and burn" technique is applied to a new area each time a production cycle is completed. The practice is prominent in rural communities in the south, as well as in those located near the border with Haiti, where there are areas of extreme poverty. The population in the province of Elías Piña, for example, which has the highest rate of poverty in the country, mainly resorts to slash and burn farming. The common feature is the use of mountain areas or hillside soils for growing beans, pigeon peas, corn and pumpkin. The use of the slash and burn technique on slopes is the main cause of forest fires in the country, and is also, to a large extent, responsible for deforestation and soil degradation in these regions.2 Therefore, the elimination of these practices is one of the most important measures for forest preservation.

1. Comité Técnico Interagencial del Foro de Ministros de Medio Ambiente de América Latina y el Caribe. Conservación y aprovechamiento sustentable de los bosques tropicales húmedos de América Latina y el Caribe [en línea],  XII Reunión del Foro de Ministros de Medio Ambiente de América Latina y el Caribe, Bridgetown, Barbados Marzo 2-7, 2000. Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente. (Accessed: May 26, 2009).

2. Abreu, H.M.; Fernández, F.; Santana, V.G. Sinergias para conciliar intereses para un desarrollo Sostenible en la República Dominicana [en línea], Taller Centroamericano sobre Planificación Intersectorial de Políticas Forestales, Heredia, Costa Rica, Octubre 25-27, 2006. Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación. <> (Accessed: May 26, 2009).


Topic  Forest resources