What is Shifting Cultivation? Advantages and Disadvantages

Shifting Cultivation; Meaning, Advantages and Disadvantages

What is shifting cultivation? In different parts of the world, farmers adopts different strategies to meet up with their farming requirements. This becomes necessary due to a number of factors as such land availability, soil fertility, Suitable species and other environmental conditions. The type of farming method that we are going to look at here is known as shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivation is a system of farming in which a farmer abandons a farmland after planting on it for one or two years inorder to allow it regain its lost fertility. This type of farming system is mostly practiced in west Africa.

One of the notable features of a land that has nutrient depletion is when the productivity of the land starts decreasing. Farmers also abandons their lands when it is being overrun by weeds. Shifting cultivation is among the oldest method of farming. It is mainly practiced in subsistence and arable farming. In some areas, it can be as a result of the increase in population which makes the available land insufficient for farming. Shifting cultivation is gradually being replaced by crop rotation. In this method, a farmer plants a type of crop in a land in a particular year and cultivates another specie the next year. This interchanging is being done to meet up with the demands of the land such as in the lost of nutrients or erosion.

The factors that will determine when the farmer will return to such a piece of land left fallow depends on the availability of other farming lands and the duration it takes for the land to be completely restored. In most cases, this land maybe left fallow for 2 to 3years. Such lands are usually cleared by slashing or burning.

Advantages of shifting cultivation

This farming system has its own benefits, here are they;

1. Inexpensive way of restoring soil fertility

This is a very simple, cheap and effective method of restoring soil fertility. During the period in which the land is left fallow, decay of leaves and parts of plants helps in nutrient restoration. Some farmers hastens the restoration period by dumping animal waste and other domestic waste which can decay in the land. Easy to decay leaves such as composts can use in mulching the farmland, this helps in trapping nutrients that would have been washed off by running water in the farmland.

2. It helps to check the build up of Insects, Pests and other Crop diseases

The presence of destructive pests and insects can also be a reason why a farmer may choose to abandon a piece of land. Leaving the land for a particular period of time will lead to the growth of other types of plants which these pests and insects may find unsuitable to feed on. The outbreak of a particular type of crop disease can also be checked by this method of farming.

3. Shifting cultivation helps in checking erosion

Farmers can equally abandon a land for another because erosion. One of the disadvantages of continuous farming is that it makes the land prone to erosion. When such a land is left fallow, the growth of cover crops and dumping of domestic waste can help check erosion in the farmland.

Disadvantages of Shifting Cultivation

This type of farming system also has its own disadvantages. Here they are;

1. It is only suitable where the population is low and land is abundant

It is of no doubt that the population of the world keeps on increasing most especially in developing countries. This puts more pressure on the available lands because of high demand of food. Shifting cultivation will only result in having few lands available for cultivation in such areas.

2. More capital needed for clearing farmland left fallow

When a land is left uncultivated, different species of grasses and plants grows in such a farmland. This makes it difficult for it to be easily cleared and equally makes it more time consuming to be cleared. This is among the disadvantages of such farming system. It makes the farmer spend more on clearing such piece of land.

3. Bush burning used in clearing such land in some areas leads to loss of soil nutrients

In some countries in West Africa such as Nigeria, bush burning is a common practice. This becomes necessary after a bush is left to fallow, the land is either burnt to reduce the quantity of grasses and plants to be cleared or burnt to removed the plants and grasses that are being cut down. This practice has been indicated to result to soil leaching, reduction of solid nutrients and elimination of useful soil organisms and organic matter. It also leads to the burning of some economic trees.

I believe I have answered your question on “What is Shifting Cultivation?”. It is pertinent to know that every farming system has its own advantages and disadvantages. The areas in which each farming system is being practiced is where it is necessary because if some factors prevalent there.

Also Read; What is Subsistence Farming? Meaning, Characteristics and Importance

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