Planting techniques have differed over the years throughout the world. Depending on climate and regions, people use different techniques to yield the best fruits and vegetables. Cultures may often be faced with destroying land in order to produce more for their families or communities. Native Americans have used a technique called “slash and burn” for centuries. Now in many places the same technique is being compared to deforestation. In many countries this process is considered as illegal but that doesn’t stop the farmers from using this method that has been passed down from previous generations. This process destroys the land but offers a few good years of great agriculture. In combination with erosion, slash-and-burn agriculture has a dramatic effect on coastal ecosystems, as sedimentation results in the death of corals, because sunlight is being blocked from penetrating the water (Vincke).This process not only makes land useless but also has an impact on the microorganisms that are valuable to plants that provide oxygen for the Earth.
Farmers should simply claim more land and this seems to be a solution in many areas, but not all people have this option. The Earth really has little free space for this to be a unified solution. Farmers claiming more land will help those in areas such as Africa or in the rain forests that are deep in the Amazon. On one hand not all governments really have the desire to persuade farmers to claim land that could otherwise be used for the purposes of a nation. On the other hand disputes often unfold rather quickly when territories are crossed, even if it is sustaining a family or large group of people. The Okapi Conservation Project is designed to minimize the impact of slash and burn agriculture. Okapi Conservation Project staff members train the local farmers in reclaiming their land as an alternative to going deeper into the rain forest to claim more land(Global Giving). With projects like this farmers can use land that is better suited for their crops, which in turn can mean using less land, which has less of an effect on the ecosystem. In many ways slash and burn techniques can have the same impact as deforestation. Another solution could be introducing new soil to these areas. Perhaps “Terra Preta” could be brought to these areas to ensure proper yields, similar to how the ancients did in the Amazon, if the recipe could be found. Terra Preta was a form of charcoal that attracts microorganisms that was used by ancient tribes to sustain themselves in the otherwise acidic lands. The special soil has been touted as a way to restore more sustainable farming to the Amazon, feed the world’s hungry, and combat global warming (Roach, 2008). Apparently the magical mixture was able to aid in sustaining huge civilizations that once seemed impossible, due to the acidity found in the soil around Amazonian cultures.
Using data from terra preta findings in the ancient cultures of the Amazon , archaeologist have been able to flag areas where Terra Preta has been used over the centuries. Some samples found contain a mixture of charcoal and manure that makes the land more fertile. (Phys.org) —A team of researchers from the U.S. and Brazil has created a virtual map of possible ancient human population centers in the Amazonian jungle by using statistical methods that connect modern Terra Preta areas (Yirka, 2014). If these areas were studied more, than the recipe for Terra Preta could be discovered and sold to farmers in an effort to stop the process of slash and burn. The product could be made or sold and available to farmers, which could save new lands, introduce Earth saving values, and produce bigger healthier harvest.
If these practices continue, not only will the people using them run out of food sources but the impact will eventually be too much for the planet. The charred useless land will sooner or later take its toll on the populations who practice this technique. If farmers could somehow cooperate with governments to limit their expansion to destroying new lands, and governments in turn could sponsor the research to create the Terra Preta then perhaps common ground could be met. This would create sedentary farming that would use fewer lands while allowing other untouched lands to provide valuable oxygen that this planet desperately needs, creating a happy medium between slash and burn farmers and governments.
Global Giving.org. (2014). Help Stop Slash and Burn Farming in the Congo. Retrieved from http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/help-stop-slash-and-burn-practices-in-the-congo/
Roach, John (2008). Superdirt Made Lost Amazon Cities Possible? Retrieved from http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/081119-lost-cities-amazon_2.html
Vincke, Xavier. The Problem: Slash- and -Burn Agriculture. Retrieved from http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/where_we_work/project/projects_in_depth/wwf_on_the_ground_in_madagascar/the_problem__slash_and_burn_agriculture/
Yirka, Bob. (2014). Researchers Combine “terra preta” finds with statistics to map early Amazonian population centers. Retrieved from http://phys.org/news/2014-01-combine-terra-preta-statistics-early.html.