Monday, September 2, 2019

Amazonia’s Subsistence Farmers: The Why and How of ‘Slash and Burn’

In the Amazon, the ‘exploiters’ are the agribiz outfits that use tractors, fertilizers and pesticides to farm lots of land, and in doing so push the ranchers deeper into the forests where they proceed to clear and burn after having depleted the soil in the previous location.  
Other exploitation is illegal logging that feeds the lumber mills and world markets. 
The main problem though is the corporate financed big operations that push their way towards bigger and bigger profits made by the “privatizing” of the Amazon. One player has been Monsanto aka Bayer. Another is BlackRock. There are many more, and the odds are that many of us benefit financially indirectly.

The real problem isn’t the small subsistence farmers (survivors) who already obey the laws governing them, though they must necessarily use ‘slash and burn’ to farm their land.
Watch the following YouTube series about the Whats and Hows of ‘slash and burn’. Though ‘slash and char’ would gradually  create better soil, unless long range incentives to help mitigate global warming can be implemented, the old fashioned non-regenerative practices will prevail:

“Slash and Burn in Amazonia”
5 part series (average 5 minutes):

Note: The farmers wouldn’t have to let their land lie fallow for as long if they were able to use slash-and-char to create biochar as an ‘in place’ soil amendment — which, ironically, is how Terra Preta was created by their ancestors. Pre-Colombian Amazonians used biochar to enhance soil productivity. They seem to have produced it by “smoldering” agricultural waste, brush, limbs, etcetera / covering burning biomass with soil in pits or trenches. European settlers called it Terra Preta.

What Is Slash-and-Char?
(2 minutes) 
Read the embedded description, also:

One method of making biochar: pile up woody debris in a shallow pit or trench in a garden bed; burn the brush until the smoke thins; damp down the fire with a one-inch soil covering; let the brush smolder until it is charred; put the fire out. The leftover charcoal will improve soil by improving nutrient availability and retention.

In the future, as Amazonia’s hydrological rain cycle weakens with the reduction in size of the rainforest, Terra Preta, which (also) helps retain moisture might prove invaluable. At the same time, agribiz’s completely non-regenerative farmers will be less able to sustain their expensive habits.