Swidden agriculture or shifting cultivation is a traditional agricultural practice where cultivators used to cut certain parts of the forest in rotation. Than they burn the trees and sow seeds in ashes after the monsoon rains.
It is practised in many parts of Asia, Africa and South America. It has many local names like ladding in South-East Asia, Milpa in Central America, Chitemene or tavy in Africa, Chena in Sri Lanka. In India dhya, penda, bewar, nevad, jhum, podu, khandad and kumri are some of the local terms for swidden agriculture.
Main features of shifting agriculture are
(i) The crop is harvested in October-November.
(ii) These crops are cultivated for couple of years and then they are left fallow for 12 to 18 years to allow the forest to grow back.
(iii) They use the forest in rotation for cropping and burn it after harvesting.
(iv) A mixture of crops is grown on the plots so they have diversified source of income and also replenish and add nutrients to the soil.
Shifting cultivation was banned by the Colonial Government. They thought it as harmful for the forests and also made it difficult for the government to collect taxes.