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ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes:Agriculture:Farming types in Africa: Subsistence farming:Bush Fallowing

  • In many respects, it is similar to shifting cultivation but differs in that instead of rotating homes, the cultivated land is rotated.
  • The once cultivated area is abandoned without any crops for about five years for it to regain fertility.
  • This period of non-use and rest is called the fallow period.

Areas where practiced in Africa

  • Some parts of Zambia,
  • Tunisia and
  • Nigeria


  • Farming is done on a subsistence level
  • It involves the use of simple tools like hoes and axes.
  • It is common in the rural areas with abundant farmlands.
  • It involves small holding farmlands.
  • Crops grown are usually yam, cassava, maize and so many others.
  • Farmland are left to fallow after one or two years of cultivation.
  • It use family labour.
  • It uses slash-and-burn method of land preparation.
  • Pests and disease are not controlled.
  • Bush fallowing is practiced where population is very low.

Problems associated with bush fallowing and shifting cultivation

  • Deforestation as trees in large tracts of land must be cut to provide enough branches for ash.
  • The Bemba in north-east Zambia clear two hectares of land to supply ash to only half a hectare of garden.
  • Burning destroys valuable timber of indigenous trees which could have been profitably exploited commercially.
  • The burning loosens soils making them prone to erosion.
  • It is thought that the system is wasteful in that 900 kg of nitrogenous and carbon compounds go up in the air as smoke for every one hectare of cleared forest.
  • The system simplifies and eventually destroys complex forest ecosystems.
  • This certainly kills microorganisms that are vital links in an ecosystem.
  • Tropical slash-and-burn agriculture is partly to blame for the hazy atmosphere and the resultant global warming.
  • Conversion of tropical rainforests and savanna woodlands into secondary forests and eventually into shrub and desert environments has been blamed on these farming systems.
  • With an increase in population, pressure from sedentary (settled) farming and government legislation in much of Africa, these farming systems are dying a natural death.(There is no more free land to shift to)
  • The systems are too traditional and prone to the unpredictable changes of nature and so cannot support large populations.

To access more topics go to the O Level Geography Notes page

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