Slash-and-burn agriculture is a farming method that involves the cutting and burning of plants in a forest or woodland to create a field called a swidden. The method begins by cutting down the trees and woody plants in an area. The downed vegetation, or "slash", is then left to dry, usually right before the rainiest part of the year. Then, the biomass is burned, resulting in a nutrient-rich layer of ash which makes the soil fertile, as well as temporarily eliminating weed and pest species. After about three to five years, the plot's productivity decreases due to depletion of nutrients along with weed and pest invasion, causing the farmers to abandon the field and move over to a new area. The time it takes for a swidden to recover depends on the location and can be as little as five years to more than twenty years, after which the plot can be slashed and burned again, repeating the cycle. In Bangladesh and India, the practice is known as jhum or jhoom.
Slash-and-burn is a type of shifting cultivation, an agricultural system in which farmers routinely move from one cultivable area to another. A rough estimate is that 200 million to 500 million people worldwide use slash-and-burn. Slash-and-burn causes temporary deforestation. Ashes from the burnt trees help farmers by providing nutrients for the soil. The technique is not scalable for large human populations.
A similar term is assarting, which is the clearing of forests, usually (but not always) for the purpose of agriculture. Assarting does not include burning.