Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An area cleared for temporary cultivation by cutting and burning the vegetation.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. an area of land that has been cleared by cutting the vegetation and burning it; slash and burn
  • v. to clear an area of land by cutting and burning

Etymologies

Dialectal alteration of obsolete swithen, from Old Norse svidhna, to be burned.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English swithen ("to burn, scorch, singe"), from Old Norse svidhna ("to be burned"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Slash-and-burn, or "swidden," agriculture - clearing patches of woodland for crops and moving on after each harvest to allow the soil to replenish itself - is usually seen as a crude antecedent to the more intensive farming practiced in the lowlands and most of the developed world.

    Boston Globe -- Ideas section

  • Trees turned the color of bone by drought, skies black with the smoke and ash of swidden burning for cultivation, the forest heavy with the smell of death.

    Masked

  • Many maintain a traditional swidden agriculture, with hunter-gathering and trading in artefacts; some today also live on mining and tourism.

    Canaima National Park, Venezuela

  • Reconstruction of pristine forest structure and composition has been made very difficult by the high degree of landscape degradation that has taken place, much of it as the result of swidden agricultural practices.

    Southern Annamites montane rain forests

  • There are at least seven different tribes in and around GLNP, with their own languages and cultures from the Aceh and Gayo muslim farmers in the north, Batak highland farmers and Pakpak hunters and swidden hill farmers to the Alas, Singhil and Melayu rice farmers and fishermen of the lowlands mixed with Javanese once imported by the Dutch.

    Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Indonesia

  • The Highland Peoples have a special relationship to their land, and their livelihood depends directly on swidden cultivation and the collection of non-timber forest products.

    Cambodia: Thomas Hammarberg Report on Human Rights

  • Secondary forest on areas of former swidden agriculture are found in the Mae Chan Valley and central uplands towards the east.

    Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand

  • Use of forest areas for swidden agriculture and extraction of non-wood forest products (including fuel­wood, rattan and bamboo, wildlife, malva nuts, and medicine) as well as ecological and environmental functions such as water­shed, biodiversity, and carbon storage pro­vided a TEV ranging of $1,300 – 4,500 per hectare (environmental services accounted for $590 of that while NWFPs provided $700 – 3,900 per hectare).

    Ecosystems and Human Well-being~ Biodiversity Synthesis~ Key Questions on Biodiversity in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

  • Mature forest cut for swidden agriculture generally is succeeded in this ecoregion by a grassy subclimax that supports far fewer species than the mature forest.

    Tenasserim-South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forests

  • Hill slopes support more native forest than the lowland areas, and the hill forests of southern Thailand are relatively intact, although swidden (slash-and-burn) agriculture is still practiced in some hill areas in the northern part of the ecoregion.

    Tenasserim-South Thailand semi-evergreen rain forests

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Comments

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  • "Farther south, the mountains are swidden-scarred—the soil beneath is bright red and so these parts look like fresh lacerations."
    Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, p 32 of the Avon Books paperback edition

    January 22, 2013

  • A large Scandinavian country, whose landmass corresponds to terrain obtained by burning away vegetation from the tundra.

    n. use of swidden, swithen to singe < ON svithna to be singed, deriv. of svītha to singe (cf. dial. swithe, ME swithen)

    November 11, 2008