Bush fallowing is a system of farming or the cultivation of one piece of land for some years and leaving it for some years with the aim of restoring fertility to the soil naturally but during this fallow period, the farmer cultivates another piece of land.
Favourable Conditions Necessary for Bush Fallowing
Favourable conditions or factors which aid Bush fallowing in West Africa include:
- Abundance of large area of farmlands.
- Low population in the area.
- Low level of education of the farmers.
- Use of crude tools and implements.
- Low level of technology.
Characteristics or Features of Bush Fallowing
- Farming is done on a subsistence level i.e. farmers grow crops to feed themselves and their families.
- It involves the use of crude implements like cutlass and hoe.
- It is very common in rural areas with abundant farmlands.
- It involves small holdings of farmlands.
- Food crops like yam, cassava, maize, etc. are grown.
- Farmlands are left to fallow after one or two years of cultivation.
- A farmer returns to the farmland after a fallow period of 2 – 5 years.
- It uses slash or burn method for land preparations.
- It uses family labour.
- It does not involve the cultivation of cash crops like cocoa, rubber, oil palm, etc.
- Bush fallowing is practiced where population is very low.
- Produce is usually very low and there is little or none for sale.
- Pests and diseases are not controlled.
Land preparation: This involves the use of;
- Hoes and cutlasses.
- Bush burning/clearing.
- Clearing of burnt woods.
- Making of mounds or ridges for planting.
Types of Crops Grown
Food crops are mainly grown. These include:
- Root and tuber crops e.g. yam, cassava, cocoyam, etc.
- Cereal (grain) crops e.g. rice, millet, maize, sorghum, etc.
- Berry e.g. tomato.
- Cash crops e.g. cotton, groundnut, etc.
Crude and simple farm tools like cutlass, hoes, shovels, spade, axes, baskets, mattocks, etc. are commonly used.
Advantages of Bush Fallowing
- It aids the natural restoration of soil nutrients during the fallow period.
- It helps to control plants diseases and pests.
- It uses cheap family labour.
- It provides pastoral land for livestock animals.
- It checks soil erosions, leaching and weed growth.
- It requires low farm inputs like cutlass and hoe.
- It involves low capital investment i.e. it is cheap to operate.
- It ensures continuous sustenance during periods of crop failure.
- A farmer gets different crops from the same farm.
- It is easy to practice as low technology is required.
Disadvantages of Bush Fallowing
- It leads to wastage of land which could have been used by allowing it to lie fallow.
- It leads to land fragmentation due to increase in population.
- It allows for cultivation of only one seasonal crop like maize, rice, millet, etc.
- It does not lead to mechanization of farms i.e. it does not allow for large scale mechanized farming.
- It destroys valuable forest resources like timber.
- It results in poor yields resulting from shorter fallow period as population increases.
- It leads to soil erosion when soil is exhausted.
Bush Fallowing currently is fast declining in West Africa because of the following reasons:
- The population is fast increasing; hence, a reduction in the size of farmlands.
- The land is also becoming scarce due to increase in population.
- The land tenure system does not easily make land available for bush fallowing.
- The practice of mechanized agriculture now discourages bush fallowing.
- The advent or cultivation of cash crops no longer provides land for bush fallowing system.
- There is increase in the number of educated farmers who practice modern systems of farming as a result of access to research findings.
- There is now intensive use of fertilizers and manures.
- There is now improved farming systems e.g. crop rotation, mixed farming and plantation.
- There is increase in use of technology.