Slash and Burn

Slash and burn agriculture, also known as milpa, is the biggest cause of deforestation in the Chiquibul. Slash and burn agriculture involves the slashing of all plants and allowing them to dry in order for the land to be burned to be used for crops. When the land becomes devoid of nutrients, it is left fallow to build up nutrients and new land is used. Guatemalan families clear land in order to create roads and set up camp on the Belize-Guatemala border. They use their children to illegally log mahogany and collect Xate leaves because the children cannot be detained or charged. They practice milpa farming to sustain themselves and their families. However, these unsustainable farming practices such as milpa cause deforestation and land degradation, as large tracts of land must be cleared.

The western border of the Chiquibul is most impacted by slash and burn agriculture as it is an easy entry into the rainforest from Guatemala. In 2014, the number of agricultural incursions rose due to dry, harsh conditions in many parts of Guatemala. In 2015, FCD identified 17 milpa sites, mostly concentrated along the middle of the border in the Cebada region. Figure 2 shows agricultural incursions in 2011 along the border and Figure 3 shows the overlap between agricultural incursions and illegal logging in the Chiquibul Forest.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.58.45 AM Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.05.54 AM
 Fig. 2 Map showing agricultural incursions on the Belize-Guatemala border in 2011. Reprinted from “Chiquibul Forest BRIM Framework” by FCD.  Fig. 3 Map showing overlap between agricultural incursions on the Belize-Guatemala border and illegal logging in the Chiquibul Forest. Reprinted from “Chiquibul Forest BRIM Framework” by FCD.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.13.30 AMFCD Tracks Newsletter May 2013


Milpa Farming– describes the process of agricultural incursions from Guatemala into Belize and the negative effects on the integrity of the ecosystem.

Required Reading:
15A biodiversity research, inventory and monitoring (BRIM) framework for the Chiquibul Forest– Agricultural Incusrions p. 25
16Conceptual Ecological Model of the Chiquibul/Maya Mountain Massif, Belize– Agricultural and Adjacent Land Development p. 321
100+ Acres of Chiquibul Forest Destroyed for Milpa Farms
Guat Farmer Shot Dead in the Chiquibul