The Amazon rainforests were for long considered as an unhindered ecosystem that was relatively untouched by humans. But recent studies have shown indigenous peoples’ Amazon agriculture managed to protect the landscape intensively in sustainable and complex ways. It offers lessons on how to manage the fragile ecosystem while still managing to live comfortably off it. A group of people has shown that amazon agriculture can thrive without destroying the rainforests.
Ranching has long been the dominant commercial activity in the Amazon causing 80% of the loss of forest cover. Several cooperatives have now made it viable for farmers to sow and tend crops of edible native plants. It is an important initiative that can halt the alarming destruction of the rainforest.
The slash and ranch techniques of the ranchers lead to continuous destruction of more and more rainforests as they fell forests for pastures and quickly move on when the soil has been stripped of its nutrients.
Once the pastures get depleted, the yield of meat per acre also goes down, forcing ranchers to move to greener pastures. This has led to the destruction of 20% of the rainforests. But new Amazon agriculture practices need much less land than the ranchers and could even help restore the original rainforest cover if they are practiced on a wider scale.
Amazon Agriculture Practices Restore The Natural Ecosystem
Agroforestry practices by cooperatives like RECA practice Amazon agriculture based on coming close to the natural system of the rainforests. This system preserves the biodiversity of the forests, protects its water and soil resources, and repossesses carbon. This mitigates the effects of climate change.
Amazon agriculture practiced by the farmers at RECA mimics the natural ecosystem of the rainforests. They densely plant as many as 40 species within these recreated parcels of the rainforest. Dozens of indigenous species are sold by RECA across Brazil including palm hearts, fruit juice, and oils. There are also medicinal plants and other products that make their way to the local markets.
The cupcake, related to the cacao tree, is RECA’s main product. The seeds of this tree are sourced by Natura, a cosmetics major in Brazil. Cumaru seeds, another product, are sourced by the French cosmetics conglomerate, L’Occitane. The seeds impart a vanilla-like fragrance.
The 300 plus families involved in this unique form of Amazon agriculture earn close to 5 times more from these agroforestry projects than the local ranchers. Three decades ago they were dismissed as insane by the ranchers. Some of the people involved in this amazing form of amazon agriculture came from ranching families.
Proponents of the system say that the agroforestry system of Amazon agriculture helps the recovery of the natural ecosystem. It attracts native pollinators, ultimately helping other wildlife to gradually return.