Farming with Nature
Farming with the Natural Cycle
Dependency on nature for vital supplies is common to all human beings. The difference between this dependency for an indigenous person and a westerner is that for the indigenous person it is first hand but for the westerner most likely is would be second hand. The indigenous person may plant, reap and cook the plant but the westerner may buy the already prepared plant product from a shop or supermarket. One life skill that can be learnt from many traditional indigenous peoples is how to live within the natural cycles of nature.
Back in the rain forest homeland of Lokono, Warrau and Carib peoples, everything has a cycle; plant species, animals including humans, the moon, sun, stars, weather etc and these are all interconnected. People are close to the environment so are able to appreciate this. Just by observing these cycles and using them to their advantage, indigenous peoples benefit without interfering too much with nature.
The recent change in the weather pattern has disrupted many cycles. The weather influences when crops should be planted, how they grow and mature. It even influences how crops turn out. Too much of rain and certain plants drown and too much of sun and some die. During the sunny weather of the seasonal cycle, when plants ripen they are ready for picking. This is a time of plenty.
One Lokono elder stated that if the dry season is too long, even the fish starve because they are confined to the narrow streams where too many of them have to compete for a small amount of food.
The social fabric of the community is reinforced during a time of abundance. This demonstrates how the cycle of the season even influences special aspects of the life of traditional peoples who live with the rhythm of nature. One special development of indigenous peoples is the understanding of how cycles work. This is very important in order to appreciate how much nature is involved with our well being. People do benefit a lot from just working within natural cycles.
Indigenous style Permaculture
Our approach to permaculture in Moraro is working with nature in order to produce our basics, including food. Through ages of learning the forest and surrounding areas, preservation techniques that are responsible for producing foods together with nature have been developed by indigenous peoples.
Moraro Conservation seeks to develop on these foundations and promote them. Everything from medicinal plants to forest fruits and edible plants are a part of the intention of preserving and growing useful trees and plants. Not only do traditional practices sustain useable trees and plants but they support them as important carbon sinks. As well as preserving standing trees, one of the aims of our conservation is to grow those that are indigenous to the area. Such trees/plants as parapee (Bactris gasipaes ) soursop (Annona montana) and the giant granadilla (Passiflora quadrangularis) are better growers as well as have better market potential.
Planting and Preserving Medicinal Trees in Moraro
Moraro has a wealth of medicinal trees. These are preserves with the help of local people and a medicinal garden cultivated.
Appreciating Trees & Plants is the beginning of Indigenous Peoples' Forest Preservation Techniques
Knowing and respecting trees and plants for the job that they do, is the beginning of learning to preserve the forest.
Plants and trees are providers and sustain many eco-systems. It takes years to learn their uses and people today learn from passed down knowledge as well as through their own investigations.
The land is one giant resource pool that holds many secrets - discovered and waiting to be discovered.
It is important to know which trees and plants will grow readily and those that are rare and will take a long time to return if destroyed in order to understand how to preserve the forest for the future. Even when clearing land to build a dwelling, trees and plants are assessed. Some are allowed to stay while those that are cleared would be common and not under threat of never returning.
Reforestation Farming Techniques... Value of Traditional Indigenous Farming in Preserving Tropical South American Rainforests
The issue of the destruction of Amazon Rainforest is topical, especially in today's environment of climate change.
Before non-traditional land uses of the rainforest, Amazonian lands have been sustainably used by its indigenous population. The sustainable use of the area has resulted in lands being intact until now. Presently, with non-traditional uses of these lands, indigenous peoples feel as if they are being dispossessed of their traditional role as Guardians of the Forest and their ancestral heritage.
Indigenous peoples have invented appropriate technologies that have worked with the preservation of their homelands and know that they are the ones who are most qualified to continue doing so. Traditional, indigenous system of farming is just one way in which indigenous peoples have done this.
Reforestation Farming Techniques
Perhaps the most important form of rain forest preservation that indigenous peoples have practised for centuries is re-forestation farming. With this unique technique of farming, no chemicals or pesticides are used but the natural behaviour of the elements - including plants.
A traditional indigenous family using the forest to farm would have at least three small farms at any one time - one being prepared, one producing and one left to be re-forested, but still producing. Sometimes, years after a farm had been abandoned to rest and to be re-forested, crops such as bananas and pineapples could still be available for reaping.
One important food crop that is farmed is cassava (Manihot esculenta). Traditional plant experts know of the different varieties that are suitable for different conditions. Forest farms are allowed to be reclaimed by the forest and after some time the land would be good and ready for clearing and planting once more. It is important when clearing the land, that bigger trees and plants are not cut to their roots so that they have a good chance of recovering.
Fruit Trees are saved by Reforestation farming
One important technique of forest preservation is the saving of fruit trees when clearing the land for farming.
When a farm is being prepared, it would be prepared around fruit trees such as the Kuru palm (Astrocaryum tucuma). This palm bears edible fruit that is important to people as well as animals and birds.
Tree Corridor with the Future in mind
Farms are always cleared with standing trees nearby.
These trees act as safe corridors for animals as well as to maintain the ecosystem to re-marry with the farm as re-forestation takes place.
Organic Farming has been done by indigenous peoples for centuries. Planting with the elements: sun, rain, and other factors: soil type, location, animal behaviour are all important considerations. In traditional communities, the primary indication that the land is healthy is its ability to nurture natural vigorous plants. This is the type of land that is sought after for agriculture and used until indications show it needs rest. With healthy food producing land, people do not starve.
The majority of today’s traditional indigenous farmers are small scale farmers who are located far distances— away from modern aids to farming. This must be a blessing in disguise because where modern resources are unreachable, small scale farming must take nature into consideration. This in return rely on traditional methods and so contribute to the production of organic food. In other words to be 'so called poor' can have rich rewards.
Many indigenous farmers still practise customary techniques. Farmers work with what they have. Part of keeping the land is ensuring that the land has its own way. Organic farming is about observing what type of plant grows best in the type of soil. Because plants have families, even though a plant is seen as wild, that plant most likely would have a family member that is grown to produce food. This is how plants are selected for planting.
Advice from experts who have years of experimentation is valuable. One indigenous farmer Seaford Fredericks has been farming for many years. Apart from eliminating the cost and difficulty of getting ‘outside’ help, he is preserving skills that are valuable to organic farming today.
Traditional indigenous organic farming does not produce a vast amount of food. Still this holistic approach gives many unique and rare foods, which can be much more beneficial than producing just for quantity. This makes plant-food supply system very distinct and is a good method of saving rare food-plant species. If, however due to the success of this type of farming, more food is produced than can be consumed by the household there is always the opportunity to donate and sell excess to locals as well as further afield.
Organic Farming in Moraro
We work with nature. So far we have saved many forest-fruit trees.
Terrain ranges from a hilltop unto a low swamp with a small creek.
Soils vary from white sand to Pegasse, a type of tropical peat.
Plants and Trees
In the white sand, we save and allow different plants and trees to grow - traditional forest fruit trees, as well as medicinal ones. In addition, we farm plants that grow well in the soil. These include cashew, pineapple and cassava. The soil changes away from the hillside towards the swamp. We have planted yam and are experimenting with other crops as well.
Even though we have enough land, our approach is multi-tiered. With our mixed cropping, our main pest remains the Acoushi (leaf cutter) ant. We avoid using pesticides so are experimenting with food plants these pets do not find attractive e.g. bitter gourd. We are also experimenting with companion planting.
For us, these times are exciting and we look forward to the future with great optimism.
Rainforest Reforestation Farming With Reforestation Farmer Seaford Fredericks
Rainforest reforestation farming is done by few known farmers. And, such farmers, working away diligently at keeping our rainforests, can only be described as unsung heroes of reforestation.
The work of indigenous reforestation farmer Seaford Fredericks is largely unknown. Never-the-less, it is a marvel and a privilege to see the achievements of this skilled, hard working man.
As he explains his farming methods, evidence of coffee, avocado and pineapples growing among valuable rainforest trees show his achievements. Verification that birds and other forest dwellers find his farm a haven is clear to see.
It is difficult to comprehend how one man could do so much.
Way down in back lands, forest trees like the Locust (Hymenaea courbaril) are being cut down by indiscriminate loggers. Locust is an important forest fruit tree that sustains animals and people, so Seaford has his own trees growing, for his own benefit and the benefit of the animals.
Seaford is preparing for a future when indigenous people would be denied access to wood to make such valuables as boats and houses. He has calculated that with careful monitoring, his reforestation farm will supply him with timber, food and other benefits such as rainforest medicine for a long time to come.
He claims that reforestation farming can be incorporated with traditional cassava farming for a more sustainable future. Then, there is the added advantage of this farming style contributing to carbon off-setting. One of his concerns is that with so much interest in carbon sequestration, his type of farming must be promoted.
From observing how his farm keeps trees and nature intact, farmers like Seaford must be compensated. Farmers like him help to off-set carbon, and if we are to have a healthy sustainable future, such farmers are our life-line.
This important reforestation farmer believes that if indigenous young people are to have forest resources for the future, they must start reforestation farming now.
As custodians of the forest, he believes that rainforest peoples hold the preservation of valuable forest species in their hands. He practises what he believes and shares his skill with Moraro Indigenous Conservationists.
Seaford shares his knowledge and vision. If you are interested in his work, or taking a walk around his reforest farm and hearing from him, please contact Seaford here.
Spinach by the Creek