Living in the forest

Essay by mashymeliaJunior High, 9th gradeB, April 2004

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Although the majority of people in the Amazon live in the cities and towns, there are still many indigenous groups living in the forest, some who have no contact with the 'outside' world and live in a harmonic environment. Rainforests are the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, as well as being the home to an estimated 50 million indigenous forest people. These people depend on the rainforest for their way of life. It provides them nearly everything from shelter and food to tools and medicine. The people living in the forest make practical and sustainable use of the forest. It also plays an important role in their spiritual and cultural life.

Other than hunting, gathering wild fruits and nuts and fishing, each family usually has two gardens. One is a small house garden which consists of a variety of plants and the second is a large plantation planted with bananas, manioc or rice.

They use a sustainable farming method called shifting cultivation. First they clear a small area of land and burn it (slash and burn). Then they plant different types of plants, to be used for food and medicines. After a few years, the soil has become too poor to allow for more crops to grow and weeds start to take over. They then move to a nearby un-cleared area. This land is traditionally allowed to re-grow for 10-50 years before it is farmed again. Shifting cultivation is still practiced by those indigenous groups who have access to a large amount of land. However, with the growing number of non-indigenous farmers and the shrinking rainforest, other groups, especially in Indonesia and Africa, are now forced to remain in one area. The land becomes a wasteland after a few years of overuse, and cannot be used for future agriculture.