4. Indigenous farming systems and development of latin america: an amazonian example.
In: Proc. of the Humid Tropical Lowlands Conference, Panama, 1991, pp. 1-24
This paper discusses the possibilities and limitations of adopting indigenous farming systems for sustainable development of the moist tropics of South America. Specifically, the study proposes to
- ascertain whether indigenous farming models can be devised for adoption in the region;
The study is based on preliminary surveys carried out among non-tribal, long-time residents of the Amazon estuary in Brazil. The agricultural systems practiced by various tribes are described.
An evaluation is made of the possibilities and limitations of indigenous farming as models of ecologically sustainable and viable land use.
The continued deforestation and attendant environmental degradation of newly opened humid tropical lowlands of Latin America have led to a search for ecologically sustainable, and economically viable, management systems. Recent research suggests that indigenous management systems may serve as alternatives to the current, short-sighted practices.
The skilful handling of diverse forest ecosystems among the indigenous people has shown to produce a variety of items including fruit, seeds, resins, fiber, and timber, as well as fauna that satisfies the inhabitants' basic subsistence needs. Utilization of a vast number of products requires detailed site-specific experience and familiarity with local biophysical elements and their interrelationships. The numerous products also are subjected to various degree of management and their output rates, seasonality of use, and amounts are influenced by diverse cultural controls encoded in myths, folklore, and community rules and regulations.
Concluding, the author states that the great variety of traditional crops associated with indigenous systems does not necessarily contribute to income generation. Crop specialisation and the large number of varieties that characterize caboclo farms may be important as repositories of genetic variability, and as sites for supplying subsistence production, but they are unable to contribute meaningfully to enhance the inhabitants' income.
The role of farming in the inhabitants' economy has tended to become of secondary importance. As less demanding, socially acceptable, and economically regarding alternatives have been devised, agriculture's share of the economy has declined. One conclusion that emerges is that indigenous farming will continue to produce a number of subsistence items for the caboclos, to earn supplemental income, to provide raw materials for rural industries, and to contribute to equalize household labor distribution during the year. The small scale family farms will essentially be an adjunct to non-farming activities. From an ecological viewpoint, the combination is desirable since the pressures on the environment will be lessened, and a large part of the land will continue to be covered by forest, albeit an anthropogenic one.
Agriculture and agroforestry should be viewed as integral segments of indigenous resource management systems. As is true among indigenous farmers elsewhere in the humid tropics of Latin America, the different phases of land use are not seen as different agricultural types, but components of an overall forest management system.
A further difficulty is that indigenous farming is site specific. No single agricultural system is applicable over an extensive area. In response to numerous combinations of environmental and cultural variables, indigenous agricultural systems show great spatial diversity.
Site-specific solutions have been devised by taking into account the ecological differences in relief, climate, soils, drainage, and natural vegetation characteristics, as well as the distinctive cultural features, such as local dietary preferences, accessibility to markets, historical events, local market niches, and personal choice. Thus, standard sets of procedures and crop combinations are uncommon.
1034 92 - 1/73
Traditional land-use systems
Africa, review, tropics, shifting cultivation, socioeconomics, institutions
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