نظم التراث الزراعي ذات الأهمية العالمية

Agroforestry chakra system of the communities of native peoples in Napo province

Summary

Detailed Information

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Annexes

Detailed Information

Global importance

This system is located in the Ecuadorian Amazon Region (REU), in the province of Napo, in an area of 30,000 hectares. Fifty-seven per cent of the RAE has been registered as indigenous territory, with 28 per cent belonging to the Quichua nationality.

The province of Napo is one of the most biodiverse in the country and its regional biodiversity is among the most representative globally. The agricultural activity of the Quichua communities, when developing during centuries in a region and ecosystem as sensitive as the Amazonian, they demonstrate a compendium of knowledge oriented to the sustainable use of the biodiversity and the adaptation to adverse productive conditions. In a context such as this, it is fundamental to develop mechanisms that guarantee the permanence of plant cover and shade, that protect the soil from the impacts of rain and retain nutrients for greater soil fertility. This need for fertility was ingeniously satisfied by the direct relationship with the main rivers and slopes that originate in the eastern cordillera of the Andes and feed the region. Along their course, the rivers carry and store a large amount of nutrients and micro-organisms, which have been incorporated into the design of the agricultural spaces.

The generation of plant cover and the guarantee of shade are developed through agroforestry designs in mixed and itinerant systems, of perennial and annual plants from which the treetops are used to protect the soil. Underneath the trees, there are shrubs and short cycads that provide partial shade and are used as ground cover. These agroforestry arrangements, itinerant in time and space, linked to the riverbeds and their times of flooding and drought, have been the productive systems for centuries in the region.

Food and livelihood security

Traditionally, the diet of the Amazonian peoples has been very diversified, both because of the multiplicity of products they plant and the variety of products they collect, hunt and fish. Among the list of species present in the chakra, 68% are destined for the feeding of the community. But in addition, many plants are used for medicinal purposes and others for sale in order to acquire income to diversify their means.

The Amazon chakra provides food security and sovereignty to the population, thanks to the balance that this culture has generated through knowledge of the natural environment. When the rivers do not provide sufficient quantities of food (fish), the chakra does so with the crops, and in the months when the chakras do not produce enough food, the forest provides fruits and meat from hunting. In addition, they also raise animals such as chickens and even fish.

Agrobiodiversity

The vegetal components identified in an Amazonian chakra show a high agrobiodiversity represented by around 100 species that are located in different strata and categories of use, mainly: self-consumption, for commercialization, medicinal and rituals, elaboration of crafts and housing.

Among the crops, cassava is known as the "mother of the chakra" and constitutes the first crop in the first phase of creation of a chakra. Other crops that are usually very present are: rice, bananas, papaya, peanuts, corn, beans, fruit trees and cocoa. The latter, along with coffee, is grown only for commercial purposes.

Local and traditional knowledge systems

Production in the chakra is fundamental not only for the economic reproduction of the Quichua people but also for their social and cultural reproduction. This phenomenon is evident when, before building the house, a Quichua family prepares the land that is going to serve as chakra and, once this work is finished, they plant the yucca, which is the basis of their daily diet and the preparation of the chicha, their traditional drink.

In the Quichua world, coexistence is developed between "people", not "objects", understanding as "people" not only human beings but also the elements water, air, earth, animals, plants, etc. In this way it is understood that everyone is part of the same world and that the human community is not separated from nature.  Among these "people", the most important roles are those of: the cassava, the river, the mountain or sacha, and the chakramama.

The chakras are conceived as dynamic and temporary, attending to the chakra-ushun-purun cycle, after which the cycle of production ends and they become an "old chakra". This cycle indicates the time of cultivation, harvesting and association of the different species, reaching a mature stratified system in the purun state.

Value systems, culture and social organizations

The chakra is a place of learning where, not only ancestral knowledge about production, gastronomy and medicine is socialized, but also traditional songs and melodies are taught, linked as ritual elements of the agricultural culture.

Agriculture multiplies life, and the Amazonian culture is recognized as agrocentric because no member of the human community is conceived without a chakra. The "making of chakra" is for the Quichua culture a central ritual that expresses the human commitment in the re-creation of life. Knowledge revolves around agriculture and its most genuine expression is the chakra as a place for raising plants, animals, soil, water, climate and landscape.

The Quichua Naporuna recognize a traditional and communitarian possession of territory, in the first place for the community or muntum, which recognizes for each family or ayllu a space of use in which they establish their houses, chakras and purines (hunting and fishing preserves in which they remain part of the year).

Landscapes features

The development of agricultural landscapes from the chakra system is perhaps one of the oldest in the region. This system reproduces a three-storey structure, copying the model of the surrounding rainforest, and is considered a re-creation of nature with the participation of the human community. Even though it is much less dense and stratified than the rainforest, the staggered vegetation of the chakra nevertheless contributes to delaying the inevitable erosion of the soil, especially on the hillsides, and guarantees the family's subsistence in the territory.

The management and guarantee of the fertility of the soil is perhaps one of the most sensitive elements in an ecosystem such as the Amazon. In this sense, several practices for the protection and conservation of the soil are carried out from the chakras: fertilization with sediments, minerals and organic matter from flooding, design of contour lines, living barriers according to the slope of the land. In the boundaries and slope spaces of the chakras, leguminous species such as guava and high value forest species such as chuncho, cedar, aguano, intachi and others are planted.