Food and nutrition for indigenous communities in the Northwest Amazon are inter-woven with, and dependent on, a healthy rainforest ecosystem and traditional knowledge relating to hunting, gathering, fishing and chagras (small forest areas cleared for agriculture). The challenge is to minimize the impact on local food production through loss of culture, deforestation, extractive activities or other land use changes near to indigenous territories, and climate change.
Women play a key role, they are holders of the knowledge of cultivated plants and the chagra is their domain. Crops in the chagra develop in much the same way as natural succession in the forest. Crops include pineapple, sweet potato, chilies, plantain. Cassava is sown throughout. Vegetables, tobacco and medicinal plants are nearer the center, with coca sown densely in small plots. After 2-3 years the chagra converts into fallow and fruit crops dominate, attracting wild animals, as the forest gradually reclaims the plot.
Gaia Amazonas promotes food sovereignty – keeping food systems local, building on traditional knowledge, and transferring this knowledge to future generations. We support indigenous communities, especially women, to carry out their own research on the origin of seeds and crops. Ecological mapping and the revival of women’s agricultural knowledge help to avoid biodiversity loss or desertification of soils near the community.
Food policies that respect the nutritional value of indigenous crops, have been approved by the National Institue for Family Welfare (ICBF) and the government of Vaupés department.