September 05, 2012

A Day at the Chacra (Farm)

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Yesterday afternoon, the guides took us just across the river from Refugio Amazonas Lodge to an organic farm that supplies some of the food to the lodges. Farmers in the area have learned to do farming organically and sustainably, check out some of the highlights:


A Multi-Crop System

Star fruit, one of the two dozen crops grown on the farm.


Many studies have shown that having multiple types of crops at once significantly reduces the amount of damage that pests do to the crops, thus lessening the need to ever use pesticides. Why? Because having varying plots reduces the chance of disease and provides better habitat for the natural prey of insect pests, including birds and other insects.


A Nitrogen-Fixing Legume


Kudzu covers the ground around the bananas, providing essential Nitrogen to the ground.

One of the main problems with slash-and-burn farming is that burning old, dry crops does not return all of the nutrients back into the ground for the next year’s crops. Meaning, after several years, the nutrients have been depleted little by little and the earth is no longer very fertile. One of the main ingredients that gets lost over the years is nitrogen, essential for plant photosynthesis and metabolism. Many local farmers are now using Kudzu, a fast growing, nitrogen-fixing vine. These plants take nitrogen gas from the air, and bring it into the plant. Thus, when cut and decomposed, the plant brings that nitrogen into the ground for the surrounding crops.

Trees

A young mahogany tree reaches for the sky.
Each farm I have seen has one or two large trees right near the center. This provides habitat for the weaver birds (Oropendolas) and caciques that swoop amongst the crops, eating the insects. Free pest control. Additionally, this farmer has planted a few Mahogany trees, greatly increasing the price of the land. If new trees are planted every decade, the farmer can cyclicly harvest the trees and avoid a need to cut down these beautiful trees deeper in the forest.

The Swim

To top it off, we all jumped in the perfectly cool river afterwards for a swim, so don’t forget your bathing suit! A perfect way to cool off on a hot Amazon dry-season day.
The beach!

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