Making a Living
Indigenous peoples have lived in the Amazon for thousands of years. For most
of that time, they hunted, fished, and grew a variety of crops in small
gardens. Their lifestyle was called subsistence, because they hunted and
grew only what they needed to subsist, or survive. They practiced a kind
of agriculture called slash and burn.
Slash and burn sounds
terribly hard on the environment, but--if done
properly--it is one of the most ecologically harmonious
methods of cultivation. Farmers clear the land by slashing the trees and
bushes, then burning them to release nutrients into the soil. They grow
crops in the new field for a few years, then clear another plot of land
to plant. Later, they will return and clear an old field, now covered with
the young trees of a secondary forest.
In the Ecuadorian Amazon, indigenous Quichua people often rotate their crops every
year. That way their crops always have rich soil. Also, after a year in
cultivation, a field becomes overgrown with weeds.
Watch the animation below to see how a Quichua farmer might rotate his crops over the years to ensure
good yields on his land. Each year he clears and plants a new section of
land, leaving the old section to regrow as secondary forest.
When you see the ?, it's your turn to decide where
to plant crops for the coming year. Click on the section of land you would
Would you like
to learn more about the crops or animals that
you'd eat in the Amazon?