The Amazon Continues Burning

By Stefan Kistler

3 minutes read

The Amazon is still on fire. As you have seen in the news, tens of thousands of forest fires are raging across the Amazon rainforest, and continue to spread through the region at an alarming pace. The fires have devastated immense areas in Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Trees are cut down and bushed are burned during the slash-and-burn technique to clear the forest in order to cultivate. Soil loses its natural nutrients and the micro and macro invertebrates disappear. (Photo by Alienor de Sas / Chaikuni Institute)

While some fires are attributed to increased drought (unnatural in its occurrence and directly linked to a changing climate) most are deliberately set by humans seeking to clear the forest to expand business. In Brazil in particular, agri-business interests and cattle ranchers continue to set fires across vast swaths of forest in order to clear land for soy monocultures and cattle farms, fueled by the predatory right wing policies of president Bolsonaro.

In this picture, Silvia del Aguila, our Permaculture Coordinator, is working in our demonstration plot of a chacra integral. (Photo by Alienor de Sas / Chaikuni Institute)

With your support, we at the Chaikuni Institute promote an alternative to harmful slash-and-burn agriculture – the method which is largely responsible for these fires. At Chaikuni we promote a regenerative and diverse agro-forestry system called the chacra integral. One of the main characteristics of the chacra integral is a technique which involves letting chopped vegetation remain on the ground, which maintains nutrients in the bio-mass and mimicks the natural cycles of the rainforest ecosystem. The chacra integral system is a sure way to avoid fires in the region, because no burning is included in this process. An intact tropical rainforest is so humid that it is far more resilient to the spread of fires. A chacra integral promises a healthy and intact piece of rainforest, producing food, medicine and timber, providing myriad ecological and economic benefits to local communities as well as the global community.

The participants of the Permaculture Design Course (local farmers and indigenous representatives) recognize the land to establish the best location of a chacra integral. (Photo by Alienor de Sas / Chaikuni Institute)

Since we held our Permaculture Design Course (PDC) in May for local farmers from the surrounding communities of our permaculture center, we’ve continued to work on bringing these chacras integrales to their homes. By the end of the year, we set the goal to have installed 8 hectares of these rich agroforestry plots with participating communities.

The pioneers of this program are the local participants of the PDC, who we are working with to install these systems on their properties. We’ve started to visit them in their homes and on their land, collecting socio-economic data to build a solid baseline, which will later allow us to monitor the progress of this project. Just last week, we held a day-long course at our center to refresh the insights and techniques we learned from the PDC, focusing on the design of their properties, and in particular analyzing the best location for their agroforestry plots. In the case of one of the participants, we have already started implementing his chacra integral.

Opposite to the first picture, this is how a chacra integral looks like in its first stage, fire is never used to clear the space, edible and medicinal plants keep on growing and providing more livelihoods year by year. (Picture by Alienor de Sas / Chaikuni Institute)

The work is done through so-called mingas. A minga refers to a day of communal work, and is very common for our region of the Peruvian Amazon. The owner mobilizes her or his family and neighbors to lend a hand in the field and offers them food in return. Our qualified staff accompanies and guides the work, and we also chip in with some of the food offered for the working crowd. From here onwards, we will assist in many more mingas to help establish the chacras integrales in the communities.

We are as committed as ever to keep creating a movement to regenerate the Amazon, spreading awareness and know-how that will also contribute to prevent future fires. Any donation will help us to take our project a step further.