Deep in the indigenous territory of the Mojos province in the Amazon is the Santa Rosa del Apere community of Bolivia. The Amazon is surrounded by numerous indigenous populations, many of whom live on under $2 per day. Many members of the community struggle not only with poverty, but with environmental deterioration and loss of biodiversity.
Abraham Noza was one of the first community members in Santa Rosa del Apere to adopt agroforestry, a system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops. This system helps create diversified production systems and can lead to higher overall crop yields. Also, through agroforestry a more diverse, complex habitat is created. This habitat can support additional varieties of animals, plants and insects. Agroforesty also consists of combining annual and multiannual crops, something indigenous families do in the region to create sustainable resources in their territories.
In the beginning three tareas, or extensions of land to work, were developed for cocoa harvesting along with traditional crops like corn, yucca, rice and plantains. The villagers, along with Noza’s family, began incorporating wood and non-wood forestry components, turning their plots into one of the most diversified and extensive agroforestry systems in the community.
The family currently has 10 hectares of agroforestry for their own annual and multiannual crops. They began planting and harvesting these crops in 2002, and the entire family has been taking care of the land ever since. This Heifer Bolivia project family works hard to maintain their land and crops.
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Since participating in the project, the family has seen a huge increase in their yearly crop production. Their crops include rice, corn, plantains and more. The perennial products consist of items like cocoa, tangerines, papaya, coffee and pineapples.
Unfortunately, sometimes the family is overcome by the incredible demands of farming such a large plot of land, especially in times of harvest.
“At times I am forced to hire laborers and pay them daily wages so I can maintain my crops,” Noza explains.“ At other times, when my colleagues need support, I help them with jobs. When we need something, we help each other out, like neighbors.”
In this way, Noza’s family helps to encourage and promote sharing and caring between different families in their village. Families who would have otherwise never known each other are now bonding.
Not only does the new agroforestry system guarantee them a supply of food, but it also allows them to connect with favorable conditions in the local market system.
In early 2014, though, flooding hit the area, forcing many families to evacuate. The locals believe this to be the result of climate change.
While the floods landed a blow to the family’s agroforestry system, the bonds and relationships they’ve built since the project began has helped them recover. They have already participated in some Passing on the Gift® ceremonies, exchanging seeds and other materials as a part of the Association of Indigenous Agroforestry Producers of the Southern Part of the Amazon. The families shared seeds, but they also shared their experience and knowledge in agroforestry.
Abraham Noza’s family still has hope. “We lost everything due to the flood,” Noza says. “We were able to obtain some seeds from other families, and we are recovering. We can still take care of this land.”
Story and Photos courtesy of Heifer Bolivia